Today on MLSFootball we’ll have a look at some ex-MLS players plying their trade around the world. I’d estimate the majority of transfer rumours, news and signings on the Rundown are players trading between teams inside of the league, then there’s the ones coming in from abroad (often South America) and finally there’s a smattering of players such as Kekuta Manneh and Cyle Larin who have (or had) ambitions to conquer Europe.
Here are some that did make that jump abroad and how they’re doing with their current sides.
If the MLS wants to champion a player who has departed the United States and made a successful career abroad, there’s no better choice than Geoff Cameron. While the likes of Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard have returned to MLS, Cameron continues to perform consistently at the top level with Stoke City under Mark Hughes. He made the jump to the English Premier League in 2012 after being drafted by Houston Dynamo in 2008. He was named in the MLS Best XI in 2009 and helped Houston reach the final of the MLS Cup in 2011 as they lost 1 – 0 to LA Galaxy. To date Cameron has made 160 appearances for Stoke as a utility man capable of playing in just about any position. This season has already started games at centre back, defensive midfield, right back and right midfield.
A Championship or Football Manager legend in his own right, the one MLS would like you to forget about is Freddy Adu, which is a shame. His story has developed into a legend of its own; at the tender age of 14 he became the youngest athlete ever to sign a professional contract in the United States, being selected by D.C. United in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. On April 3rd, 2004, he became the youngest player to appear in the MLS when he came on as a substitute against San Jose Earthquakes. Two weeks later, on April 17, he became the youngest goalscorer in MLS history, finding the net against MetroStars. Sadly he is currently a free agent, after leaving D.C. United in 2006 he has played for thirteen teams in eight different countries: the United States, Portugal, France, Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Serbia, and Finland. His trial with Manchester United in November 2006 seems a lifetime ago.
In March 2007, Villafaña won Sueño MLS, a reality show that led to a try-out with MLS. His reality show win earned him the nickname “Sueño”. Villafaña beat around 2,000 other competitors to earn a spot on Chivas USA’s U-19 squad. He played for the now-defunct Chivas USA outfit until 2014, when he was traded to Portland Timbers, with whom he won the 2015 MLS Cup. Jorge now plays for Liga MX side Santos Laguna and indeed for the United States national team but his appearances for USMNT in the Gold Cup meant his pre-season was curtailed, as a result he’s no longer first choice for Los Laguneros.
Having come through the ranks at Real Salt Lake, Mexican international Carlos Salcedo has become one of the MLS-to-abroad success stories having experienced multiple European leagues, following a transfer to Mexican club Guadalajara who he signed for in January 2015, before joining Serie A’s Fiorentina on loan in 2016 and participating in another loan to Bundesliga’s Eintracht Frankfurt in 2017. With Brooks Lennon having officially returned to Real Salt Lake, it’s not inconceivable to suggest that they would not bring back Salcedo when the time is right for both parties.
Now 24-years-old, DeAndre Yedlin can play anywhere on the right side of the pitch. After making his mark in MLS with Seattle Sounders in 2013, he made the bold move to English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur but only made one appearance for Spurs before finding himself a new home in the North East. A season-long loan at Sunderland followed before signing permanently for Newcastle United in the summer of 2016. He made 32 appearances in Newcastle’s promotion season and has appeared 15 times already in the Premier League during the current campaign. An MLS All-Star in 2013 and 2014, he was also named U.S. Soccer Young Athlete of the Year in 2014.
Miazga is currently one of the many young footballers participating in the ‘on loan from Chelsea Whatsapp’ group, he is in Holland with Eredivisie club Vitesse. After coming through the academy system of the New York Red Bulls, he made his debut in the 2013 Major League Soccer season and won two MLS Supporters’ Shields with the team before moving to Chelsea on a four-and-a-half-year deal for a reported fee of £3.5 million (US$5 million). This is his second season on loan in Vitesse, for whom he has now amassed 54 appearances and contributed 2 goals. Having seen Andreas Christensen secure a starting role in Chelsea’s first team after loan spells abroad, Miazga must be hoping to travel down a similar road to success at Stamford Bridge.
A member of the old New York Red Bulls guard, Timmy Ream is now in his third season with English Championship team Fulham. His move to west London came on the heels of consecutive Bolton Wanderers Player of the Year awards, and when fit he’s a first-choice starter for the Cottagers. Ream was drafted in the second round (18th overall) of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by Red Bulls and was later described as reminding coach Hans Backe of Rio Ferdinand, which is a huge compliment for any young defender. He has 26 international caps for the United States to his name and was part of the runners-up US squad in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
After spending his youth career with the FC Dallas Academy, Weston McKennie never graced MLS having rejected the chance to sign a Homegrown Player contract with Dallas, instead joining German Bundesliga side FC Schalke 04 in 2016. After spending less than a year with Schalke’s academy team, he has now established himself in the first-team Schalke squad and in November marked his first US national team appearance with a debut goal. MLS can be proud to have developed this exciting midfielder from Little Elm, Texas.
A second academy graduate on this list, Matthew Olosunde is under contract with one of the biggest teams in all the world – Manchester United. A right back by trade, Olosunde came through the New York Red Bulls Academy as a right-winger, representing the club’s under-16 and under-18 teams. In March 2016 he received international clearance to sign for Manchester United and joined their under-18 set-up, Mathew was promoted to the Under-23 team ahead of the 2016–17 season and made 18 appearances in his inaugural Premier League 2 campaign. With 32-year-old stalwart Antonio Valencia ahead of him, there is hope he will soon make his debut for Jose Mourinho’s side.
Sean Morris is a new signing to join – and I’m contractually obligated to describe them as this – Chris Darwen’s CD Almunecar City. Sean is one of the many unseen and unheard of former MLS players who came through academies and pursued their passion elsewhere. Now 29-years-old, he was selected by his hometown Seattle Sounders in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, but was limited to reserve and U23 opportunities. Seattle loaned Morris to new MLS entity, Portland Timbers, in 2011. He appeared in two MLS regular season matches against the Sounders and Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy. Morris came off the bench in Carson, California, against the Galaxy, matching up against former Manchester United and Real Madrid star Beckham, who played 115 games for England between 1996-2009. “I did have one [memory], where I snuck ahead of him to a ball and he clattered into me pretty good, so that’s kind of a highlight for me – getting steamrolled by Beckham at one point in my career,” He told New Zealand’s Stuff website. “It’s one of those moments, where Beckham obviously has such star power, you’re kind of saying, I know who you are, but I’m going to treat you like everyone else today. Afterwards, you go back to being your superstar self and I go back to being me.” Morris joins CD Almunecar City after forging a career predominantly in New Zealand with the likes of Auckland City, WaiBOP United, Wellington Olympic and Canterbury United.