How the 2017 class of designated players have adapted to MLS so far
The 2017 MLS season is past the quarter pole, so it's time to check in and see how the league's notable new designated players have done with their respective clubs.
Miguel Almiron, MF, Atlanta United: It's safe to say the former Lanus man has lived up to the hype. His dazzling passing skills and lethal finishing were on display in the 6-1 win over Minnesota United (two goals and an assist), followed by another showcase in a 4-0 win over Chicago. In all, the Paraguayan has two goals and four assists, but as Atlanta has come back to earth, so has Almiron. However, when Josef Martinez returns from injury, Almiron's playmaking abilities should shine once again.
Josef Martinez, FW, Atlanta United: Atlanta was unlucky that the Venezuelan forward suffered a quad injury while on international duty in late March. The former Torino man had five goals in his first three games and was an early leader for the Golden Boot. The good news for Atlanta is that Martinez has returned to training and is aiming for a return later this month.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, MF, Chicago Fire: The German started the season late after arriving at the end of March, but he has been able to fit into the Chicago midfield with Dax McCarty, registering two goals and an assist. After an initial honeymoon period, Schweinsteiger is starting to experience the difficulties of playing in MLS after such a successful career in Europe. Still, his quality and impact for the Fire should help the club make a playoff return.
Nemanja Nikolic, FW, Chicago Fire: One of the more unheralded signings of the winter, Nikolic has adjusted just about perfectly to life in MLS. The Fire have lacked a striker of quality in recent seasons, but with six goals already in nine appearances, Nikolic is poised to blow past the totals put up by David Accam in 2015 (10) and 2016 (9).
Jonathan Mensah, DF, Columbus Crew: Mensah's start was a bit shaky -- a red card in a 3-0 loss to Houston in Week 2, coupled with an injury that cost the Ghana international four matches. But things look to be improving, evidenced by his performance in a 2-0 win over New England on Saturday. Columbus will need him to be more consistent.
Romain Alessandrini, FW, LA Galaxy: In what has been a down season in LA, Alessandrini has been a bright spot for the Galaxy, often rescuing the team from defeat. Case in point was Saturday's 2-2 draw at home versus Chicago: With the Galaxy down 2-0 and Jelle van Damme subbed off and Jermaine Jones injured, the Frenchman led a comeback with two assists, giving him four on the season to go along with four goals. The team's best player by a distance.
Maxi Moralez, MF, New York City FC: Credit the NYCFC scouts for bringing in Moralez. Along with Alex Ring, Moralez has allowed NYCFC to not miss a beat in midfield. The Argentine covers acres of space, often making up for the recently benched Andrea Pirlo's lack of coverage. Moralez's vision and passing have also been superb. A great find for coach Patrick Vieira.
Sebastian Blanco, MF, Portland Timbers: Blanco has enjoyed a solid start to life in MLS, playing on Portland's right wing next to central midfield stalwart and fellow Argentine Diego Valeri. What was interesting was Blanco's excellent performance in a 2-2 draw at FC Dallas on April 29 when he played more centrally with Valeri out. It's a luxury for coach Caleb Porter to have that backup option.
Albert Rusnak, MF, Real Salt Lake: It's been a rough season at the Rio Tinto, but Rusnak has been a positive. He has a willingness to challenge defenders one-on-one and never shies away from a 50-50 ball. Considering he has already had to endure a coaching change and a slew of injuries to teammates, RSL fans can feel good about Rusnak's return of two goals and three assists.
Gerso Fernandes, MF, Sporting Kansas City: Sporting Kansas City are one of the best teams in the Western Conference thanks in part to Gerso. He has great speed and quickness but is very left-foot dependent, of which MLS defenders will take note. He could also stand to work on his finishing. Nevertheless, a nice addition for SKC.
Fredy Montero, FW, Vancouver Whitecaps: Already a known quantity in the league due to his history in Seattle, Montero has readjusted nicely, scoring four goals in nine games. It's still unknown if the Whitecaps have enough attacking players around Montero to make him a 20-goals-a-year player, but the Colombian appears to be the striker that Vancouver has pined for in recent years.
Arch Bell is based in Austin, Texas and covers CONCACAF for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ArchBell .