You would be hard-pressed to find someone who would argue that Kaká, David Villa, and Sebastian Giovinco haven't impressed so far in Major League Soccer.
I don't have to tell our readers how good Kaká has been through two matches. He's scored a goal and generally looks to be both the catalyst and the top offensive threat for an Orlando City team that has yet to lose.
What about Villa, though? Orlando was able to largely contain him in the opener, though it was his crafty play that ensured Aurelien Collin saw red. For those that missed it though, he was very good in New York City FC's second match against New England. Here's his goal:
Villa lays the ball off, then abruptly changes course to charge straight at goal off the ball. Andy Dorman (Revs' MF, #12) looks like he's running in molasses trying to mark the Spaniard.
Giovinco has been a handful for opposing defenses as well. Watch below as he effortlessly rounds Vancouver's Matías Laba and then attacks the Whitecaps' defense, before feeding Jozy Altidore for the easy goal.
Both plays are impressive no doubt, but what's the greater takeaway here? MLS has signed plenty of talented international stars before, from David Beckham to Thierry Henry. Somehow, this season seems different.
Beckham was less of a dynamic offensive player than these three new DPs, and even Henry often seemed content to play as more of a facilitator in New York. Robbie Keane is probably the best example of a DP who's a constant game changer in the attacking third, and that's reflected by his MLS MVP trophy and multiple MLS cups. Now, he has company.
Kaká seems refreshed to have a more attacking role in Orlando than he had at Milan, and he looks as strong on the ball as ever. Villa never really relied heavily on speed or strength as a striker, so he still seems totally in his element at the top of the NYCFC attack. Giovinco, of course, is a renowned attacking talent in his soccer prime at only 28 years old.
But while the quality of these three attacking players is undeniable and will certainly help their respective clubs this season, it may not be the most important thing they bring to MLS.
Players like Kaká want to challenge individuals on defense. If there's a weak link at center back, David Villa will find it, exploit it, and score. Past just making their teams better, this new crop of DPs are capable of attacking any player on the back line and creating goals on their own.
Check out this GIF from the Carolina Challenge Cup. Kaká seems to simply decide he'd like to run at the entire NYCFC defense, and oh look, it's 1-0!
Teams with serious aspirations of title contention are going to have to add players on the back line and defensive midfield to contain these guys. Not necessarily DPs, mind you. Rather, mid-tier players in the $150k+ range. While the offensive stars are nice for billboards and wonder-goals, it's the other 17 guys that fill out the game day roster that reflect more on the quality of the league.
If you want to see what this looks like, take a gander at the rosters of perennial powerhouses LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders. The Galaxy have Omar Gonzalez making over one million dollars this year, while Leonardo, Todd Dunivant, and A.J. DeLaGarza are seasoned pros in that $150k+ range. The Sounders have two $300k+ men at CB in Brad Evans and Chad Marshall.
All three of the DPs I mentioned above are on Eastern Conference teams, not to mention the return of the talented Juan Agudelo to New England. To even make the playoffs, teams are going to have to spend big on defense, starting as soon as the summer transfer window.
And that's a good thing for Major League Soccer.