Ghanaian legion gear up for 2021 MLS season

When the 26th edition of the Major League Soccer (MLS) kick starts this week, there will be more reasons for Ghanaians in North America and beyond to follow the top-flight soccer league on this side of the world.

A number of well-known Ghanaian internationals and some other players with various Ghanaian backgrounds are all set for the 2021 MLS season.

Leading the Ghanaian pack in this year's league are Columbus Crew and Ghana Black Stars defensive duo Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful.

Mensah who joined Columbus Crew in 2017, captained the Crew to win the 2020 MLS Cup and will be hoping for more successes as he leads his teammates to a successful defense of the title. This will be his fifth season in the MLS.

After joining Columbus Crew in 2015, Harrison Afful has remained an integral member of the team. He made an instant impact with Columbus in their 2015 successes and continued his impressive run until last season’s championship-winning feat. Afful is entering his seventh season in the MLS.

New England Revolution’s new signing Emmanuel Boateng’s chequered career in the MLS has seen him play for clubs like LA Galaxy, Portland Timbers, and DC United in the past six seasons. But the Right to Dream Academy product won't forget his short stint with Columbus Crew last season that secured him a championship medal. As he joins New England this season, he will be hoping to take his new club to the promised land.

Colorado Rapids' formidable defender Lalas Abubakar will be hoping to continue from where he left off last season. Lalas who was acquired by the Rapids via a trade with Columbus Crew SC in November 2019 was named the club’s Defensive Player of the Year 2020.

He played 1,515 minutes in 17 appearances during the 18-game regular season, scored his first goal in Burgundy, a stoppage-time equalizer, against Houston Dynamo on September 9, and also played 90 minutes in the first-round playoff loss at Minnesota United FC.

Last season, Lalas was named to MLS Team of the Week in Week 11 after playing 90 minutes in 5-0 win at Real Salt Lake.

Midfielders Latif Blessing and Kwadwo Opoku played major roles in LAFC’s impressive run in the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League. Latif has a running contract with LAFC until the 2022 season and will be hoping to replicate his maiden season performance in the MLS. Latif’s compatriot, Kwadwo Opoku, was acquired by LAFC on October 5, 2020, with no professional experience but the young Ghanaian made his presence felt in a big way, scoring the late winner against Cruz Azul that helped send LAFC into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. All eyes will be on Opoku as he embarks on his full MLS season.

In the absence of David Accam who is on loan in Sweden with Hammarby IF, striker Abu Danladi will be the only Ghanaian on the roster of Nashville SC. The Ghanaian made four appearances in 2020 for a total of 35 minutes. He will be hoping for more playing time as he continues to gain valuable experience in 2021.

Cincinnati is the new home of young Ghanaian winger Isaac Atanga who was acquired by FC Cincinnati via transfer from Danish Superliga club FC Nordsjælland to a three-year contract with an additional two option years. FC Cincinnati General Manager, Gerard Nijkamp, has predicted that their new Ghanaian signing will create more chances for the club in the 2021 season.

Midfielder Leonard Owusu will feature for Vancouver Whitecaps for the second season after playing 20 matches for the Canadian side in the 2020 MLS Season while former Columbus Crew midfielder Mohammed Abu is on the supplemental list of DC United.
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