The 2016 Major League Soccer (MLS) regular season starts on Sunday and much of the focus of English fans will be on big name exports Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole, who are both at LA Galaxy, and Frank Lampard, who is playing for New York City FC. However, there are many more English talents who will be plying their trade across the pond during what promises to be one of the most exciting MLS seasons yet.
The Goal Scoring Star
Dom Dwyer may be relatively unknown in England, but the former Norwich City trainee is a genuine superstar in MLS, where he has played for Sporting Kansas City since 2012. The striker was told he wouldn’t be a professional after breaking his foot three times as a youngster, but after completing a sports scholarship at college in America he was picked by Sporting in the 2012 SuperDraft.
Dwyer broke into the Sporting team in 2013, and scored the winning goal to fire his team into the MLS Cup final. After an impressive 22 goals in 2014, when he was part of the MLS All-Star team, the 25 year old found the net 12 times last season. Now part of an American soccer power couple after marrying US women’s team star and World Cup winner Sydney Leroux, it looks likely that Dwyer may appear for the US men’s team in the near future, after receiving no interest from England.
The Experienced Heads
Liam Ridgewell was a solid enough Premier League defender throughout his time at both Birmingham clubs and West Brom, although he had the indignity of being labelled ‘Agent Ridgewell’ following an ill fated derby appearance for Birmingham City after moving from rivals Aston Villa. After Ridgewell left the Midlands for the States in 2014 he has thrived at the Portland Timbers, and captained the West Coast hipster favourites as they won the 2015 MLS Cup. Now 31, he recently returned to England to play for Brighton during the MLS off-season, but will be back in Portland to help the Timbers defend their title.
Seb Hines put wet and windy nights at the Riverside behind him when the defender moved from Middlesbrough to Orlando City SC in 2015. After an initial loan, the 27 year old chose to make his transfer to sun-drenched Florida permanent and made 23 appearances during the franchise’s debut MLS season. An advantage Hines has is holding a US passport due to his American father, meaning he doesn’t occupy an international player slot in Orlando’s squad, which is managed by fellow Englishman Adrian Heath. Hines now lines up alongside Kaka, the type of opportunity unlikely to have presented itself in England’s second tier.
The Exciting Youngsters
There was more than a murmur of excitement when the first pick in the 2016 MLS Superdraft was young Englishman Jack Harrison. Originally from Bolton, Harrison was at Manchester United’s’ academy before leaving for America at 14, and is now part of the squad at New York City FC, which is under the same ownership as Manchester City.Harrison is certainly a bright prospect and one to watch, although a pelvic injury has disrupted his pre-season. It’s easy to imagine the 19 year old midfielder might pick up a few tips in a squad managed by Patrick Vieira, and that also includes Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.
The 32nd pick in this year’s SuperDraft was another young Englishman, 22 year old Paul Clowes, a central midfielder who was selected by D.C. United.
The Big Name Brothers
After well travelled careers, Bradley and Shaun Wright-Phillips are now both playing for New York Red Bulls. It is the younger Bradley, who didn’t hit the heights of his brother in the English game, who is the established MLS star. The 30 year old striker moved to the Big Apple in 2013 following time at a number of English clubs including Plymouth Argyle, and subsequently won the Golden Boot in 2014 after finding the net 27 times while playing alongside Thierry Henry. He was joined last season by former England international Shaun, when the 34 year old made his way to America after an unproductive time at QPR.
The MLS regular season starts on Sunday, with a full list of fixtures here.