Domi, Solli among the key European-based players signed by clubs this winter.MLS clubs spend the offseason searching the world for affordable players to supplement their current squads.
Although comparable options in South America have come into favor in recent years because they are often available at cheaper prices, European-based players continue to lure clubs across the pond.
Quality and variety entice coaches and technical directors to wade into the competitive and expansive European market. The spectrum of options available in Europe includes DP-caliber choices, reasonably priced Americans waiting for a chance to return to the States, seasoned professionals intrigued by MLS and younger players seeking consistent playing time.
Several European-based players – including prominent internationals like Jay DeMerit (United States) and Faryd Mondragon (Colombia) – have joined the league over the past few months. The Friday Five culled through the group and selected a few of the interesting and potentially helpful figures set to feature for MLS clubs this season:
1. Jan Gunnar Solli, New York midfielder: For the second consecutive offseason, Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler used his extensive connections in Norway to land a versatile midfielder with considerable international experience. If Solli's workmanlike shift in New York's 3-2 defeat at Chivas Guadalajara on Tuesday provides any reliable indication of his abilities, the former SK Brann midfielder could make a comparable impact to the Best XI-caliber season Joel Lindpere supplied after he made a similar move last winter from Tromso IL.
2. Didier Domi, New England defender: In the past, players with a resume similar to the impressive one carried around by the former Newcastle, Olympiakos and Paris Saint-Germain left back have approached MLS with a cavalier attitude. Domi's application during training camp suggests he does not carry a similar mindset after waiting several months to complete his free transfer move to the Revolution. While former Lazio and Manchester City midfielder Ousmane Dabo may prove more integral to the cause as the Revs attempt to improve their work in possession, Domi's professional approach and steady play at the back should help to shore up the league's leakiest rearguard.
3. Hunter Freeman, Houston defender: After watching his typically stout defense concede 49 goals last season, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear needed to increase competition for places. By swooping for the former IK Start defender, Kinnear managed to buttress his options at all four spots in the back. Freeman's ability to play either fullback spot will allow Kinnear to choose between Mike Chabala (left) and Kofi Sarkodie (right) on form and shift Andrew Hainault into the center back mix with Eddie Robinson and Jermaine Taylor for the lone available spot next to Bobby Boswell. With an expanded and improved array of choices at the back after the former Colorado, New York and Toronto FC defender's arrival, the Dynamo should have the tools in place to improve upon last season's disappointing defensive showing.
4. Alain Rochat, Vancouver defender: Credit the Whitecaps for doing a fair bit of homework last summer to lay the groundwork for this move. Vancouver learned that the once-capped Swiss international left back hailed from Quebec and held Canadian citizenship despite moving to Switzerland at age two. In order to secure Rochat's MLS rights, the Whitecaps signed him from FC Zurich last summer as a Division II club and subsequently shipped him back to his former employers on loan. Now that the Swiss league veteran has finally returned to Canada permanently, he should supply a dose of consistency on the left side of defense without taking up one of the Whitecaps' international spots.
5. Kenny Cooper, Portland forward: Expansion clubs traditionally struggle to score, but the former FC Dallas striker could help the Timbers contradict the norm in their initial campaign. In order to rack up the goals after a frustrating stint at 1860 Munich, Cooper will have to achieve and sustain a level of fitness he hasn't enjoyed for an extended period of time since leaving Frisco in the summer of 2009. It may take some time for Cooper to figure out his place in John Spencer's nebulous side and return to top form, but his MLS pedigree suggests that he will find the back of the net even if he doesn't receive a consistent amount of service from midfield.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!