MLS Set Piece Takers [New 2023 Season]

The end of February presents the genesis of America’s biggest soccer league – Major League Soccer (MLS).

Last season, Los Angeles FC emerged victorious in the cup final, as they scraped their way past the Philadelphia Union in a tense encounter that went all the way to penalties.

Gareth Bale – who recently announced his retirement from professional soccer – played a pivotal part in the team’s success that day.

He managed to score a header in the closing minutes of extra time to equal the scoring and send the match to a shoot out.

Anyway, this article hasn’t been written to ramble on about Bale’s exploits or the competitions of the past.

Instead, it’s going to look ahead to the upcoming MLS campaign, with a particular view taken towards the free kick, corner kick and penalty takers for teams in both the Eastern and Western conferences.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!


Set piece takers for historically great MLS teams

As is tradition in our set piece taker guides, we start by looking at the dead ball specialists who represent teams that are traditionally considered the greatest in their division.

This is usually determined by the level of domestic and intercontinental success each team has had, so we use that as the reference point here.

Okay, that’s enough babbling now!

Let’s cut right to the chase.


1. LA Galaxy

Most soccer fans will fondly remember the days of Landon Donovan, particularly when it comes to LA Galaxy’s period of dominance.

They’ve been the most successful team in MLS history since its establishment in 1996, having won a total of five MLS Cup titles in that time period.

Last season, Javier Hernández (commonly referred to as Chicharito), was their primary penalty taker.

mls set piece takers - javier hernandez on penalties for los angeles galaxy

The Mexican had a fairly average conversion rate of 50% from the spot; scoring only three times out of six penalty attempts.

If you’ve been following soccer since the days where Chicharito played under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, then you’d know that he’s an accurate finisher from close range.

So, it’s quite surprising to see him perform so poorly at penalties.

Perhaps this campaign will be a better one for him, time will tell.

His team mate Dejan Joveljić converted a total of two from three attempts, so he’s a very capable backup in this department.

On the other hand, when it comes to free kicks and corners, we expect duties to be monopolized by Douglas Costa.

The former Bayern and Juventus winger is very capable with both feet, so he should take the vast majority of set pieces for the team.


2. D.C. United

Next up, we have the team that has four MLS championship wins to their name.

Managed by Manchester United legend and former D.C. United player, Wayne Rooney, the team will be buoyant heading into this year’s season.

Centre forwards Ola Kamara and Michael Estrada both scored once from the spot in the previous campaign.

But, with Estrada joining the Liga MX team Cruz Azul, Kamara should be uncontested here.

mls set piece takers - ole kamara on penalties for dc united

Although, former Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke will also be in with a shout to take a few spot kicks, despite his failure to convert his solitary attempt last campaign.

Conversely, free kick and corner takers are yet to be fully determined. We shall post an update here when we have more information.


Set piece takers for teams in the Eastern Conference

The MLS league format is vastly different from what you see in Europe.

You see, they have two separate conferences, each with 15 teams that compete against each other.

What then happens after the normal league campaign is a post season playoff structure which determines the overall competition winner.

So, let’s start by taking a look at some of the winning candidates from the Eastern Conference.

First up, we have…


Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia racked up an impressive 19 wins and 10 draws from 34 games to leave them top of the pile in last season’s Eastern conference.

Attacking midfielder Dániel Gazdag was sensational from the spot, scoring all of his seven penalty attempts.

mls set piece takers - daniel gazdag on penalties for philadelphia union

He’s firmly in line to remain on spot kick duty this year, as well as being on some free kicks and corners.

Julián Carranza should deputize penalties, especially in the absence of Gazdag.

Meanwhile, Kai Wagner is expected to be the alternative free kick and corner taker.


CF Montréal

Central striker Romell Quioto should be on penalties this campaign, as in the last one he had an impressive 80% conversion rate.

mls set piece takers - romell quioto on penalties for montreal

We expect Đorđe Mihailović to take up the mantle when it comes to free kicks and corners, with Matko Miljevic occasionally stepping up when required.


Full list

ClubPenalties (Main)Penalties (Alternate)Free Kicks (Main)Free Kicks (Alternate 1)Free Kicks (Alternate 2)Corners (Main)Corners (Alternate 1)Corners (Alternate 2)
Atlanta UnitedJosef MartínezLuiz AraújoBrooks LennonAmar SejdićTyler WolffBrooks LennonAmar SejdićTyler Wolff
Charlotte FCChristian FuchsDaniel RíosKarol ŚwiderskiBen BenderJordy AlcivarBen BenderJordy Alcivar-
Chicago Fire FCXherdan ShaqiriChris MuellerXherdan Shaqiri--Xherdan Shaqiri--
FC CincinnatiLuciano AcostaBrennerLuciano AcostaÁlvaro Barreal-Luciano AcostaÁlvaro Barreal-
Columbus CrewLucas ZelarayánPedro SantosLucas ZelarayánPedro Santos-Lucas ZelarayánPedro Santos-
D.C. UnitedOla KamaraChristian BentekeTBC--TBC--
Inter Miami CFJean Mota Oliveira de SouzaAlejandro Pozuelo--Alejandro Pozuelo--
CF MontrealRomell QuiotoMatko MiljevicRomell QuiotoĐorđe MihailovićMatko MiljevicĐorđe MihailovićMatko MiljevicAaron Herrera
Nashville FCHany MukhtarRandall LealHany MukhtarRandall LealJacob ShaffelburgHany MukhtarRandall LealJacob Shaffelburg
New England RevolutionCarles GilGustavo BouCarles GilGustavo Bou-Carles GilGustavo Bou-
New York City FCValentín CastellanosTalles MagnoValentín CastellanosAlfredo Morales-Valentín CastellanosAlfredo Morales-
New York Red BullsLewis MorganTom BarlowCristian Cásseres Jr.Frankie AmayaLewis MorganFrankie AmayaLewis MorganCristian Cásseres Jr.
Orlando City SCAlexandre PatoErcan KaraMauricio PereyraFacundo TorresLuca PetrassoMauricio PereyraFacundo TorresLuca Petrasso
Philadelphia UnionDániel GazdagJulián CarranzaDániel GazdagKai WagnerJoaquin TorresKai WagnerDániel GazdagJoaquin Torres
Toronto FCFederico BernardeschiLorenzo InsigneLorenzo InsigneVíctor VázquezFederico BernardeschiLorenzo InsigneVíctor VázquezFederico Bernardeschi


Set piece takers for teams in the Western Conference

And now for teams on the other half of the division.

First up, we have last season’s first placed team in the Western Conference…


Los Angeles FC

Carlos Vela should be first choice on all of the penalties, free kicks and corners for this team.

mls set piece takers - carlos vela on penalties free kicks and corners for los angeles fc

Vela has been phenomenal ever since joining the club in 2018, so much so that he managed to pick up the competition award for most valuable player in 2019.

The Mexican player’s team mate Cristian Arango should also be fine to take penalties, should Vela not be available on the pitch.

For free kicks and corners, a handful of player alternatives could prove useful to the team, such as:

  • Kellyn Acosta; and
  • Jose Cifuentes


Austin FC

The second placed team in last year’s Western conference league format had Sebastián Driussi as their primary penalty taker.

mls set piece takers - sebastian driussi on penalties for austin fc

He dispatched all four of his penalties and should be ready to step up again when needed.

On the matter of free kicks and corners, there are a couple of candidates, like:

  • Žan Kolmanič; and
  • Diego Fagúndez


Full list

ClubPenalties (Main)Penalties (Alternate)Free Kicks (Main)Free Kicks (Alternate 1)Free Kicks (Alternate 2)Corners (Main)Corners (Alternate 1)Corners (Alternate 2)
Austin FCSebastián DriussiGyasi ZardesŽan KolmaničDiego Fagúndez-Žan KolmaničDiego Fagúndez-
Colorado RapidsDiego RubioJonathan LewisJack PriceJonathan Lewis-Jack PriceJonathan Lewis-
FC DallasTBC-Paul Arriola--Paul Arriola--
Houston Dynamo FCSebastián Ferreira-Adalberto CarrasquillaBrad Smith-Adalberto CarrasquillaBrad Smith-
Los Angeles GalaxyJavier Hernández (Chicharito)Dejan JoveljićDouglas CostaEfraín ÁlvarezMemo RodríguezDouglas CostaEfraín ÁlvarezMemo Rodríguez
Los Angeles FCCarlos Vela-Carlos VelaKellyn AcostaJose CifuentesCarlos VelaKellyn AcostaJose Cifuentes
Minnesota United FCEmanuel Reynoso-Emanuel ReynosoKervin Arriaga-Emanuel ReynosoKervin Arriaga-
Portland TimbersDairon AsprillaSantiago MorenoDairon AsprillaDiego CharáClaudio BravoDiego CharáClaudio BravoSebastián Blanco
Real Salt Lake CityPablo RuizJustin MeramPablo RuizJustin Meram-Pablo RuizJustin Meram-
San Jose EarthquakesCristian EspinozaJeremy EbobisseCristian EspinozaJán Greguš-Cristian EspinozaJán Greguš-
Seattle Sounders FCNicolás LodeiroFredy MonteroNicolás LodeiroRaúl RuidíazJoão PauloNicolás LodeiroRaúl RuidíazJoão Paulo
Sporting Kansas CityJohnny RussellDániel SallóiJohnny RussellRémi WalterFelipe HernándezRémi WalterFelipe HernándezJohnny Russell
St. Louis City SCTBC-TBC--TBC--
Vancouver Whitecaps FCRyan GauldCristian DájomeRyan GauldPedro ViteCristián GutiérrezRyan GauldPedro ViteCristián Gutiérrez


Which team scored the most set piece goals in the last MLS season?

This title was won by Philadelphia Union in the previous campaign, as they managed a total of 12 set piece goals and nine penalty conversions.

Here’s an image that showcases this data:

Ranking just behind them were FC Cincinnati, CF Montreal and Los Angeles Galaxy with 10, nine and seven set piece goals respectively.


Closing thoughts

So, that basically wraps up the list of expected MLS set piece takers for the 2023 campaign.

As always, we will study match footage and make adjustments to the list as fixtures take place throughout the course of the season.

Be sure to make a bookmark of this post to keep tabs.

And if you’ve liked reading through this set piece takers guide, then you’ll love our related articles on free kick and penalty takers for the:

Samuel Waihenya
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