blasts from the past

Forget MLS - the second tier of football in North America is seeing benefit of familiar names

The likes of Joe Cole and former Juventus striker Amauri have rediscovered their form in the US.

A LOT HAS been made about the standard of Major League Soccer constantly improving. It’s inevitable, given the calibre of players being signed by various franchises.

Last weekend, you had Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, David Villa, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane, Nigel de Jong, Giovani dos Santos and Ashley Cole all on the same pitch as New York City FC got the better of the LA Galaxy.

The league can also boast talent like Didier Drogba, Kaka, Sebastian Giovinco, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Ireland’s own Kevin Doyle but even the second tier of football in North America is benefiting from the arrival of experienced talent.

Miami, who are coached by Italian icon Alessandro Nesta, brought in former Ajax striker Dario Cvitanich and he’s proved the side’s key attacker in a difficult debut campaign.

But elsewhere, sides have struck gold.

NASLOfficial / YouTube

Joe Cole has rediscovered a rich vein of form in a supporting role up front for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, scoring five times in his 13 appearances for the club, including a magnificent bicycle kick against Puerto Rico FC.  It’s good enough to make him the Rowdies’ joint top-scorer – and he’s also added four assists.

He’s been included in the NASL Team of the Week four times since arriving in the league in May.

Meanwhile, remember Amauri?

De Oliveira Amauri with Stephen Rice Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

The Brazilian made his name at Palermo before a massive transfer to Juventus in 2008. But he struggled in Turin. He scored twice against Shamrock Rovers in the qualifying round of the Europa League in July 2010 but he didn’t last much longer with the Old Lady, eventually finding some form at Parma between 2012 and 2014.

Still, like Cole, he’s enjoying himself since signing for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He’s racked up three goals in his three games so far and, last time out, he pulled off a superb overhead game-winner against Ottawa Fury.

NASLOfficial / YouTube

With a new franchise starting in San Francisco from next year, it will certainly mean more relatively high-profile players arriving in the NASL .

And that increases interest.

For the league’s healthy Irish contingent – Richie Ryan and Johnny Steele in Miami and Colin Falvey and Eamon Zayed in Indianapolis, that can only be a good thing.

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