Gerrard move part of new wave of imports to MLS

Source:Agencies Published: 2015-1-9 5:03:03

Liverpool legend ‘going over there to win’

Steven Gerrard of Liverpool runs during the English FA Cup third-round match against AFC Wimbledon at the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Monday in Kingston-upon-Thames, England. Photo: IC

Major League Soccer (MLS) enters its 20th season with Steven Gerrard the latest high-profile signing completing an 18-month deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday, as a new wave of foreign players head to North American shores.

The 34-year-old midfielder will move in the July transfer window, arriving at mid-season in the American campaign, and try to help bring the Galaxy a fourth title in five seasons.

"At this stage of my career I think the timing is right to move on to a fresh challenge," Gerrard said in a video. "I'm going to be moving to the most successful team in the United States.

"I'm not going over there for a holiday or to endear myself. I'm going over there to win."

It is no surprise that it was Galaxy who made the move - and spent the money - to bring in the Liverpool midfielder and former England captain. It was LA's signing of David Beckham that signaled the start of MLS's push to move from the fringes of American sporting life.

Not since the 1970s with Pele and Franz Beckenbauer at New York Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League have so many foreign footballers headed to North America and the trend is likely to continue.

LA are the most successful team in MLS having won a record five titles but the departure of Beckham and the retirement of Landon Donovan, the league's best-known American player, have taken some of the shine away from the club.

The Galaxy will also face a new challenge in 2017 when a highly financed second LA club joins the league, promising competition for fans in Southern California.

Strong message

Gerrard won't be able to match Beckham in terms of mainstream media appeal and celebrity attention.

But his signing does send a strong ­message that the Galaxy aim to remain not only LA's top team but the strongest side in the league.

The club is owned by entertainment giant AEG whose Phil Anschutz has been a key backer of MLS and the Galaxy.

"The LA Galaxy continues to compete for championships and strive for unparalleled success each year and signing Steven is another example of Mr Anschutz's commitment to the growth of soccer in Los Angeles and North America," said club president Chris Klein.

Foreign talent

But the Galaxy aren't the only club investing in foreign talent for 2015.

Two new clubs join MLS for this campaign with Orlando City having signed Brazilian international and former AC Milan and Real Madrid midfielder Kaka to a league record $7.2 million annual salary - higher than Gerrard's reported $6 million a year.

New York City FC, owned by ­Manchester City's City Football Group, have signed ­former Spain and Barcelona forward David Villa and expect Gerrard's former England teammate Frank Lampard to join them at the end of the current Premier League campaign.

While experienced European players reaching the end of their careers are the moves which inevitably grab attention, the league is also recruiting heavily from Central and South America.

Orlando's signing of ­talented 20-year-old Honduran international striker Bryan Rochez didn't make headlines but is an indicator that MLS is an attractive destination for young players south of the border.

Houston Dynamo brought in Scottish former Premier League manager Owen Coyle as their head coach in December and then moved to snap up highly rated Mexican forward Erick "Cubo" Torres.

Another significant signing came last season when Portland Timbers signed former England under-21 ­international defender Liam Ridgewell.

Galaxy's Irish striker ­Robbie Keane said in ­December that he regularly receives calls from players looking to move to MLS.

"There are a lot of players that I know personally, big ­players, who want to come now. I can't tell you who they are but it tells me how far this league has come," he said.

Now we know who he was talking about but Gerrard certainly won't be the last to pick up the phone.

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