By Stewart Ross
Major League Soccer’s 19th season kicked off at the weekend with the 2014/15 season set to gather a large audience worldwide following some big pre season news and moves. Not since David Beckham’s swapped Real Madrid for LA Galaxy back in 2007 has the league been in the spotlight more.
England striker Jermain Defoe’s surprise move to big spending Toronto from Tottenham, Manchester City’s owners plan to launch a New York City club in 2015 and Beckham’s announcement of his own franchise in Miami in the near future have all raised interest in North America’s take on the beautiful game.
Americans and Canadians are slowly taking to the sport which is now close to breaking into the top four of the traditional North American sports of Baseball, Basketball, Ice Hockey and American Football popularity terms.
Scottish players such as Kris Boyd, Barry Robson and ‘the good doctor’ Kenny Deuchar have all plied their trade stateside at one point or another, but what Scots will be gracing the MLS this season?
Here’s The Wee G’s rundown of the Major League Scots to look out for:
MLS Club: Vancouver Whitecaps
Previous Clubs: Hiberian, Wolves, Celtic, Derby County, Rangers, Bursaspor, Cardiff City
One of only five players to have played for both Celtic and Rangers post war Miller is the most high profile Scot in the MLS. Embarking on his third season with Vancouver Whitecaps, following largely forgettable spells in Turkey with Bursaspor and then Cardiff City, Miller is a talismanic figure for the Canadians. Whitecaps were the first Canadian team to make the MLS playoffs in 2012 but had a relatively unsuccessful season last time out missing out on the playoffs and finishing a disappointing 13th overall. Miller got their season off to a flyer on Saturday night bagging a brace in their 4-1 opening win over Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill’s New York Red Bulls. The Western Conference side will be hoping former Scotland striker can continue to fire in the goals to propel them back into the playoff picture this season.
The brother of former Celtic defender Gary Caldwell, Steven enters his second season with Toronto FC, having been loaned from Birmingham City midway through last seasons campaign. The MLS’s perennial underachievers Caldwell will captain the side as they look to finally make their mark on the league. This should be made easier following heavy investment in the squad pre season which sees Jermain Defoe joined by former Roma and US national midfielder Michael Bradley and ex QPR and current Brazil number one goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Caldwell will hope to lead TFC to unseen glories in what should be a fascinating season for the MLS’s first Canadian club, whose first manager was also used to either side of the Glasgow football divide like Kenny Miller, Mo Johnson. Toronto open their season this weekend with a trip to Seattle Sounders.
Torphichen born Calum Mallace is likely to be the least recognisable Scottish name in the MLS but he could be one to watch. Mallace moved to Minnesota from West Lothian aged 9 and following a loan spell at Minnesota United last season the midfielder has plans on breaking into the Montreal Impact side and one day representing the country of his birth. The Airdrie United fan made a substitute appearance in Impacts opening day 3-2 loss away to FC Dallas at the weekend but Mallace will be hoping Impact can get their season going next weekend against Houston Dynamo. He will also be keen to get more MLS games under his belt in order to perhaps get the attention of Scotland boss Gordon Strachan in the not too distant future.
Andrew Driver @andrewdriver20
MLS Club: Houston Dynamo
Previous Clubs: Heart of Midlothian
Born in Oldham, England Driver qualifies for the Scottish national team by virtue of being schooled in Scotland for five years although he has yet to make an appearance for the senior side. Capped at schoolboy level for Scotland Driver then turned out for the country of his birth at under 21 level before finally being cleared to play for his adopted homeland in 2010. Serious injury has hampered the winger who on his day can pose a dynamic attacking threat which he proved at times with Heart of Midlothian. Despite his injury problems Driver played his part in one of Hearts greatest ever moments when he started the 5-1 demolition of Edinburgh rivals in the 2012 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden. He signed for Houston on loan from the capital side in February last year before returning for this season’s campaign following a trial at Yeovil Town in January. Still only 26 and on his day a decent player Driver may still get the chance to pull on the dark blue of Scotland before he hangs up his boots.
MLS Club: FC Dallas
Previous Clubs: Ross County, Elgin City, Cleveland City Stars, Columbus Crew, Portland Timbers, Houston Dynamo, Seatlle Sounders
Another lesser known name perhaps but Glasgow born Adam Moffat is certainly the MLS’s most decorated Scot. Moffat began his career in Scotland with highland side Ross County and then Elgin City before heading to the US in 2007 where he signed for Cleveland City stars. Following a good season with the USL Second Divison team he was picked up by MLS side Columbus Crew. An MLS Cup and and Eastern Conference title in 2008 were the highlights in a successful stay in Ohio. A short stint with Portland Timbers followed in 2010 before he signed for Houston Dynamo a year later. He won a further two Eastern Conference titles with Houston but was on the losing side to David Beckham’s LA Galaxy in the 2012 MLS Cup Final. Last season Moffat turned out for Seattle Sounders but he only made a handful of appearances and is now back in Texas with FC Dallas for the 2014/15 season. At 27 he has a wealth of MLS experience and will be hopeful of steering clear of further serious injuries which have plagued him at times to make an impact for Dallas. Mofat is not renowned for his goalscoring but when he has found the net they tend to be special.
Follow Stewart on Twitter: @StewartRoss89