MLS

MLS: Can Chicharito replace Zlatan? Galaxy, Henry, Beckham and the key 2020 questions

By Sports Desk February 28, 2020

MLS returns this week for the 2020 season and some of the biggest names in league history are back too.

Former New York Red Bulls superstar Thierry Henry is the new head coach at Montreal Impact, while LA Galaxy great David Beckham is introducing expansion franchise Inter Miami.

However, Galaxy have lost the league's latest superstar after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 53 goals in two seasons, returned to Milan.

Both Los Angeles clubs are still plotting big seasons, and champions Seattle Sounders look well set for a title defence.

We pose five key questions heading into the new campaign.
 

Can Chicharito follow in Zlatan's footsteps?

The biggest departure of the offseason was followed by the most significant arrival. Javier Hernandez has long been linked with a move to MLS, and Galaxy secured the signing of the ex-Manchester United striker as Ibrahimovic's replacement.

Hernandez does not have the same global appeal as Ibrahimovic, but he may ultimately prove a better fit at Dignity Health Sports Park.

While Ibrahimovic competed for the MLS Golden Boot, Galaxy continued to fall well short of team titles, playing a direct style that suited their talisman but not the rest of their squad. Cristian Pavon and company should now thrive alongside Hernandez.
 

Are Supporters' Shield holders LAFC one-season wonders?

Galaxy did not need to look far for evidence of what could be achieved by a team all pulling in one direction, with Hernandez's Mexico team-mate Carlos Vela leading Los Angeles FC to a dominant record-breaking Supporters' Shield success.

Bob Bradley's LAFC were a joy to watch, but Shield winners have struggled in recent years to maintain standards - Toronto FC providing the most striking example as they slumped from first in 2017 to 19th a year later.

Defender Walker Zimmerman has departed, striker Adama Diomande is starting the season injured, and LAFC suddenly could have their work cut out in 2020.
 

Could Seattle finally provide a serious title defence?

It is not just the Shield that has proven tricky to retain. Not since Galaxy in 2011 and 2012 have a team won MLS Cup two years on the bounce.

Seattle have played Toronto in three of the past four finals, winning twice, and yet there is a decent argument Sounders have not been the best team in the league at any point over this stretch. That should be about to change - despite the disappointment of Thursday's CONCACAF Champions League exit.

The defence has been restructured over the past 12 months, with retired centre-back Chad Marshall a big miss, but there is real depth in midfield and attack. Joao Paulo is an exciting addition, while Jordan Morris is in the form of his career as Seattle aim to build on their second title.
 

Will Henry bounce back from his Monaco misery?

Henry turned Red Bulls into contenders in the twilight of his playing career, but his coaching exploits have not been quite so successful to date. The Arsenal legend lasted just 20 matches in his first senior role with Monaco, losing 11 times and conceding 36 goals.

There was still excitement in Montreal as Henry arrived at Impact, though, with the club in need of a boost. They have missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

But this is no simple second job for Henry as he aims to prove Monaco was a disappointing one-off. Montreal have lost veteran captain Ignacio Piatti and are short in several areas.
 

Do Inter and Nashville look more like Atlanta or Cincinnati?

Beckham's Inter are not the only expansion franchise in 2020, as Nashville also make their debut. The league has swollen from 20 teams in 2016 to 26 today, and there are therefore plenty of examples to consider as they arrive in MLS.

The Miami outfit look to have taken heed of the ambitious Atlanta United, champions in their second season. For Tata Martino, Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, read Diego Alonso, Rodolfo Pizarro and Matias Pellegrini.

Nashville's spending has been more modest, trading within the league, but that does not necessarily mean they will follow miserable 2019 basement side FC Cincinnati. Nashville at least look solid.

Related items

  • Pioli 'cannot imagine' Milan without Donnarumma as talks with Ibrahimovic continue Pioli 'cannot imagine' Milan without Donnarumma as talks with Ibrahimovic continue

    Stefano Pioli "cannot imagine" Milan without Gianluigi Donnarumma and says the club are convinced veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic should stay for another season.

    Milan director Ricky Massara revealed last week that discussions are ongoing over new deals for both players.

    Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old in 2015-16 and is contracted to the Rossoneri until 2021, while the short-team deal signed by Ibrahimovic in January has expired.

    And head coach Pioli, who signed a two-year extension of his own last month, is eager for both players to pen fresh terms.

    "I cannot imagine a Milan without Donnarumma," he told La Repubblica. "He is 21 years old, he already has experience and has even been captain. 

    "He is already among the top three or four goalkeepers in the world and will become the best."

    Pioli added: "Ibrahimovic makes everything easy. It is wrong to refer to age with him. He is 100 per cent a professional and makes every training session competitive.

    "Paolo [Maldini], [Ivan] Gazidis, Massara and myself are all convinced he should continue with us.

    "From the economic perspective, it is right that I stay out of things, but we are all aware of what he has given us."

    Milan ended the 2019-20 campaign strongly by going 13 games without defeat in all competitions upon their return to action in June.

    Pioli was rewarded with a new deal and insists he paid little notice to speculation that Ralf Rangnick had been lined up to replace him during the close-season.

    "Gazidis and the Elliott fund kept their word," he said. "They told me I would be judged at the end of the season.

    "It didn't make sense to waste energy on things I was unable to control. I've not seen how Rangnick's teams play. I only concentrated on my own work with my players and staff."

  • Lautaro Martinez 'very happy' at Inter amid Barca links – agent Lautaro Martinez 'very happy' at Inter amid Barca links – agent

    Lautaro Martinez is "very happy" at Inter amid links to LaLiga giants Barcelona, according to his agent Beto Yaque.

    Martinez has been tipped to leave Inter for Barca at the end of the season, though the Italian side have regularly insisted they have no plans to sell the star forward.

    The 22-year-old's €111million (£98.8m) release clause expired in July and Yaque played down the prospect of a transfer from San Siro to Camp Nou.

    "Lautaro's transfer is more in the media than real life," Yaque told La Figura de la Cancha.

    "Lautaro has three years on his contract with Inter and is very happy where he is.

    "He's had a very good season, still has the Europa League to play for and I hope Inter can go all the way in that competition."

    Yaque added: "I've never needed to give him advice and I don't need to now either. He's always been a complete player and has matured over the years."

    Martinez scored 14 Serie A goals as Antonio Conte's Inter finished second and a point behind champions Juventus in 2019-20.

    The Argentina international has managed 19 goals across all competitions ahead of Inter's Europa League quarter-final against Bayer Leverkusen on Monday.

  • Real Madrid was not the right step - Nagelsmann Real Madrid was not the right step - Nagelsmann

    Julian Nagelsmann has revealed he turned down an offer from Real Madrid as it was not the right step for his career.

    Then at Hoffenheim, Nagelsmann was on a shortlist of candidates to replace Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018, but Julen Lopetegui was eventually appointed to the post. 

    Lopetegui's tenure ended in October that year, however, while Santiago Solari also having a brief spell in charge before Zidane returned in March 2019.

    Nagelsmann, meanwhile, opted to join RB Leipzig, taking charge in 2019 and guiding the side to a third-placed finish in the Bundesliga. The 33-year-old has confirmed he decided against joining Madrid, as he thought he was not yet ready to take on a job of such magnitude. 

    "We had phone calls, but in the end the one who decided was me," Nagelsmann told Marca ahead of Leipzig's Champions League quarter-final with Atletico Madrid.  

    "I believed that it was still not the right step to go to Real Madrid. I was one of the candidates and the list was not very long.  

    "For me, it was very important. I had a good chat with [Madrid general director] Jose Angel Sanchez and we decided that it was still not the right step.  

    "We agreed that we could talk again in the future if Real Madrid needed a coach, and if I was available." 

    Nagelsmann added that Leipzig provided the ideal platform for him to develop as a coach. 

    "I wanted the next step to be logical. I try to plan a career in football, even if it is difficult," he said. 

    "I'm a young boy, I don't have to go to the top shelf right away either. I give myself time to develop. Leipzig went to great lengths to sign me. That was the most important thing. 

    "Relatively fast I had an offer on the table. We had good conversations and I saw that it was a good next step. A bigger club, with a bigger budget than Hoffenheim, which would allow me to continue developing.  

    "They have also given me a free hand to introduce my ideas. I do not have to permanently justify what I do, but I have the possibility to evolve and transfer my ideas to the field of play.  

    "It was a good next step in my career to prepare myself and in the future, maybe."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.