The most disappointing imports in MLS history

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March 18th, 2020

Major League Soccer had just embarked on its 25th season when virtually all sports were shut down by the COVID-19 outbreak, and many players have come to the United States to compete in the league.

In the past 13 seasons, the Designated Player Rule has allowed teams to bring in big-name stars, with big-time salaries, who don't fully count toward the salary cap. Sometimes it has paid off. Other times there was huge disappointment.

The players on this list are the worst of the signings from abroad in MLS history.

Torsten Frings (Toronto FC)

Frings came to MLS in 2011, still a villain in American soccer circles. The German controversially stopped an American goal with his arm in a 2002 World Cup quarterfinal, and the Germans eventually win 1-0.

He signed with Toronto and made his debut in July. He was quickly given the captain’s armband but did very little in his 1 1/2 seasons there. He scored two goals in 33 appearances and missed the latter half of 2012 with a hip injury. He retired after that season.

Denilson (FC Dallas)

Denilson was one of the best players in the world, had a fantastic career, and came to FC Dallas in August of 2007. He lasted eight matches, scored only one goal from the penalty spot, and had no assists.

FC Dallas kept him off its roster for the 2007 U.S. Open Cup final, and manager Steve Morrow famously said Denilson needed to "earn a spot in the starting lineup like everybody else.” Denilson didn’t last beyond the end of the season. The team declined his option year.

Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC)

Pirlo was one of the most decorated players in MLS history when he arrived in 2015 for expansion team New York City FC. He was one of the highest-paid players in league history, at around $8 million per season.

His time in New York was incredibly disappointing. It mostly centered around his lazy effort on defense, but he also wasn’t doing much to score goals. He scored once and had 18 assists in three seasons with the club, which was not what was expected from the highest-paid player in the league.

He retired after the 2017 season, with his MLS career labeled an outright failure.

Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC)

Defoe left Tottenham Hotspur to join Toronto FC in February of 2014, when he agreed to a four-year deal that paid him almost $6 million per season. His debut was great. He scored two goals to lead the team to victory.

But he struggled with injuries. He scored 11 goals in 2014, but only was able to appear in half of the team’s matches. In January of 2015, he was traded to Sunderland for Jozy Altidore.

Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy)

Steven Gerrard is a Liverpool legend, and after 17 years at Anfield, he left to sign with the Galaxy in 2015. Gerrard only scored five goals and often complained about long road trips, along with the changing weather climates across the country.

After the completion of his 18-month contract, in which he only made 34 appearances, Gerrard decided to retire.

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