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Big weekend for South American imports
by Paul Kennedy, March 9th, 2014 5:37PM

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TAGS:  argentina, mls

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[MLS SPOTLIGHT] For all the attention on Toronto FC's multi-million signings of Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, who were off this weekend, MLS has quietly put together an impressive group of imports, mostly from South America. Uruguayan Sebastian Fernandez and Chilean Pedro Morales both scored great goals for Vancouver, while Argentine Gaston Fernandez had the tying goal late in stoppage time for Portland. The best of the lot could have been another Argentine, Cristian Maidana, who tormented the Timbers in his Philadelphia debut.

Week 1, New imports by club:
5 Chivas USA
3 Vancouver
2 Columbus
2 LA Galaxy
2 Philadelphia
2 Portland
1 FC Dallas
1 D.C. United
1 Montreal
1 New York

Of the 20 foreign imports with no previous ties to U.S. soccer who debuted over the weekend, 11 hail from South America, five from Europe, two from Costa Rica and one from Mexico. In Week 1, Vancouver and Philadelphia, which both aggressively upgraded their rosters with imports, were the big surprises.

The 'Caps dismantled the 2013 Supporters' Shield champion New York Red Bulls with a 4-1 win that could have been a lot worse. Sebastian Fernandez scored what should be the goal of the week, while Morales came on in the second half and scored one goal and set up another.

Few teams come into Portland and take the game to the Timbers, but the Union returned home very disappointed that it did not take three points as Maidana led the Philly attack that could have had three or four goals but for the work of Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts.

Sunday: Chivas USA-Chicago

Young Brazilian Samuel and his LA Galaxy teammates were also unlucky to run into a hot keeper in Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, but Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said he was very pleased with Samuel in his first MLS start despite the 1-0 loss.

MLS's tilt in the direction of importing Latin American talent didn't begin yesterday. Commissioner Don Garber told Soccer America early last summer the league was strategically assisting clubs with the acquisition of players classified as No. 9 and No. 10 players, players like Argentines Federico Higuain (who scored two goals on Saturday for Columbus), Diego Valeri with Portland and Claudio Bieler at Sporting KC.



The Argentine corps grew last summer with the signing of three players all midfielders or forwards under the age of 23: Mauro Diaz at FC Dallas and Matias Laba and Maximiliano Urruti at Toronto FC. Diaz scored on a free kick Saturday night, while Laba and Urruti both started for at their new Cascadia homes, Vancouver and Portland, respectively.

Of the five Argentines who debuted over the weekend, all but Portland's Norberto Paparatto were midfielders or forwards.

WEEK 1, New Import Debuts:
ARGENTINA (5):
M Leandro Barrera
(Chivas USA), 23, on loan from Argentinos Juniors.
F Gaston Fernandez (Portland), 30, transfer from Estudiantes.
M Cristian Maidana (Philadelphia), 27, free agent from Argentinos Juniors.
D Norberto Paparatto (Portland), 30, transfer from Tigre.
M Agustin Pelletieri (Chivas USA), 31, free agent from Racing Club.

BRAZIL (1):
F Samuel (LA Galaxy), 23, on loan from Fluminense.

CHILE (1):
M Pedro Morales (Vancouver) 28, free agent from Malaga (Spain).

COLOMBIA (1):
M Andres Escobar (FC Dallas), 22, on loan from Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine).

COSTA RICA (2):
D Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus), 26, transfer from Valerenga (Norway).
D Waylon Francis (Columbus), 23, transfer from Herediano.

ENGLAND (1):
F Luke Moore
(Chivas USA), 28, free agent from Elazigspor (Turkey).

FRANCE (1):

M Vincent Nogueira (Philadelphia), 26, transfer from Sochaux.

MEXICO (1):
F Adolfo Bautista
(Chivas USA), 34, free agent from Atletico San Luis.

SPAIN (3):

D Armando (New York), 29, free agent from Cordoba.
D Cristian (D.C. United), 28, free agent from Almeria.
M Dani Fragoso (Chivas USA), 31, free agent from Hospitalet.

SWEDEN (1):
M Stefan Ishizaki (LA Galaxy), 31, free agent from Elfsborg.

URUGUAY (3):
M Sebastian Fernandez (Vancouver), 24, transfer from Universitario (Peru).
F Santiago Gonzalez (Montreal), 21, transfer from Sud America.
M Nicolas Mezquida (Vancouver), 23, transfer from Fenix.

Note:
New Zealand international Tony Lochhead, who debuted for Chivas USA, played at UC Santa Barbara.


3 comments
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: March 10, 2014 at 8:05 a.m.
    This "plays of the night: opening day" is the best highlights show - ever - for MLS. Well done.
  1. Vitoria d. Conquista
    commented on: March 10, 2014 at 8:24 a.m.
    "... players like Argentines Gonzalo Higuain (who scored two goals on Saturday for Columbus) ..." === spills coffee === Uh, Paul, make that Gonzalo's older brother, Federico: http://www.mlssoccer.com/players?field_player_club_nid=All&tid_2=197&title=higuain
  1. Vitoria d. Conquista
    commented on: March 10, 2014 at 9:56 p.m.
    Editors: thanks for correcting that Hi-gua-error!

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