LeBron James. Kevin Durant. Steph Curry. James Harden. When I think of the NBA, I think of players before teams. When I turn on a game, I tune in to watch individuals rather than the overall matchup. I haven’t turned on a Cleveland Cavaliers game in my entire life. But I watch LeBron every week.
Soccer isn’t basketball, of course. Twenty-two players populate the field instead of 10. It’s much tougher for a single player to dominate a game, even more so for the viewer to notice a single player take over a game.
With that said, it’s not impossible. Every Saturday I tweet out a viewing guide. I attempt to provide a tagline for the games. More and more each week, I find myself wanting to categorize the matchups by a single word: A player’s name.
Even if you don’t care about the teams or really like soccer that much — I don’t watch golf when Tiger isn’t playing — some players give you a reason to care. Every time they touch the ball, something special can happen. Every time they touch the ball, the anticipation rises and you stop looking at your phone and start to notice the world.
As I’ve been watching LeBron and Harden during the NBA playoffs, I started thinking about the MLS players who offer the same individual appeal. Here’s my list of players in MLS I find to be appointment viewing:
Miguel Almiron – Atlanta United
The Paraguayan provides the rare blend of energy, pace, and skill on the ball. He pops up all over the field yet he always looks in control. There are generally two ways players can dominate a soccer game: facilitating the match from the middle third or creating goalscoring chances in the final third. The Michael Essien and the Leo Messi. Rarely do we see a player do both and influence a game across a field as thoroughly as Miguel Almiron. He’s a special player that MLS fans should enjoy while we have him.