The 10 Most Surprising MLS Players In 2015 (Part 1)

Part 2 of 2 dissecting the 10 most surprising players of the 2015 MLS season and why their performance this season has left the experts in shock
by Austin Farrow   |   Sunday, December 06, 2015

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

MLS Cup 2015 is finally here, and it’s time we discuss and analyze the 2015 season. What better way to do so than to analyze player performance?

We will do so, in our own special way. A telling and interesting factor in this MLS season was the theme of unexpected players rising to the occasion against much more established players. Whether it be Sebastian Lletget coming from the West Ham U21’s or Darwin Ceren from USL Pro, you have several examples this season of these kind of players going on to compete just as well or better than the likes of Kaka and Steven Gerrard.

With this being stated, who were the biggest surprises in the 2015 season? Where did they come from before and what made them such a surprising player in 2015? Let’s break it down.

Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls)

2015 has been a year of rave reviews for Matt Miazga. Not only has he been labeled as one of the better performing defenders in the league this season, but he’s sure to be garnering great interest from Europe after this season. The English Premier League has been thrown around as a potential destination in 2016. Whether or not Miazga makes a move abroad this winter is up in the air. One thing is for certain however. After high level performances in MLS, at the United States youth levels, and his introduction into the full United States men’s team, he’s one exciting American prospect. He might just be the most exciting American prospect at just 20 years old.

Miazga will likely only get better from here. The 6’4” centerback managed a clearance per game rate of 7.1 this season, the second highest in the league. If the New York Red Bulls can keep him for next season, they’ll assuredly have one of the better centerbacks in the league. Perhaps, with this, they can make it to MLS Cup next season.

Leonardo (LA Galaxy)

LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez had the highest interception per game rate this season. Who had the second highest rate however? That’s right. Leonardo did. Gonzalez finished the year with a staggering 5.6 interception per game rate. Leonardo finished with a 5.2. It was one of the most surprising aspects of the 2015 season. With an exciting midfield, attack, and a backline performing at a high level, how did LA manage to finish the season the way they did? We may never know. What we do know, however, is that Leonardo just had an incredible season.

After years of being a sort of enigma for the Galaxy, he finally seems to have found his feet.

Soni Mustivar (Sporting Kansas City)

Coincidentally, the third highest interception per game rate this season goes to none other than Soni Mustivar. The French-Haitian signed with Sporting Kansas City in February of this year. When he signed, he had been playing his last few years of professional football in the Romanian Liga I. Little did anyone know, he’d go on to be one of the most successful holding midfielders in all of MLS this year.

No matter who’s competed with him in that holding midfield role, they’ve lost out. Peter Vermes and Sporting Kansas City certainly found a gem. It seems he’s starting to show why he appeared for France at the U20 level. At 25, Soni Mustivar is one to watch out for in 2016.

Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers)

All of these players had dream statistical seasons but this player might’ve taken the cake over everyone. It’s no coincident that he’s going to be playing in Columbus on Sunday. The shockingly athletic Powell managed good numbers statistically across the board but most impressive was his tackling ability. The 21 year old managed a 4 tackle per game rate. That was the third highest in the league this year.

In 2014, Powell was seen as a raw talent that would occasionally show glimpses. Caleb Porter put faith in the Jamaican this year and he managed to arguably be the best performing fullback in the league.


Damien Perrinelle (New York Red Bulls)

Earlier this week, it was announced that Damien Perrinelle’s contract option would not be picked up. This could be for multiple reasons but one reason could be the knee injury he suffered earlier in these playoffs. The injury left him expelled from the rest of the post-season and could harm his outlook for next season as well.

If Perrinelle had not picked up this devastating injury, it is quite easy to proclaim that the Red Bulls might be playing in MLS Cup this Sunday. Alongside Matt Miazga, he was also one of the better centerbacks in MLS this year statistically. They combined to arguably be the best centerback partnership of 2015. Perrinelle had the same interception per game rate as Defender of the Year, Laurent Ciman. That rate was also in the top ten within the league. He also simply managed good numbers across the board.

What makes Damien Perrinelle the most surprising MLS player of 2015, however, is where he’s come from. He spent roughly six months without a club in 2013. Then, he played nearly a half-season in Ligue 2 of France, in 2014.

Considering that this list has included four New York Red Bulls players. It has to say a lot about Jesse Marsch. It is quite impressive what Marsch was able to do with these players in 2015, especially in the case of Perrinelle. Despite Perrinelle’s contract option being declined, New York Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis confirmed that the club is in negotiations with Perrinelle concerning his return. It would be a shame for the Red Bulls and Perrinelle if they couldn’t come to terms after his surprisingly phenomenal 2015 season.


Indian River State
Club Domestic:
All MLS clubs
Club Foreign:
Manchester City
Bringing you news on soccer players across MLS and American players playing in top leagues around the world, Austin is a journalism major who enjoys the fine arts. He doesn't favor one club over another, but just enjoys all MLS play.