web analytics
Lionel Messi to Miami’s rescue? MLS has a history of star-driven turnarounds | MLSSoccer.com

Lionel Messi to Miami’s rescue? MLS has a history of star-driven turnarounds | MLSSoccer.com

The Herons are presently mired in their second six-game losing skid of the season, sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference standings and third from bottom in the overall league table, struggles that led to the departure of head coach Phil Neville at the start of June.

If early projections are correct, the GOAT could appear in a dozen-plus matches, spread across Leagues Cup, US Open Cup and MLS regular-season play, in which to influence Miami’s trajectory.

But there is hope. Messi would not be the first prominent midseason MLS arrival to encounter such a situation – far from it. Here’s a rundown of some top reinforcements that transformed the fortunes of their new clubs.

Wayne Rooney – D.C. United (2018)

Lots of parallels to Leo here: A global household name with plenty still left in the tank whose signing was a coup for both his club and its league, and quickly elevated the profile and expectations across the board.

D.C. stumbled to a 2W-7L-5D record before Wazza arrived in the U.S. capital city in July, and he powered the Black-and-Red on a 12W-4L-4D mark down the stretch to not only qualify for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, but earn the right to host a Round One game via a fourth-place finish. The proud old club was relevant again, Audi Field was rocking most every matchnight and why not, with iconic plays like this?

HAT TRICK: Luciano Acosta finishes an amazing play by Wayne Rooney

Rooney’s chemistry with skillful playmaker Luciano Acosta – who’s now with MLS-leading FC Cincinnati – was truly something to behold. Here’s what’s different about that season, though: With Audi Field opening in midsummer, United had backloaded their home schedule to the maximum degree allowed by league schedulers, so 15 of those last 20 games were at Buzzard Point. And of those five final away matches, only one was outside the Eastern time zone.

Nicolas Lodeiro – Seattle Sounders FC (2016)

The Rave Green endured a miserable start to the ‘16 campaign, and hit rock bottom in Kansas City on July 24 as they lost 3-0 to Sporting KC, not even mustering a shot until the 88th minute. Days later Sigi Schmid, the only head coach they’d known since joining MLS in 2009, was dismissed with the team in ninth place with a record of 6W-12L-2D, followed closely by the signing of Lodeiro from Argentina’s Boca Juniors.

From the memorable story of him briskly turning off the Sounders’ pregame locker-room music shortly before kickoff of his debut match to his four goals and eight assists in his first 14 matches, the Uruguayan maestro’s impact was immediate

Best of Nicolas Lodeiro’s goals, skills, and assists for Seattle Sounders

Inspired by their relentless new leader and tempo-setter, Seattle went 8W-2L-4D in those games, surging into the playoffs under Schmid’s successor and former assistant Brian Schmetzer, upsetting two higher-seeded Western Conference opponents and outlasting Toronto to win MLS Cup via penalty-kick shootout at frigid BMO Field. Lodeiro won the MLS Newcomer of the Year award by a landslide.

Didier Drogba – Montréal Impact (2015)

The club now known as CF Montréal were hardly bottom dwellers when the Ivorian legend arrived from Chelsea that July, occupying sixth place in the East, though they were digging out of an early hole created by their focus on a spring run to the Concacaf Champions League final.

Some wondered if Drogba was a spent force at age 37, but he laid any such doubts to rest by scoring 11 goals and an assist in his first 11 MLS matches, electrifying the fanbase and pushing his team up the table, then on an impressive postseason run that ended in an extra-time Conference Semifinal loss to eventual East champions Columbus Crew.

Drogba’s year-and-a-half stint in Montréal was at times as tempestuous as it was thrilling, and the following season they fell just short of MLS Cup via a series for the ages vs. Canadian Classique rivals Toronto FC. He left quite a mark on both club and city.

“A kid growing up in Africa, you hear ‘Didier Drogba,’ you start beaming,” his Ghanaian teammate Dominic Oduro told CBC that year. “For me to be playing next to him, even having a conversation with him, you know, trying to teach you some stuff! … I have guys calling me from back home, asking, ‘How is it to play with him?’… It’s just fantastic!”

Raúl Ruidíaz – Seattle Sounders FC (2018)

The Rave Green were reeling when Ruidíaz signed on a club-record transfer deal from Morelia immediately after Peru’s World Cup campaign came to an end in Russia. After winning their first MLS Cup in 2016 and reaching the 2017 final, Seattle were languishing in 10th place in the West with a 4W-9L-4D record, suffering from Jordan Morris’ season-long absence due to a knee injury, having scored just 11 goals in 12 games, eight fewer than the league’s next-weakest attack.

La Pulga changed all that immediately.

Ruidiaz bagged a team-high 10 goals in 14 appearances as the Sounders went 12W-2L in those games to win the Cascadia Cup and climb all the way up to second in the West, then added three more in two playoff games as SSFC played out an unforgettable Conference Semifinal series with their bitter rivals the Portland Timbers. The Peruvian remains one of Seattle’s foundational pieces today and was instrumental in their historic 2022 Concacaf Champions League win.

Jaime Moreno – D.C. United (1996)

“He’s a different kind of player than anyone we have right now. He can make us a more dangerous team,” United general manager Kevin Payne said when his club acquired Moreno from England’s Middlesbrough more than halfway through MLS’s inaugural season. “One thing we don’t do particularly well right now is beat people one-on-one. That’s something he can do.”

That proved to be a massive understatement. The Bolivian international immediately established himself as the league’s elite striker, scoring 3g/3a in nine games as D.C. skyrocketed from mediocrity to winners of the first-ever MLS Cup, setting the foundation for the league’s first dynasty.

Moreno starred for the capital club for more than a decade and was the all-time leading scorer in MLS history when he retired in 2010. One key element of his success at D.C.: his relationship with his countryman Marco “El Diablo” Etcheverry, which blossomed into a telepathic understanding between the No. 9 and No. 10.

Alejandro Pozuelo – Inter Miami CF (2022)

Miami got a notable midseason boost just last year via a savvy July trade for Pozuelo, the 2020 MLS Landon Donovan MVP deemed surplus to requirements at Toronto FC. Hampered by sanctions levied for budget roster violations during the 2020 season as well as DP Gonzalo Higuaín’s underperformance, the Herons needed a shot in the arm – and that’s exactly what the Spaniard playmaker brought.

Pozuelo chipped in 2g/6a in 13 appearances for IMCF, striking up a fruitful relationship with Higuaín that unlocked the Argentine icon’s best scoring form and pushed their team from ninth place up above the playoff line to a sixth-place finish

“Without a doubt, he is a player who has helped me a lot because with him on the field, I don’t feel an obligation to drop back and get the ball,” Higuain told the Miami Herald. “I can play where I’ve played my whole career, up top as the No. 9.

“His arrival has made the team better.”

Read More

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *