The 2021 season of MLS is officially set to begin on April 17. Fans have been waiting patiently in the offseason and have kept themselves busy by speculating on which players may be the best of the year. If you enjoy fantasy sports, or are just an avid football lover, here are some MLS players to keep your eye on this upcoming season. These footballers are set to have a breakout year, or continue building on the success they’ve had in recent years.
Last season was sensational for the young Matt Turner and we are expecting him to be a key player again this year. He was named as a finalist for the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, a worthy honor considering his performance. He was a big reason New England Revolution was able to break into the top 10 in the Eastern Conference, and this season we are expecting another stellar year as he builds his skills and experience.
With Turner in the net, the New England Revolution is becoming a betting favorite in the league. Turner has a lot of fans in New Jersey where he is from, and there are numerous New Jersey free bets from sports books that are located here. MLS analyst Matt Doyle has even gone as far as to call Turner the “best pure shot-stopper I’ve ever seen in this league.”
With the 2021 MLS SuperDraft concluded, we can look at the new class of athletes and predict which players will perform the best on their selected team. Austin FC had the honor of making the first selection, and their choice was Daniel Pereira of Virginia Tech. While he was predicted to be in the top 5, taking the #1 slot was a surprising move. However, he is a promising midfielder who should do well in the Austin offensive scheme. At Virginia Tech, he had 6 goals and 6 assists across 26 games. He has a good presence on the pitch and can play both cautiously and aggressively when the situation calls for it.
Álvarez may only be 18, but he has over 30 starts for LA Galaxy and is building his confidence and experience. He has thus far returned 3 goals and 5 assists in that time, and it’s clear that he is starting to put it together. Álvarez is an attacking midfielder who is nimble and works well to support his teammates. New head coach Greg Vanney has already said that he likes his playstyle, and thus it’s likely that we will see a lot more of Álvarez on the pitch this season.
Cade Cowell of the San Jose Earthquakes has a lot of eyes on him right now. This prodigy has already drawn comparisons to another sensational footballer who started off in MLS, Alphonso Davies. Both were developed and skilled enough from a young age to play alongside seasoned veterans and have their presence felt. He had a lot of pitch time last season across 19 games and, if he can focus on his finishing and goal scoring abilities, we may see him scouted by European clubs soon.
With the recent establishment of the Canadian Premier League, we can expect to see a lot of new talent emerging across Canada. One standout player is Ayo Akinola of the Toronto FC. If it were not for a few nagging injuries last season, Akinola would have likely been one of the league’s top scorers. In fact, he became the 3rd youngest player in MLS history to score a hat trick in the 4-3 Toronto triumph over the Montreal Impact last July. Expect Akinola to build on top of the success he has had this season.
Josef Martinez of Atlanta United is likely to have a massive season in 2021. After missing almost the entirety of the 2020 season with an ACL tear, he was sidelined in rehab and clearly angsty to come back. Before that, Martinez was burning up the league, scoring in 12 consecutive games in 2019 and setting himself up as one of the best players overall. This aggressive and agile player is likely to make a big statement in his return this season.
Carlos Vela is another player who was plagued with injury issues in 2020. Even at 32 years old, Vela is dominant on the pitch. It has been some time since we have seen Vela at full health, and LAFC fans should be thrilled to see him in top shape again. After returning for the final weeks of the 2020 season, Vela was exceptional. In the regular season, he scored 2 goals and had 1 assist in 185 minutes. Vela is certainly one player to keep in mind.
Jesus Ferreira of FC Dallas had his first major year in 2019. Here, he captured a lot of attention by helping the team make the playoffs with a season that included 8 goals and 5 assists. 2020 came and unfortunately was a stagnant year for Ferreira, as he only contributed 1 goal and 1 assist. However, we saw him perform very well for the US men’s national soccer team recently, and it looks like he is ready to bounce back this season.
When you are one of the top picks of a draft, there can be an enormous pressure on you to perform well. Amaya was selected #1 overall in the 2019 draft, but unfortunately has not lived up to the burden that was placed on him. Across 43 games, he has only managed to score 1 goal for FC Cincinnati. However, even despite Amaya’s own requests, FC Cincinnati has stated that they are not interested in trading Amaya and he is central to their structuring efforts. They are bringing in some serious talent, like Brenner Souza da Silva, the Brazilian forward. With new players around him and a fresh outlook, Amaya is likely to start playing to his full potential this season.
To further demonstrate FC Cincinnati’s building efforts, there is the 2021 #2 overall draft selection, Calvin Harris. Harris is a member of the Wake Forest University program that is responsible for other standouts like Michael Parkhurst and Ike Opara. He has also played extensively abroad, including in New Zealand and Hong Kong. Now at 20 years old, he is expected to be a big part of FC Cincinnati’s lineup. Harris is an aggressive attacker who has long legs and takes huge strides. Keep an eye out for Harris this season and see how he develops in Cincinnati.