6 Notable Former MLS Players Plying Their Trade in Europe

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2020

6 Notable Former MLS Players Plying Their Trade in Europe

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    Andreas Gebert/Associated Press

    The volume of Major League Soccer players moving across the Atlantic Ocean has risen in recent years.

    The majority of the focus when talking about outgoing transfers is rightfully on the American and Canadian products who have made their ways to the top European leagues. 

    But MLS has also served as a stepping stone for young South American and European players to reach the next level of their careers.

    There are obvious success stories, like Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich and Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig, but there are also some players who have carved out roles in mid-tier European leagues.

    There have been other Americans and Canadians that have thrived overseas, but the likes of Christian Pulisic, Jonathan David and others did not step foot in MLS. Others, like Weston McKennie and Chris Richards came out of the FC Dallas academy, but neither player recorded a regular-season minute for the club.

Miguel Almiron

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    Alex Pantling/Associated Press

    Before we touch on the domestic players in Europe, we have to start with MLS' record outgoing transfer.

    Miguel Almiron made the jump from Atlanta United to Newcastle United in 2019 for a league-record $26.4 million, according to Transfermarkt. Atlanta also has the second-highest outgoing fee from Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez's recent $18 million move to Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia.

    The Paraguay international produced four goals and two assists over 35 starts for the Magpies in his first full Premier League season, which is a drop off from the numbers he produced as a star in MLS. 

    During his time with the Five Stripes, Almiron put up 21 goals and 28 assists in regular-season play.

    Part of the reason for those struggles may be the increased level of competition in the Premier League, but he was also mired in an attack that managed just 38 goals in 38 league games last season. 

Alphonso Davies

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    Davies experienced a meteoric rise to stardom in the 2019-20 Bundesliga campaign.

    The 19-year-old was transformed from a dynamic winger for the Vancouver Whitecaps into one of, if not the, best left backs in the world.

    Davies will be used as inspiration in Canadian academy systems for quite some time, and his development raises the expectations for youth players coming out of the country.

    The Canadian phenom is already the owner of two Bundesliga titles, two DFB-Pokals, a UEFA Champions League winners medal and one from the UEFA Super Cup.

    Davies was also named to the UEFA Champions League squad of the season and was awarded Rookie of the Year in the Bundesliga last season.

    The next step in his development will be raising Canada's profile on the international level by qualifying for the World Cup and challenging the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica at the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Tyler Adams

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    Jens Meyer/Associated Press

    Adams was one of the most polished Americans to come to Europe in terms of MLS experience.

    The New York native started in over 25 games in both 2017 and 2018 for the Red Bulls before moving across the pond and staying inside the Red Bull organization.

    The 21-year-old has displayed some positional flexibility with RB Leipzig by playing right back, center back and all across the midfield.

    Adams has played in parts of the last three Bundesliga seasons, and his most important contribution was last season when he scored one of RB Leipzig's most important goals ever. He scored an 88th-minute winner against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal to seal their first-ever European semifinal place.

Jack Harrison

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Jack Harrison is one of the more unique European success stories.

    Harrison moved to Massachusetts from England as a teenager and landed at Wake Forest, where he excelled enough to be the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.

    He went on to score 14 goals in his first two seasons as a professional with New York City FC, which caught the attention of parent club Manchester City.

    Harrison has not played for Man City since signing in 2018, but he did achieve success in the Championship with Leeds United.

    After helping Leeds earn promotion to the Premier League last season, the 23-year-old has recorded a goal and an assist in his first three games in the top flight this time around.

    If he keeps up his strong play in midfield, he will likely be in line for a big permanent move away from Manchester City.

Zack Steffen

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    Laurence Griffiths/Associated Press

    Zack Steffen also caught the attention of Manchester City in 2019, and before his recent Carabao Cup appearance for the Premier League club, he had not played for the squad.

    The 25-year-old goalkeeper made 17 starts on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga last season and impressed enough to be called back to the Manchester City first-team squad.

    Steffen will not replace Ederson as the first-choice goalkeeper in the Man City squad, but he could be a valuable asset in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup if his side makes deep runs in each competition. The only way he gets a consistent run of games is if the top keeper on the depth chart goes down with a long-term injury.

    While it is notable to see a U.S. Men's National Team player competing for minutes at Manchester City, there will be concern about how much playing time Steffen receives and how it affects his development as the No. 1 keeper on the international level.

    Manchester City typically plays a busy schedule across multiple competitions, so if City keep winning, he should make a fair amount of appearances.

Henry Wingo

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Henry Wingo's transfer from the Seattle Sounders to Molde flew well under the radar for MLS fans since it was not as notable as the high-profile moves to the top European leagues. 

    The 24-year-old made the move to Norway in August 2019, and he has become a regular contributor in recent weeks.

    The midfielder made three starts in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League and seven starts in the Eliteserien season.

    Wingo may not be the first American abroad that fans of MLS focus on, but he has the potential to be a solid player in Scandinavia, like Alejandro Bedoya and other Americans in previous decades.

    In the best-case scenario, Wingo could use his form in Norway to make an impression on USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter to earn a few possible call-ups. Bedoya is the most notable player to turn form in Scandinavia into a lenghty USMNT career. Josh Gatt, Jonathan Amon and others have caught the national team's attention in those leagues as well over the last decade. 

          

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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