The Designated Player has now entered its teenage years. In its twelfth season in Major League Soccer the DP rule has fundamentally changed the way teams operate and spend their Garber bucks. While there have certainly been some misfires it has also helped bring in some top-level talent. Sean Maslin takes a look at the ten best DP signings in club history.
10.) Wayne Rooney, D.C. United (2018-)
Wazza came at the perfect time for D.C. With United moving into their new stadium at Audi Field and needing to shake off a decade of futility the club needed to bring in a player who could show that they were no longer accepting mediocrity. Although he has yet to produce silverware, his style, passion, and attitude have paid immediate dividends for a once proud club.
9.) Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls (2010-2014)
Henry took a Red Bulls side that had been floundering for its entire existence and made it into a team that New Yorkers could be proud of. His determination and will to win at all cost helped the side win their first-ever trophy and spark interest in a club regionally that had none. There’s a reason why the New York Red Bull Academy is so popular and much of that stems back to players fondly recalling from their youth the exploits of Mr. Henry.
8.) Didier Drogba, Montreal Impact (2015-2016)
Drogba’s stay in MLS wasn’t long but his Impact (pardon the pun) was certainly felt. In just two seasons in MLS the Ivorian international scored 23 goals including a 2015 campaign in which he scored 11 goals in 11 matches. His work in the 401 derby playoff series against Toronto FC made him a club legend and solidified his mark as one of the best DPs in league history.
7.) Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact (2014-)
Piatti has quietly become one of the best midfielders in MLS history, amassing a C/V that includes two MLS Best XI appearances and Impact MVP awards. Although he likely won’t get the recognition that is given to others on this list his work rate (127 appearances, 67 goals) and ability to make others around him better stand out. The Impact will miss him greatly when he leaves at the end of the season.
6.) Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls (2015-)
BWP has been Mr. Consistency for the Red Bulls since joining the side in 2013 (his DP contract kicked in 2015). His 125 goals are the most in Red Bulls history and he was a huge part of the club earning their two Supporters Shields. The two-time Golden Boot winner has turned a second chance on a trial with New York into a incredible second half of a career.
5.) Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC (2015-2018)
Giovinco completely changed the culture of Toronto FC, turning it from a side that was generally an afterthought in MLS into a league powerhouse. His style, sophistication, and grace helped spawn must-see highlights and make Toronto FC matches some of the highlights of the weekend. Supporters will certainly remember the goals but more importantly the MLS Cup title that he brought home to a championship-starved city.
4.) Josef Martinez, Atlanta United FC (2017-)
Here is the list of accomplishments that Martinez achieved in 2017: MVP, MLS All-Star MVP, MLS Cup MVP, Best XI, Golden Boot, single-season goal scoring record, MLS Cup Champion. That is an incredible list of accomplishments for an entire career, let alone one season. In a limited amount with Atlanta, Martinez has become an instant success and etched his place among the league greats.
3.) David Beckham, Los Angeles Galaxy (2007-2012)
The original DP gives Beckham in the top ten but his work rate is what puts him near the top. A two-time MLS Cup champion the Beckham Experiment more than delivered, providing short-term boosts in attendance and opening the doors for further development and expansion in the long-term. Without Beckham MLS and North American soccer might not have made the progress that we have seen over the last 12 years.
2.) Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers (2013-)
Valeri didn’t come to MLS with much fanfare but he certainly will leave with it. Playing under a Timbers side that doesn’t quite have as deep of pocket books as other MLS teams, Valeri has led the side to the top of the league time and time again. His passing and knack for finding the back of the net have helped his side against flashier sides in the always tough Western Conference. Winning MLS Cup in 2015 and the MVP award in 2017 only solidifed what has been an incredible career in the Rose City.
- Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy (2010-2014)
Donovan was the first true superstar of American men’s soccer, becoming a name and a face that non-soccer fans knew and could recognize. What’s interesting is that his work for the National Team is what seems to get the most recognition but his work for the Galaxy was just as important. His 112 league goals and six MLS Cups prove that he wasn’t just doing it for country but for club as well.