Voices: Kevin Egan

360 View: Can these strikers step up during Matchday 8?


Hello there, beautiful people! This is Kevin Egan, host of #MLS360, coming at you with the 360 View.

I’m beyond pumped for Matchday 8 this weekend. Why? Because I’ll be doing a lot of interrupting (sorry, Grace) on what is the busiest MLS 360 ever!

Let this sink in; This Saturday we’re set to have 12 (!!!) games on at the same time. We have seven matches kicking off just after 7:30 pm ET, including El Tráfico and Inter Miami CF hosting the resurgent Colorado Rapids. Then five more games kick off at 8:30 pm ET, so our goal alert will hit hyper-speed. Bring it on!

As always, we crave and adore your input on the show. If you have any questions before Saturday or throughout the action, use #MLS360 and I’ll do my best to kick ‘em to the crew live on air.

One thought I’ve had before this weekend centers on the importance of the entire squad and, for this piece in particular, strikers who are primed and ready if called upon. I think a theme is developing this season.

There’s no denying that modern-day demands on players are intensifying. If you’re a key player for both club and country, an awful lot is expected of you. Take Denis Bouanga for example. The LAFC star won the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi last season, and scored 38 goals in all competitions. A Gabon International, Bouanga played 55 games for club and country. That’s a heavy lift, with a serious amount of air miles clocked!

With a hectic schedule like this, opportunities will present themselves for breakout stars waiting in the wings. The most successful teams can usually point to a hungry squad, and a striker ready to spring into action: Think Christian Ramirez for Columbus last season, with extra-time winning goals in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs against both Orlando and Cincinnati.

From my lens, we’re already seeing who’s emerging this season. Here are some strikers who have seized their moment.

Sam Adeniran was a hidden treasure, but now his talents are there for all to see. After scoring eight goals last season (in just 950 minutes), Adeniran’s stock shot up, and here in 2024, I think the 25-year-old striker is set to take another leap. Big Sam has been grinding, whether in Europe or in the US, and now he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves.

A powerful presence with a great team-first mentality, Adeniran also has the softest of touches, which makes him such a fun player to watch. I hope we see more of Adeniran and João Klauss starting up front together – a deadly duo.

On a weekend that sees St. Louis host slumping FC Dallas (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), can Adeniran outshine Dallas’ club-record signing, former Benfica striker Petar Musa?

Cucho Hernández is arguably the frontrunner for MLS MVP, but lately, the Colombian has been MIA due to "team policy." It’s unclear exactly what’s going on with Cucho, and when he’ll be back in action for the Crew, so someone else must step into the spotlight. That man is Jacen Russell-Rowe, and I think he’s brilliant.

Russell-Rowe is a 21-year-old Canadian international who somehow slipped through the ranks at Toronto FC and is now starring with the reigning MLS Cup champions. It didn’t take Jacen long to start banging in the goals, as he became the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot winner in 2022, when Crew 2 won it all. That was a team coached by now-CF Montréal manager Laurent Courtois, with the likes of Patrick Schulte and Sean Zawadzki also shining.

Wilfried Nancy has an immense track record of ‘coaching up’ talents, and that’s certainly been the case with Russell-Rowe. Whether deployed wide or as the No. 9, Russell-Rowe clearly grasps what Nancy wants. With a couple of goals already this season, he may need to be the headline act this Saturday when Columbus host Christian Benteke and D.C. United (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

When you’re a striker in the same squad as Giorgos Giakoumakis, it can’t all be sunshine and rainbows. The Greek international has been scintillating this season, scoring five goals in four games. He’s also a larger-than-life character, and along with Thiago Almada, they’re ensuring the ‘17s’ in Atlanta are dreaming of MLS Cup gold once more. GG hit 17 goals in his debut season in MLS, and that was in only 21 starts. That’s the issue.

Giakoumakis has a tendency to miss games, as he’s only reached 30 league starts once in his career. So the Five Stripes need a ready-made striker who’s set to step in and fill those gigantic boots. You're up, Jamal Thiaré.

Last Sunday was a dream for the Senegalese striker. Thiaré was brought on against Chicago Fire FC with the match finely poised at 1-0 to Atlanta. He entered in the 64th minute and scored in the 65th minute! His first touch was a ruthless header to finish off a brilliant Atlanta United move. His last touch was the final one of the game, a composed finish that told its own story – a birthday brace for a player who exudes confidence.

Now with Giakoumakis (bone bruise) set to miss Atlanta’s trip to New York City FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), another massive opportunity awaits Thiaré.

Willy Agada is a fan favorite, and it’s easy to understand why. The Nigerian striker has 10 goals in 10 regular-season starts at Children's Mercy Park. He plays with an infectious enthusiasm, and I’m a fan!

Charles Boehm wrote a wonderful feature about Agada last year, detailing his humble upbringing and his extraordinary journey. Now, after a leg fracture derailed much of his 2023 season, Agada’s back.

Alan Pulido is a star, the main man, and the headline act in Kansas City. At least he has been and is supposed to be going forward. But Willy Agada continues to prove that when Pulido is absent (hamstring), he can seamlessly step in and produce. In two straight starts now, Agada has a goal and an assist.

I loved this quote from manager Peter Vermes about Agada’s game: "He has an unquenchable desire to score. And when you have that, those guys usually wind up finding themselves in a lot of really good positions to score. And then the final piece is, he's incredibly brave."

The Portland Timbers have lost three straight and Willy Agada could be the man to add more misery on Sunday afternoon (1:45 pm ET | Apple TV - Free; FOX/FOX Deportes; TSN 2).