5 MLS Offseason Signings Who Will Have the Highest Expectations
MLS received a big boost on Friday, as ex-Juventus attacker Sebastian Giovinco was finally introduced by Toronto FC. The 28-year-old will be earning an annual salary of $7 million, per Kurtis Larson of the Toronto Sun. However, those high wages come with lofty expectations.
There are a few big names, like Giovinco, who have immense pressure on their shoulders. Those players will be highlighted in this slideshow. They will be graded based on their star-power, their role with their new team and if the individual is a designated player.
Players who won't arrive until July, like Steven Gerrard, can also be considered since he signed a contract this winter. If a specific individual wasn't acquired between December and the present day, he doesn't qualify.
Here are the five offseason signings who will have the loftiest expectations this season.
The U.S. international returned to MLS last December after a two-year stint in Europe. Shea will be a part of an exciting project in Orlando, but the 24-year-old has something prove to both of his head coaches in Adrian Heath and Jurgen Klinsmann.
Shea played in just 19 games while he was with Stoke, Birmingham and Barnsley in England. He still received call-ups to the U.S. men's national team, but now that the winger has returned, he can show Heath, and most importantly Klinsmann, that he can still play a key role in any team.
The American isn't a designated player, nor is he the biggest name in the squad (Kaka), so the ex-Dallas man won't make the list.
Maloney signed with the Chicago Fire from Wigan as a designated player on January 25. The Fire struggled to create goals, so the Scotland international will be expected to assist Mike Magee and other strikers.
Head coach Frank Yallop and the rest of his staff made several additions to the team, and Maloney is the biggest name out of every player. A lot of the expectations are based on Chicago's busy winter. For that reason, the midfielder narrowly misses the cut.
Kljestan is arguably the New York Red Bulls' most marketable player. He has a few years of experience in Europe, he's an American international and an all-around solid midfielder.
New head coach Jesse Marsch will need the ex-Anderlecht star to provide some stability in midfield. Kljestan and Dax McCarty will be able to form a strong partnership, should Marsch decide to deploy both of them together.
Kljestan's non-DP status is the only factor in him not qualifying for the top five.
5. Erick Torres
Erick "Cubo" Torres is now one of Houston Dynamo's key players after signing as a designated player last December.
Torres scored 15 goals in 29 appearances with a poor Chivas USA side last season. The Mexican forward has scored 22 goals in 44 games overall, which is a great ratio for a striker.
However, Tom Marshall of ESPN FC claims that Torres, who is on loan with Chivas Guadalajara, has not been producing with his hometown club.
On the other hand, Chivas is struggling, and Torres hasn't had much of a chance to play. This could change once he arrives in Houston in the summer.
Torres will be the go-to striker and, as a designated player on a five-year deal, he'll be expected to deliver the goods in every game in order for the Dynamo to compete in a tough Western Conference.
4. Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard won't play for the LA Galaxy until July, but once he arrives in California, there will be heavy expectations on the shoulders of the Liverpool captain.
Gerrard has been one of the Premier League's most iconic players in the last two decades. He's amassed 700 appearances with Liverpool and earned 114 caps for England.
The Galaxy lost Landon Donovan to retirement, and even though MLS MVP Robbie Keane is still on the roster, he was not the main attraction when Donovan was a member of the team. He won't be once Gerrard arrives, either.
The midfielder is expected to instantly become of the league's best players, which is understandable. Even though Gerrard is significantly slower these days, his intelligence and leadership is exactly what the Galaxy needs now that Donovan has retired.
Gerrard's spot at No. 4 may seem low, but LA is used to having big stars on its roster. If head coach Bruce Arena and his team could handle David Beckham, they can handle their newest attraction.
3. Jozy Altidore
Jozy Altidore and Jermain Defoe swapped clubs in January. Defoe is now helping Sunderland avoid relegation, while Altidore will try to guide Toronto FC into the playoffs for the first time.
The U.S. international received a five-year deal worth $30 million, per Marc Stein of ESPN (h/t ESPN FC). Altidore only scored one Premier League goal with Sunderland, but in MLS, he should be an All-Star striker.
The 25-year-old will be playing with his USA teammate Michael Bradley and will be an integral part of head coach Greg Vanney's system. Both of these factors should turn Altidore into one of the league's best forwards.
Altidore is still under pressure in a market that is desperate for success. Jason deVos of TSN suggested that his high wages don't match his current form. Those two reasons, along with his status as a key player for TFC, are why the forward is ranked at No. 3.
2. Frank Lampard
The Frank Lampard debacle, which is explained here, will be remembered for a long time. The ex-Chelsea midfielder finally signed his New York City FC contract in January. He's set to arrive this summer, and when he does, he's going to need to give back to his fans with some strong performances.
Once Lampard finishes the Premier League season with Manchester City, all of the buildup to his first NYCFC game will surround the saga from last summer. It will be up to the 36-year-old to put that to rest by playing well.
If Lampard flops or shows signs of fatigue, which is entirely possible, the media and supporters will be harping on him and will question if he's dedicated to helping his team and MLS.
1. Sebastian Giovinco
The ex-Juventus player is certainly tipped to be a major contributor for Toronto FC and one of the best performers in MLS. Since Giovinco played for one of world soccer's biggest clubs and represents the four-time World Cup winners, there's a lot expected of him.
The Globe and Mail's Cathal Kelly thinks that Giovinco was convinced to sign with TFC due to the money and will be back in Europe by next year.
Giovinco has to live up to his annual salary of $7 million plus bonuses by unlocking defenses and scoring goals. If he isn't Toronto FC's best player, he might be considered a disappointment by the end of the season.
Peter Galindo covers MLS and U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @PGFutbol.