MEDIA ROUNDTABLE | Club And League Storylines; Most Impactful New Player

Media members weighed in on what storylines they are keeping an eye on as well as what new player to the league will have the biggest impact in 2016
NASL Staff | Mar 28, 2016

Photo credit: Jeff Holmes/PA

The NASL is getting set for an exciting year in 2016 with new teams, new players, and more intriguing storylines. polled media members on several topics. The first will be the storylines and what player they feel will make the most impact in the coming season.

Club Storylines

Jake Nutting, Unused Substitutes and Empire of Soccer

Four coaches in the NASL will be making their debuts this year. Fort Lauderdale's Caio Zanardi brings a terrific pedigree from his time coaching in the youth ranks of Brazil, while former U.S. national team ‘keeper Tony Meola and Italian legend Alessandro Nesta should attract a lot of eyeballs to their squads in Jacksonville and Miami. However, it's the case of Minnesota United's Carl Craig that intrigues me the most. The Loons have had arguably the most talented roster the past two years, but they've come up short in the semifinal round of the playoff both times. Can Craig rise to the pressure in his first year and get Minnesota over the hump?

Steven Sandor, Plastic Pitch and

I think it will be on the improvement in the league as a whole. The league has seen a huge influx of talent – international-caliber players who can be game breakers. For example, FC Edmonton has made a lot of changes this year, but they know they’re trying to hit a moving target. It’s not just enough to look at the best teams in the league from 2015 and look at them as your standard; you have to predict how all of the teams are moving the bar. I’ve said it before; if you took the teams that won championships two or three years ago and – all things being equal – put them in the league as it stands now, they don’t make the postseason. That’s how far the standard has moved.

Kartik Krishnaiyer, World Soccer Talk

A lot of the focus will be on Rayo OKC who have signed a squad that on paper could compete for the title this season. The team has had remarkable success finding players. That owes itself to two things - the power of the Rayo brand and the workaholic nature of Alan Marcina who quite frankly scouts a lot more than most coaches in the professional leagues in North America.

Ryan Tomich, SBI Soccer

While the expansion aspect seems like an obvious answer, I'm very much looking forward to how the league pushes on with adding and developing young players. The New York Cosmos' signing of Haji Wright may have been just the beginning when it comes to the development of young American internationals. Following in Wright's footsteps are American youth internationals like Strikers midfielder Luis Felipe, as well as the Cosmos' Eric Calvillo and Alexis Velela. Young stars like Darwin Espinal add to the mix, while several teams have continued to push on with new academy and reserve team setups. Like the U.S. soccer landscape as a whole, the NASL is really looking to develop young stars, and the league's setup has the potential to make it a true destination for some of North America's brightest young talent.

Théo Gauthier, Total NASL

Being in Ottawa, I'll be following the post-Marc Dos Santos Era closely. A team that made it to The Championship Final was dismantled in the offseason, and it will be interesting to see if they regress or match their 2015 form. Paul Dalglish's every move will be closely scrutinized since he's replacing such a popular figure.

Wes Burdine, Northern Pitch

I have to go with two on this. The first is the Carolina RailHawks. They have always overachieved and Colin Clarke is a very good coach. The additions they've made in the offseason have been under the radar and I think that they could push for the fourth playoff spot. Then there's Rayo OKC. I have joined the chorus of doubters, but picking up Alen Marcina was a very good idea. And their signings have been surprisingly good, bringing in a lot of fringe MLS players and known players who need another shot. The question is: Will they be the island of the misfits or, well, I guess the island of the misfits in a bad way?

Greg Rakestraw, 1070 The Fan’s Soccer Saturday

Always most focused on what's happening in my own backyard, so given the coaching change and roster turnover from last year, is this the year the Indy Eleven finally match on field what they've done in the stands and in the community? They kept a lot of young players from the last two years, but brought in a lot of vets, and far more MLS experience than the club has ever seen. I'm hoping for big things.

Ian Pierno, News & Observer

I’m focused on the new road the Carolina RailHawks are starting on and off the pitch in 2016.

New Player With Biggest Impact

Neil Morris, WRALSportsFan

With the departure of Raul and Marcos Senna, Juan Arango will be looked to as the new spearhead of the Cosmos' attack.

Bob Williams, Telegraph

Considering the publicity generated by his arrival, it's already Georgios Samaras by a mile. He has come to the league at just the right time following Raul's retirement.

Dave Martinez, Empire of Soccer

Miami is an important market for the NASL this year, and Dario Cvitanich will be central in the club's success. At 31, Cvitanich is still at an age where he can contribute at a high clip. Recent injury concerns, however, cloud what would be an otherwise guarantee of a player. I believe the Argentine striker gets past his recent setbacks, becoming the face of the Miami franchise.

Pedro Heizer, 90 Minutes Strong and Boca Tribune

Rayo OKC has a plethora of very talented players, and to me the one player that will have the biggest impact in the league this upcoming season is midfielder Derek Boateng. Boateng is a World Cup veteran, playing in two World Cups for his native Ghana, and his leadership will be crucial for an expansion side that has very high aspirations in their first season.

Andrew Thompson, The Game Beckons

I'm very curious to see how Indy Eleven's signing of forward Eamon Zayed fares in the NASL. Throughout his career, which has spanned time in various leagues throughout the world (notably Ireland and Iran), as well as the Ireland [youth] and Libyan national teams, Zayed has averaged one goal for approximately every two games he has played. For a team that has finished their first two seasons in the league with negative goal differentials and whose leading scorer for either season scored only eight goals, a player that could score into the double digits for the season would be a welcome addition. I'm intrigued to know if Zayed can maintain the production in the NASL that he has achieved elsewhere.

Jose Armando, Deporte Total USA

On and off the field Wilson Palacios will be a difference maker.

Clayton Freeman, Florida-Times Union

Juan Arango may be 35 and a step slower than in his prime years at Mallorca and Borussia Mönchengladbach, but the Venezuelan veteran hasn't lost his substantial skills. With the defending champion Cosmos, he can step directly into the role vacated by the now-retired Raúl - a subtle director of the offense and a master on the ball. If Arango can combine efficiently with Croatian Niko Kranjcar, New York will have an offensive midfield tandem that's second to none in the NASL.

James Cormack, Bloody Shambles

If he remains injury free and is at 100 percent then Georgios Samaras, as a lifelong follower of Celtic FC, I know just how dangerous this guy is, and undoubtedly the highest profile player signed to NASL in 2016 to date. On his day he can pull a team apart by himself.

Stuart Webber, Action News JAX

I’ll say Georgios Samaras if only for introducing the Midwest to the splendor of flowing European hair styles, also he’s good at soccer.

Franco Sui Yuan, Telemundo OK

Juan Arango. 

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