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3 new Latinos set to shine in MLS 2018

Thursday 15th February 2018

Major League Soccer is no longer a "retirement league" where older players come to spend their last few matches chilling and playing like no one cares. The league has evolved massively over the past 10 years. Better players join the league in each successive transfer window. Still, let's be honest. Who would have thought five years ago that names such as David Villa, Sebastian GIovinco, and Bastian Schweinsteiger would be playing on American soil?

As big as the European imports have been, most new players come from South American countries. With that in mind, here are three Latin American players who will shine in their first MLS season.

Anthony Blondell

Many of you might never have heard of the Venezuelan, and that would be fine. The striker is not yet a household name in Latin America. He is not even such a big name in his country. Always considered a player with great potential, he has struggled to reach his ceiling, although many had come to believe he already had.

He scored just five goals in 32 matches for Zamora between 2014 and 2016, and ended playing with the B side last year. But he came out of nowhere to score 24 goals in 39 matches for Monagas SC last season. That turned a multitude of heads, but eventually Vancouver Whitecaps signed him to a three-year deal, with a club option to extend it through the 2021 campaign.

Blondell will automatically compete for the starting forward role, battling with Kei Kamara, Yordy Reyna, and Bernie Ibini. Considering Blondell isn't sufficiently versatile to fill other roles in attack, he will likely start the season as Kamara's backup. But keep an eye. This Venezuelan has enough talent to move to the front of the line.

Ezequiel Barco

Ezequiel Barco is widely considered the top prospect in Argentina. The 18-year-old quickly played a big role for Independiente Avellaneda in their 2017 season. He was linked with a move to Atletico Madrid in Spain, but instead decided to join Atlanta United. Tata Martino's project is that exciting. The sophomore MLS franchise reportedly paid around €12 million to acquire his services. There is no question he will be worth every penny.

It remains to be seen where Barco will play. Atlanta has several talented midfielders, including Darlington Nagbe, Yamil Asad, Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba. Barco profiles best as an attacking midfielder, but will likely to have to find his place on the wing. No one has the chops to remove Almiron from his number 10 role. It will be a bit difficult for Barco to adapt at first given Major League Soccer's physicality. Nevertheless the Argentine youngster has the quality to make an instant impact on the league's most promising squad.

Felipe Gutierrez

Last but not least, we have a Chilean who has recently featured for La Roja in the 2015 Copa America, 2016 Copa America Centenario, and the 2017 Confederations Cup. Unlike the B-team, he brings experience to the table, having played in the Eredivisie with FC Twente, La Liga for Real Betis, and in the Campeonato Brasileiro with Internacional. At just 27, he stands to make an impact similar to Giovinco or Bradley Wright-Phillips.

'Pipe' (pr. pee-pay), as he is known in Chile, should automatically contend for a starting spot in Sporting Kansas City's midfield, even though manager Peter Vermes has Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, and recently-signed Designated Player Yohan Croizet to call upon. If he doesn't yet know, Vermes will soon see the Chile international has the ability to pull the strings in SKC's midfield. He should fill the void left when Benny Feilhaber joined Los Angeles FC during the offseason.

Juan Pablo Aravena

29-year-old sports analyst and journalist with over three years of experience in the industry. Writes about all kinds of sports from football to golf, but there is no question his biggest passion in life is football. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Colo Colo fan.

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