MLS Predictions 2014: Stars Who Will Make Biggest Impact on New Teams

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2014

Feb 22, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury (10) dribbles the ball during the first half against Chivas USA at Kino Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

In perhaps no other season has Major League Soccer seen so many talented players flood into the league during the winter.

Both Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe decided that playing regularly for Toronto FC was better in a World Cup year than starting sporadically for Roma and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively. Michael Parkhurst and Maurice Edu returned to MLS after spending years abroad.

And who knows what's going to happen after the World Cup, when aging players may feel more welcome in taking the perceived step down?

Of course, not every big-name offseason move works out. For every David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Marco Di Vaio, there's a Rafael Marquez, Mista, Blaise Nkufo or Kris Boyd.

Looking at the list of transactions heading into the new season, these four stand out in terms of how well they should work out for their respective clubs.

Michael Parkhurst, Columbus Crew

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 28:  Michael Parkhurst #15 of the United States and Alberto Quintero #19 of Panama battle as they chase the ball during the CONCACAF Gold Cup final match at Soldier Field on July 28, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The United States defeated
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Out goes Chad Marshall, in comes Michael Parkhurst.

Marshall will go down as one of the best centre-backs in Columbus Crew history, but it was probably the right time for him to go. Gregg Berhalter stamped his authority on the team by trading him to the Seattle Sounders, and the trade helped to open up some cap space for the team.

Even better is that the Crew were able to acquire a player of Parkhurst's quality. The 30-year-old did little at Augsburg but appeared in over 100 matches at Nordsjaelland. Prior to that, he was a fixture of the New England Revolution back four.

Although Parkhurst featured more at right-back since leaving MLS in 2008, he's more than capable of filling Marshall's shoes at centre-back. Pairing him with Josh Williams at right-back will be nice for the defense, as the two have such complementary styles and won't have any trouble playing out from the back.

Teal Bunbury, New England Revolution

Feb 22, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury (10) scores on goal as Chivas USA goalkeeper Larry Jackson (22) defends during the first half at Kino Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

It's good to see that Teal Bunbury is in new surroundings. He showed promise in 2011 and played well in 2012. Then an injury derailed his season, and by the time Bunbury returned in 2013, there wasn't any room for him in the team.

Speaking to Paul Kennedy of SoccerAmerica, he said a move away from Sporting Kansas City was expected, and he's excited for the future.

"I was not surprised about the trade," he said. "I was ecstatic after I heard about it. I couldn't be happier to be here. I keep smiling. It's a young, youthful group and I'm building friendships already."

With the Revolution saying goodbye to Juan Agudelo, the chance is there for the 24-year-old to nail down a regular first-team spot and fulfill the promise he showed a few years ago.

Even if Bunbury doesn't lead the Revolution in goals this season, having him there will help the entire attack. By adding both Steve Neumann and Patrick Mullins in the SuperDraft, the club needed some sort of veteran presence, so having somebody with MLS experience will be a major asset.

Marco Pappa, Seattle Sounders

Feb 26, 2014; Charleston, SC, USA; Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Marco Pappa (10) controls the ball during the second half against the Houston Dynamo at Blackbaud Stadium. The Sounders and the Dynamo tied 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

What a disaster Marco Pappa's move to Heerenveen was. He appeared in 11 total matches during the 2012/13 season, and only two of those appearances were starts.

If this is still the Chicago Fire Marco Pappa we're talking about, though, the Seattle Sounders have a tremendous player on their hands.

It's no coincidence Seattle brought in Pappa during the same offseason it traded Mauro Rosales. Writing for MLSSoccer.com, Benjamin Baer said the 26-year-old can pick up right from where the 33-year-old left off.

While conceding the two are carbon copies of one another, Baer argued the presence of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Kenny Cooper will allow Pappa to play more of a facilitator role than he was used to with the Chicago Fire.

With the attacking strength of those three aforementioned stars, all Pappa has to do is get the ball in the general vicinity of the box, and he'll get rewarded with an assist.

Julio Cesar, Toronto FC

Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

Between all the moves Tim Leiweke has been making at Toronto FC, you knew one of their major acquisitions would crack this list. Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Gilberto all improve the squad, but Julio Cesar may be the best of them all.

The 34-year-old goalkeeper is coming to MLS at a low point in his career, as his place in the Brazilian national team is threatened, and he fell behind Rob Green in Queens Park Rangers' pecking order.

However, knowing he needs to perform in order to start at the World Cup, Cesar should be motivated to perform in Toronto. If he can find the form of last season, TFC would have one of the best GKs in the league on their hands.

In addition to his performance on the pitch, there's also the added bonus of bringing in a player who's done as much as Cesar has. Steven Caldwell told TSN's Luke Wileman that that could prove invaluable:

"It's fantastic to have him behind us with his experience," said Caldwell. "He's very comfortable on the ball and strong playing out of the back. It's going to be a great experience for everybody who has the privilege to play with Julio and so far he just seems like a fantastic guy. We're all going to learn off him and it is an honour for this football club to have him play for us."

Of course, it could easily all go wrong very quickly, and should Cesar struggle, Ryan Nelsen may be pressured to keep him in the squad, thus hindering the team.

But that's the risk Leiweke took when he made so many big moves.


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