Ian Harkes on MLS: "I Think It's Changed A Lot"
The midfielder discussed making his first start, comparing MLS to the Scottish Premiership, and how MLS has changed since his first stint in the league.
A lot can change in four years.
Ian Harkes earned his first start for the New England Revolution on Wednesday after spending more than four seasons in Scotland with Dundee United. Prior to his stint overseas, Harkes played for D.C. United where he made 37 appearances.
The midfielder knew the ins and outs of MLS prior to his departure and has been able to watch the league go through a transformation while over in Scotland. When asked about how the league has changed, Harkes stated that it was quite a large difference.
“I think it’s changed a lot,” the 28-year-old said. “I think it’s attracting a lot younger players. I think it’s attracting very special players from South America, Latin America, players from all over the world. I’ve seen the quality that we have here so yeah I think it’s changed a lot. The teams are changing in terms of new ones emerging and kind of taking the helm in the league so every year brings something different.”
Harkes also touched upon the differences in the style of play in MLS compared to Scotland.
“Yeah I mean it’s a little bit different,” he said. “I think there’s definitely a physicality aspect of Scotland. It’s a little bit more direct, back-and-forth, kind of box-to-box. Some of the pace of the game is a little quicker but obviously the games here going through the summer, the humidity and the heat definitely plays a factor. There’s definitely a little bit more possession here. It’s good to get on the ball. It’s good to play and obviously get that tempo going.”
In his first Revolution start and home debut, Harkes completed 95 percent of his passes while recording 44 touches and six passes into the final third. The midfielder also had five recoveries and two interceptions while winning three of his five total duels.
Head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena thought that Harkes showed his quality against Atlanta United.
“You see why we got Ian [Harkes]. He’s a very good, experienced player,” Arena said. “He’s very good with his passing. I don’t think he lost a pass tonight. I don't look at statistics that closely, but I don't even remember him missing a pass. His positioning was good, his understanding tactically, and where to position himself was very good. He had a real good game.”
With Harkes’ father John playing for the organization, Ian said that it was a special moment to make his home debut.
“It was special. I was excited, obviously to be here for the first time, step out at Gillette, and I thought the atmosphere was great,” the 28-year-old said. “You know, fans coming out on a Wednesday night, it helped us out a lot and I think it was good. It was just a good start by the team, and it was great to get the three points.”
With the reported Latif Blessing trade, Harkes could very well be penciled into a starting XI for the rest of the 2023 MLS season. He has shown he has the quality to make an impact and help create chances for New England. Arena backs him and it’s easy to see why.