Diego Maradona, Pelé, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Neymar
What do they all have in common? The number 10.
This is no coincidence.
The jersey number system in soccer was first introduced back in the 1920’s, where each of the regular starters would receive a number (1 to 11) in correspondence with their position on the field. The Goalkeeper #1, Defense #2-5, Central Midfielders #6 and #8, Wingers #7 and #11, and leading the team up front #9 and #10. The #9 has revolutionized into the high striker, while the #10 is typically a little withdrawn, a free-floating position rather, with the liberty to roam, find the ball, and influence the attack.
Now this is not an exact science, and rarely do clubs ever follow the system entirely. Nevertheless, there is one number that continues to remain a major part of the soccer conversation.
The legendary, iconic number 10. The jersey has traditionally been worn by the teams’ playmaker, the go-to man, hence the commonality between the notable names listed above. But, not every team’s number 10 is their most valuable player nor do they all contribute in the same manner.
However, regardless if they’re the prolific scorer, the composed distributor, the crafty dribbler – or all three – odds are if a player is sporting the number 10 on the back of his kit, you want the ball at his feet.
MLS Number 10’s
With Miguel Almirón joining Atlanta United as the club’s first number 10, it is a testament to the conviction and confidence that Head Coach Tata Martino and the rest of the coaching staff have in his playmaking skill and ability to take over games in Major League Soccer.
MLS has seen some key playmakers come into the league and truly leave a mark at their club cementing their place in the number 10 role.
Kaká, Orlando City
Ahead of their inaugural season in 2015, Orlando City acquired Brazilian phenom Kaká, former FIFA World Player of the Year. The Orlando City star will forever be renowned for his vision, poise on the ball and exceptional ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Now 34 years of age, Kaká may have lost a step, but with 18 goals and 17 assists in a two-year stint with the club, he still proves productive in orchestrating the attack.
Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact
Recently, the Montreal Impact have experienced quite a bit of success, which in part can be attributed to the form of their Argentine maestro, Ignacio Piatti. The 31-year-old just finished his 3rd season in the MLS after signing from Argentine side, San Lorenzo (former club of Atlanta United DP Tito Villalba). He may have taken a year to adapt, but he has blossomed into the fulcrum of his team in the final third, scoring 31 goals and tallying 17 assists in his last two seasons.
Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders
Seattle’s number 10 Nicolás Lodeiro joined the league mid-way through this season. It’s hard to believe this due to the fact the Uruguayan looks so extremely comfortable and familiarized with the Sounders squad. Since signing, he’s been nothing short of brilliant. Eight total goals and 8 assists in the 2016 campaign, the 27-year-old was just recently awarded MLS Newcomer of the Year for his contribution and impact to Seattle’s suddenly revived attacking form.
Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Almost irrefutable, Toronto FC possesses the best player in the MLS over the course of the past 2 years. With 43 total goals and 35 assists, the 2015 MLS MVP and a finalist for the 2016 MVP, Sebastian Giovinco has hit the ground running ever since joining the Canadian club. Toronto’s Italian number 10 is an absolute menace usually starting from a wide position but constantly drifting into the middle to get involved, posing a significant threat to the opposition.
Catch both Lodeiro and Giovinco in action this Saturday Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. as their squads go head-to-head in the MLS Cup Final.