Connect with us

MLS

MLS 2022 — American U21 Impact Rankings — Version 10

Published

on

There wasn’t a ton of movement the last two weeks as we reach the halfway point in the 2022 MLS Season. We have seen two American U21 transfers to Belgium. Griffin Yow secured a permanent transfer to 1st tier club Westerlo and Tyler Wolff is moving on a season long loan to 2nd tier club SK Beveren. I’d expect a couple more players to transfer from this list, the most likely being Gaga Slonina, the most deserving being John Tolkin. It also sounds like Caden Clark is on his way out of New York RB and has a good amount of suitors in Europe for a season long loan. 

Trending Up

  • Ben Bender: added two more assists to his American U21 leading 8 goal contributions. 
  • Brian Gutierrez: scored his first career MLS goal. 
  • Serge Ngoma: scored his first career MLS goal (a game winner). 
  • Kayden Pierre: not yet in the top 25, but playing well and started the last two games for Sporting KC—at this rate he will be in the top 25 very soon. 

Trending Down

  • Noah Allen: dropped from the list after being away at the Concacaf U20 tournament and not being a big part of Inter Miami’s first team in quite some time. 

#1 | LB, John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls (2002)

Previous Ranking: 1

Minutes: 1589
G+: 0.27
G+A / 90: 0.06
Goals: 0
xGoals: 1.1
Assists: 1
xAssists: 1.0

John has been playing consistently well all season for NYRB. xG would say he is due for his first goal of the season. I think John is the most ready of any American U21 to make the jump to Europe, but I have not heard any rumors surrounding him thus far. 

#2 | RB, Nathan Harriel, Philadelphia Union (2001)

Previous Ranking: 2

Minutes: 1419
G+: 0.63
G+A / 90: 0.06
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.9
Assists: 1
xAssists: 0.5

Nathan’s offensive production isn’t super impressive, but his G+ indicates he does a lot of things to help the Union win games. 

#3 | CM, Ben Bender, Charlotte FC (2001)

Previous Ranking: 3

Minutes: 1201
G+: -0.85
G+A / 90: 0.60
Goals: 3
xGoals: 2.4
Assists: 5
xAssists: 2.3

Ben extended his lead on goal contributions with a two assist performance last weekend, bringing his combined goals and assists to 8. The next closest U21 American is Cade Cowell with 4. Here is his first assist of the night: 

#4 | GK, Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire (2004)

Previous Ranking: 4

Minutes: 1710
G+: -2.05
GA / 90: 1.42
PSxG +/-: -1.0

Gaga had some nice saves the last couple of weeks. Here is one:   

#5 | WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes (2003)

Previous Ranking: 5

Minutes: 919
G+: -1.00
G+A / 90: 0.39
Goals: 1
xGoals: 1.2
Assists: 3
xAssists: 1.2

Cade is back from the Concacaf U20 tournament and has been coming off of the bench. 

#6 | CB, George Campbell, Atlanta United FC (2001)

Previous Ranking: 7

Minutes: 1160
G+: -0.14
G+A / 90: 0.00
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.4
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.7

#7 | CM, Leon Flach, Philadelphia Union (2001)

Previous Ranking: 6

Minutes: 1563
G+: -1.28
G+A / 90: 0.12
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.7
Assists: 2
xAssists: 1.0

Leon tallied his second assist of the season in a 7-0 stomping of DC United. 

#8 | WING, Brian Gutierrez, Chicago Fire (2003)

Previous Ranking: 11

Minutes: 785
G+: -0.34
G+A / 90: 0.34
Goals: 1
xGoals: 1.2
Assists: 2
xAssists: 1.6

Brian scored his first career MLS goal two weeks ago. It was a nice run and a composed finish in transition: 

https://streamin.me/v/383529eb

#9 | CM, Bryce Duke, Inter Miami (2001)

Previous Ranking: 8

Minutes: 776
G+: -0.80
G+A / 90: 0.35
Goals: 1
xGoals: 1.9
Assists: 2
xAssists: 1.4

#10 | CM, Cameron Duke, Sporting Kansas City (2001)

Previous Ranking: 9

Minutes: 997
G+: -0.33
G+A / 90: 0.18
Goals: 0
xGoals: 1.0
Assists: 2
xAssists: 1.6

#11 | RB, Tayvon Gray, New York City FC (2002)

Previous Ranking: 13

Minutes: 857
G+: -0.18
G+A / 90: 0.00
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.1
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.5

#12 | DM, Sebastian Berhalter, Vancouver Whitecaps (2001)

Previous Ranking: 10

Minutes: 805
G+: -0.31
G+A / 90: 0.00
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.2
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.2

Sebastian’s minutes are starting to dry up.

#13 | CM, Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders (2005)

Previous Ranking: 12

Minutes: 851
G+: -0.78
G+A / 90: 0.00
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.2
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.4

Obed has been out since late June with a back injury and his timeline for return is unknown. 

#14 | CM, Aidan Morris, Columbus Crew (2001)

Previous Ranking: 14

Minutes: 802
G+: -1.20
G+A / 90: 0.00
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.2
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.1

Aidan’s G+ isn’t great, but I read somewhere that the Crew have not lost when he has started a match. Just a random coincidence? 

#15 | WING, Indiana Vassilev, Inter Miami (2001)

Previous Ranking: 15

Minutes: 489
G+: 0.74
G+A / 90: 0.37
Goals: 2
xGoals: 1.7
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.5

#16 | WING, Cameron Harper, NYRB (2001)

Previous Ranking: 18

Minutes: 420
G+: 0.12
G+A / 90: 0.43
Goals: 1
xGoals: 0.4
Assists: 1
xAssists: 0.8

#17 | LB, Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United (2004)

Previous Ranking: 16

Minutes: 628
G+: -0.96
G+A / 90: 0.17
Goals: 1
xGoals: 1.3
Assists: 0
xAssists: 1.3

Caleb has looked like a very young player the last couple of games. He has flashed spectacular moments, but he has also made some costly errors. 

#18 | WING, Owen Wolff, Austin FC (2004)

Previous Ranking: 17

Minutes: 550
G+: -1.09
G+A / 90: 0.18
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.4
Assists: 1
xAssists: 1.3

Owen started last game in central midfield, a role he is better suited for. I expect that trend to continue and it should lead to improved performance. 

#19 | WING, Matko Miljevic, CF Montreal (2001)

Previous Ranking: 22

Minutes: 480
G+: -0.34
G+A / 90: 0.00
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.7
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.6

Matko has continued to start in place of Djordje Mihailovic while he has been rehabbing his injury. 

#20 | CB, Jaziel Orozco, Real Salt Lake (2004)

Previous Ranking: 19

Minutes: 315
G+: -0.06
G+A / 90: 0.00
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.1
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.0

Jaziel has not played since mid April. 

#21 | CM, Caden Clark, NYRB (2003)

Previous Ranking: 20

Minutes: 156
G+: -0.16
G+A / 90: 0.58
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.2
Assists: 1
xAssists: 0.9

#22 | WING, Damián Rivera, New England Revs (2002)

Previous Ranking: 21

Minutes: 273
G+: -0.14
G+A / 90: 0.33
Goals: 1
xGoals: 0.3
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.2

#23 | RB, Andres Jasson, New York City FC (2002)

Previous Ranking: 23

Minutes: 245
G+: -0.11
G+A / 90: 0.38
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.1
Assists: 1
xAssists: 0.2

#24 | DM, Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders (2003)

Previous Ranking: 25

Minutes: 201

G+: -0.14
G+A / 90: 0.45
Goals: 0
xGoals: 0.0
Assists: 1
xAssists: 0.1

#25 | AM, Serge Ngoma, NYRB (2005)

Minutes: 70
G+: 0.17
G+A / 90: 1.29
Goals: 1
xGoals: 0.4
Assists: 0
xAssists: 0.0

Serge scores his first career goal at the age of 16 to give NYRB the lead late: 

Dropped from the list: Noah Allen

Version 8 Rankings >>>

Statistical sources:Football Reference, American Soccer Analysis

Continue Reading

MLS

MLS 2022 — American U21 Impact Rankings — Season Wrap Up

Published

on

At a high level, this was a down year for high impact American U21s in MLS, especially compared to last year. A lot of the big time prospects moved abroad or had a down year, but there were still some great seasons to highlight and some players that are likely to get a move abroad. Additionally, there are signs that next year we could see a bounceback in impact as there were some emerging performances at the end of the season. 

#1 | LB, John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls (2002)

Minutes: 2744
G+: 0.35
G+A / 90: 0.14
xGA / 90: 0.13
Goals: 1
Assists: 3

John takes home the number one spot after an incredibly productive and consistent 2022 season. He was one of the best left-backs in MLS.  John was at or near the top of this list the entire season and he was an iron man for the Red Bulls, starting 31 of 34 games and logging over 2700 minutes, good for third most minutes of eligible players behind Gaga Slonina and Leon Flach. 

This was John’s second season as a starter and he improved his goal contributions from 2 to 4, logging 1 goal and 3 assists, right in line with his expected numbers. John does not get on the ball as much as other full-backs in different systems, but he has the ball playing ability to play in a more possession heavy system. John finished the year with a positive G+ at 0.35. I was surprised to see that he scored negatively in both dribbling and passing, areas I think he is strong in based on what I see. Perhaps this is due to him not getting on the ball that much? He takes crosses for NYRB and does a good job with them. He is clearly a good passer. He scored positively in fouling, receiving and shooting. He does strike the ball very cleanly. 

John has one more year of eligibility on this list and if he stays in the MLS he would be a favorite to top this list again next year. If I had to guess, I would say John is going to get a move abroad in January. I don’t think he has much left to prove in MLS and I think a different system would be good for his development. There is reported interest and I would expect the time is now. On the National team side of things, John seemed close to getting a chance with the USMNT, but ran out of time. With the backup left-back spot still unresolved, John may start getting considerable looks after the World Cup. In the meantime, he is eligible for the U23 Olympic team and is the favorite to start for that group. 

#2 | GK, Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire (2004)

Minutes: 2790
G+: -0.92
GA / 90: 1.41
PSxG +/- /90: +0.04
Clean Sheets: 12

It’s incredibly rare for a 17/18 year old keeper to start at any first team level and play as well as he did. Gaga started 32 of 34 games for Chicago and really only had two spells of poor form, but he was always able to work through it and return to good form. 

Gaga was 10th in MLS in post-shot expected goals minus goal allowed per 90, which I believe is the best measure of shot stopping performance. It’s unprecedented that he stopped more goals than expected and ranked in the top third of the league at such a young age. He was also 3rd in the league in clean sheets with 12, only behind the best goalkeeper in MLS, Andre Blake and fellow USMNT player Sean Johnson. He ranked average at claiming, fielding and sweeping and was below average at handling and passing, two areas he’ll need to work on. Shot stopping was by far his greatest strength this season. 

Gaga is due to start his career at Chelsea now and it will be very interesting to see what their plan is for him. There is word that Chicago would like to bring him back for another season long loan, but they have another highly talented teenage goalkeeper named Chris Brady that looks ready to take the #1 spot for Chicago. I’d love to see Gaga finish out the season starting for the U21 team and then get a loan in the Championship next season. 

Gaga is eligible for both the U20 World Cup in 2023 and the Olympics in 2024 and could be the favorite to start both tournaments if available. 

#3 | CM, Leon Flach, Philadelphia Union (2001)

Minutes: 2755
G+: -2.65
G+A / 90: 0.07
xGA / 90: 0.07
Goals: 0
Assists: 2

This was Leon’s second season with Philadelphia and his second as a full-time starter. Leon plays as the left-sided midfielder in a 4-4-2 diamond which means he plays both centrally and floats out wide and while Leon played a ton this year, second most of any eligible player on this list, his G+ was poor and he wasn’t all that effective offensively. Defense is his strong suit and I believe he is played out of position for Philadelphia. He is really a defensive-midfielder, but Philly has one of the best in MLS in Jose Martinez, so he is played out of position. 

Leon’s G+ data backs up the eye test. His strongest category is interrupting and it was his only positive category. He graded very poorly in passing, interrupting and shooting. Leon does a ton of the dirty work for Philly and while that does not show up easily in the stat sheet, it is appreciated by manager Jim Curtin. It will be interesting to see what the plan is for Leon next year. Both left-back Kai Wagner and defensive-mid Martinez could be on the move and Leon could be the replacement at either position. 

Leon will not be eligible for this list next year. Leon will likely be a fringe player for the U23 Olympic team, but his versatility could get him a few looks. 

#4 | RB, Nathan Harriel, Philadelphia Union (2001)

Minutes: 1768
G+: 0.70
G+A / 90: 0.10
xGA / 90: 0.09
Goals: 1
Assists: 1

Nathan was not a player on my radar this season and was not on my preseason top 25 list, but he won the starting RB job for the best team in MLS early in the season, but then lost that job towards the end of the year. Nathan started 20 games and logged over 1700 minutes. Nathan scored his first goal and contributed his first assists of his career this season, right in line with his expected numbers

Nathan’s strengths are as a defensive right-back and he is not as adept at getting involved in the attack and being a super threatening player out wide. Nathan had the highest G+ number of any eligible player, indicating that he was more useful than any other player given the time he received on the pitch. Unsurprisingly, interrupting was his strongest category and receiving was his second highest category, both scoring very positively. Dribbling was Nathan’s worst category. 

Nathan is a 2001 and will not be eligible for this list. He will likely be in a position battle again next year and will look to solidify himself as a full-time MLS starter. Nathan is eligible for the U23 Olympic team and will likely get a look as one of the back right-backs behind Joe Scally. 

#5 | RB, Tayvon Gray, New York City FC (2002)

Minutes: 1879
G+: -0.24
G+A / 90: 0.05
xGA / 90: 0.10
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

Last year Tayvon Gray got a chance to start at the end of the season after starting right-back Anton Tinnerholm went down with an injury. Tayvon had a chance to retain that job this season and started 22 games. The majority of games that Tayvon missed were due to various injuries, otherwise he was usually in the starting 11. He also played a few games at center-back when that position group was depleted. 

Tayvon is a more defensive minded right-back, but did record one assist. He was a bit unlucky because his expected totals were twice as much as his actuals. Tayvon did seem to improve on the ball all while continuing to be an above average defender. Tayvon had a G+ that was slightly negative and his worst categories were passing and receiving. His strongest were fouling and interrupting. 

Tayvon would greatly benefit from another year starting at right-back at the MLS level to see if his offensive production can take another step forward. Tayvon will be eligible for this list one more year and will likely be at the top half of this list throughout the year. Tayvon should also get a chance with the U23 Olympic team. 

#6 | AM, Brian Gutierrez, Chicago Fire (2003)

Minutes: 1637
G+: -0.53
G+A / 90: 0.38
xGA / 90: 0.34
Goals: 2
Assists: 5

Brian Gutierrez enjoyed a nice breakout season in 2022 starting in 22 games and appearing in all but one game. Brian split time between attacking-mid and outside on the wing. Brian was second amongst all eligible players in goal contributions with 7, 2 goals and 5 assists. Three of these contributions happened in one game where he had a goal and 2 assists. Brian did outperform his expected assist totals pretty considerably, showing a bit of luck. 

Brian’s G+ was okay, but not great. The data indicates that he is better playing through the middle of the pitch, not as much out wide, because his receiving and passing numbers are good, but his dribbling and shooting numbers are not as good. 

Brian is eligible for both the U20 World Cup in 2023 and the Olympics in 2024. He is certainly a top candidate to make the U20 roster if available and if his development continues at his current rate, he could be in the conversation for the Olympics as well. I hope Brian solidifies himself as a locked-in starter next year. Another step forward would likely see him get a move abroad in January 2024. 

#7 | AM, Ben Bender, Charlotte FC (2001)

Minutes: 1645
G+: -1.18
G+A / 90: 0.51
xGA / 90: 0.31
Goals: 3
Assists: 6

Ben Bender was the number one pick in the MLS SuperDraft and one of the surprise players to appear towards the top of this list for the majority of the season. Ben led all U21 American eligible players with 9 goal contributions. Ben started 18 games and accrued over 1600 minutes in a very good rookie campaign, though he did see his role dominish a bit towards the end of the year after Charlotte added some new players to the attack in the summer transfer window. 

Digging into the numbers, Ben did get a bit lucky on the assist side of things. His expected assist totals were 2.9 and he ended up with 6. His expected goals were on track with 3.1 and he ended up with 3 goals. He had 8 goal creating actions in total. His G+ wasn’t great at -1.18, struggling most with his dribbling and passing. His progressive passes and attempted passes were on the weaker side, which indicates that he didn’t get on the ball enough and he was not dangerous enough as a passer. This shows why assists can be a very misleading stat. Yes he had 6 but the underlying numbers indicate he was lucky and that he wasn’t a consistently dangerous player on the ball. 

Nonetheless, it was a great first professional season for Ben and there are clear areas for improvement. He won’t be eligible for this list next year, but he is eligible for the US U23 Olympic team and is likely a pool player for that squad. 

#8 | WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes (2003)

Minutes: 1554
G+: -0.65
G+A / 90: 0.35
xGA / 90: 0.26
Goals: 3
Assists: 3

I was expecting bigger things from Cade Cowell this year. This was his third year as an impact MLS player and the second one with a critical role, but unfortunately this year was more of a step back than a step forward for Cade. He had one more start (15), but less minutes and less goal contributions with 6 this year after 10 in 2021. Once again he outperformed his expected numbers, something we are starting to get used to with Cade. 

Cade’s G+ numbers were down this year. What that data tells us is that his dribbling continues to be an area of weakness, relying too much on speed and not enough on skill and feel. His shooting numbers were strong which speaks to his ability to outperform his expected goals. He was also negative in passing and receiving, all of which are technical areas he will need to improve to be an impact player at a higher level. His physical traits will only take him so far. 

Cade received a contract extension at the end of 2021 and there has been consistent interest overseas for Cade, but new manager Luchi Gonzalez appears keen to keep him and make him a big part of his plan. My question is whether San Jose is the right environment for Cade to develop. All signs point to no, but it could be one more year in San Jose and MLS before he goes abroad. Cade is still young, eligible for this list for two more years and he will likely be a key player for the 2023 U20 World Cup. 

#9 | CB, George Campbell, Atlanta United (2001)

Minutes: 1476
G+: -0.17
G+A / 90: 0.00
xGA / 90: 0.07
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

George, like the majority of the Atlanta United team, had an up and down season. George was the only center-back that finished in the top 25 list. It is a position that typically takes longer to become a starter and because you don’t really sub/rotate center-backs, if you are not starting, you are not playing.

George was playing a lot at the beginning of the season, especially when MIles Robinson went down with a season ending injury, but he was injured in July and never really regained his starting job back. In total he started 16 games and earned just under 1500 minutes. 

George’s numbers were solid. He did not have a goal contribution, but he was very courageous and successful in progressing the ball by dribbling and passing, two of his strong suits, though he is still inconsistent as a passer. He makes some elite level passes, but is also prone to poor decision making that leads to dangerous turnovers. Interrupting is another area where he struggled a bit. George is still young for a center-back and may get another chance to win a starting job next year. He graduates from this list next season, but is likely to be a candidate for the US U23 Olympic team.  

#10 | LB, Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United (2004)

Previous Ranking: 9

Minutes: 1497
G+: -0.98
G+A / 90: 0.12
xGA / 90: 0.21
Goals: 1
Assists: 1

Caleb Wiley was one of the better stories of the year for me. George Bello left for Germany last winter and Andrew Gutman returned from a season long loan with NYRB. This told me that Caleb would have a small role for Atlanta this year, but I wasn’t sure how big of a role he was ready for. It turns out he had a big role, in large part due to injuries, but also due to his development and ability. It was an up and down year for Caleb, but that is expected. He is a young 2004, playing at the age of 17 the entire year, making him one of the youngest players on this list. Caleb played as left-back, left wing-back and a left-winger, showing his versatility. 

Caleb had a goal and an assist, but his underlying numbers showed he was a bit unlucky to not have more. He had 1.4 expected goals and 2.1 expected assists. Caleb struggled towards the end of the year and his G+ accounted for that. It ended at a not so great -0.98. His passing was the biggest problem area, specifically I saw a lot of inconsistency with his crossing. His interrupting grade was excellent, showing his defensive ability. He is a pretty well rounded full-back that is only going to continue to get better. 

Caleb will likely have a part-time starting role next year assuming Gutman is back and healthy, but I am excited to see his development. He is eligible for this list for three more years though I would be surprised if he is in the MLS for three more years. I could see him making the move abroad in 2 years or less if he continues to progress. Caleb is my favorite to be the starting left-back for the 2023 U20 World Cup and he could be in play for the Olympics as well.

#11 | DM, Aidan Morris, Columbus Crew (2001)

Minutes: 1811
G+: -2.09
G+A / 90: 0.00
xGA / 90: 0.05
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

It was great to see Aidan Morris back on the pitch for the Crew. After a promising 2020 season and a great performance in the MLS Cup, we lost Aidan for all of 2021. He returned from his injury and took a little while to get back in the groove, but whenever I watched him I thought he played well. He was just as explosive and as aggressive as he was before the injury. Aidan is the prototypical sweeper/destroyer 6 in the mold of a Tyler Adams type. Aidan’s above the line and below the line stats are not impressive, but when you watch him you can see how he positively impacts the game. Perhaps the best data point to showcase this is that Columbus only lost one game that Aidan Morris started. That is a pretty incredible stat considering they did not make the playoffs. 

Aidan did not have a goal or an assist and his expected numbers were low as well. Aidan’s G+ was not great, but I have found that most defensive midfielder’s G+ in MLS aren’t usually too impressive. Aidan’s dribbling, passing and receiving were all quite low and his interrupting was much lower than I would have expected it to be. 

Aidan is a 2001 born player and is graduating from this list next year. I expect Aidan to be one of the defensive-midfielders in the mix for the Olympic 2024 team and a step forward in 2023 could start creating interest from abroad. 

#12 | AM, Bryce Duke, Inter Miami (2001)

Minutes: 1478
G+: -1.23
G+A / 90: 0.30
xGA / 90: 0.25
Goals: 1
Assists: 4

Bryce Duke moved from LAFC to Inter Miami this year and that move proved to be a good one for his career. Bryce never got much of an opportunity in LA, but did have a decent role for the playoff bound IMCF. Bryce started out the year with a knock, but ended up starting 16 games and appeared in 28. Bryce played as a 8, 10 and winger. 

Bryce had 1 goal and 4 assists on the year and his expected goals and assist totals were slightly lower than his actuals. Bryce had a low G+ and his dribbling was his biggest weakness. What is interesting is that Bryce does have the ability to make highlight carries and passes, but he is far too inconsistent and his decision making can be poor. If he can become more consistent I think those numbers would really improve because the technical ability is there. 

This is Bryce’s last year of eligibility on this list and he is likely a fringe player for the 2024 Olympic player pool. 

#13 | CM, Cameron Duke, Sporting Kansas City (2001)

Minutes: 1227
G+: -0.70
G+A / 90: 0.15
xGA / 90: 0.24
Goals: 0
Assists: 2

Cameron saw the most playing time of his young professional career this season, starting 13 times and earning just over 1200 minutes. He saw the majority of his time as a central-midfielder, though he also played a little bit at right-back. Cameron had zero goals and two assists, though he was a little unlucky in that his xGA/90 was 10 points higher than his actuals. He had 1.6 expected goals, but did not cash in on any. His G+ wasn’t great at -0.70 on the season and the areas he struggled the most were interrupting (-0.43) and passing (-0.62), both of which are key areas for an all-action midfielder. His strongest area was dribbling (0.19). 

Cameron looks to have a ceiling of a fringe-starter / impact sub at the MLS level. He graduates from this list this year and is unlikely to be at the top of the pool for the U23 Olympic team, though injuries and availability could change that. His versatility as a CM/RB is useful. 

#14 | GK, Rocco Rios Novo, Atlanta United (2002)

Minutes: 1395
G+: -4.63
GA / 90: 1.57
PSxG +/- /90: -0.28
Clean Sheets: 2

Rocco Rios Novo was loaned to Atlanta midway through the year after Brad Guzan went down with a season and potentially career ending injury. Rocco transferred in from Argentinian Club, Lanus. Rocco started 15 games for Atlanta and in large part struggled, specifically as a shot stopper. Rocco has below average size, but above average ball playing skills, but the shot stopping was a big problem. He had some nice moments, but overall it was a tough season for Rocco and I would not expect him back in Atlanta next year. 

Rocco had two clean sheets and gave up -0.28 more goals than expected per 90, showcasing those shot stopping struggles. His G+ was -4.88 and that grading system reiterated the shot stopping struggles while also highlighting that he was decent in all other categories, but at the end of the day, you have to make saves. 

#15 | CM, Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union (2003)

Minutes: 1018
G+: 0.68
G+A / 90: 0.35
xGA / 90: 0.22
Goals: 1
Assists: 3

I would say Jack McGlynn had a breakout-lite season. After a really strong Concacaf U20 Championship, he really picked up steam with the Philadelphia Union and had the best season of their talented young core. Jack started 9 games, all of which were in the second half of the season and he appeared in 23. I am excited to see how he is used in the playoffs. 

Jack had one goal and three assists on the season, outrunning his expected totals by a pretty considerable margin, but his G+ numbers were very good. He had the highest G+ of any eligible player on this list behind teammate Nathan Harriel and he did it with almost half of Nathan’s minutes. He was particularly strong as a passer and if you have ever watched Jack play, that should come as no surprise, he is an elite passer. His interrupting grade was surprisingly mediocre, which I expected to be worse, showing that the system likely masks some of those deficiencies. Receiving was his worst grade which speaks to his need to become a little tidier in tight spaces. 

It’s possible that Jack makes a move abroad this winter as there are many suitors, but I think another half year or full year in MLS would help prepare him more for that move, especially if he can earn a full-time starting job next season. Jack will be a key player for the 2023 U20 World Cup and if he takes a step or two forward, could be a good option for the 2024 Olympic team. 

#16 | WING, Indiana Vassilev, Inter Miami (2001)

Minutes: 1059
G+: 0.41
G+A / 90: 0.17
xGA / 90: 0.23
Goals: 2
Assists: 0

Indiana Vassilev returned to Miami from Aston Villa for the second season in a row on a season long loan. Indiana started 13 games and appeared in 24. He had a better stint with IMCF than last year and had one shining moment where he scored two late goals, his only two goals on the season to give Miami the win. Indiana had a strong G+, one of the few players to end the year on the positive side and he was particularly solid as a dribbler. 

Even if Indiana comes back to the MLS he won’t be eligible for this list next year and I do not expect him to be in the plans for the 2024 Olympic team. 

#17 | DM, Sebastian Berhalter, Vancouver Whitecaps (2001)

Minutes: 1023
G+: 0.32
G+A / 90: 0.00
xGA / 90: 0.05
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

Sebastian is the son of USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter. Sebastian was traded to Vancouver before the start of the season and a consistent starter for the majority of the season until an injury forced him to miss about half of the season. In total, Sebastian started 11 games and collected just over 1000 minutes. 

Sebastian isn’t a flashy player, but does a lot of the dirty work in the midfield to help his team. Sebastian did not have a goal contribution and only 0.5 expected goals and 0.3 expected assists. Sebastian did end the season with a positive G+ of 0.32, one of the few players to end the year with a positive G+. The biggest reason for the positive number was his interrupting number of +.42 which is quite good. Defensively is definitely where Sebastian shined this year. His worst category was passing. 

Sebastian is a 2001, so he is not eligible for this list next year. 

#18 | DM, Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders (2003)

Minutes: 951
G+: -0.27
G+A / 90: 0.09
xGA / 90: 0.08
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

Danny was surpassed in the depth chart at the beginning of the year by Obed Vargas, but when Joao Paulo and Vargas went down with injury, Leyva stepped up and played pretty well in a bigger role in the second half of the season. He ended up with 12 starts and 19 appearances, adding one assist on the season.  

Danny’s G+ ended up being pretty solid, slightly negative and scoring best in interrupting and worst in receiving. I find the interrupting data point interesting because many believe he is a weak defender, but I think it is an area he has improved a lot in. 

Danny is a 2003 and thus eligible for the 2023 U20 World Cup. It is hard to say if Danny is out of favor with Mikey Varas, the manager of that team, or if he just hasn’t been available, but he hasn’t been with the group for quite some time. It would seem that Mikey prefers others, but I think Leyva can help this group and provide some stability and distribution to the midfield. It’s been reported that he is getting his Mexican eligibility together as well. 

#19 | RB, Kayden Pierre, Sporting KC (2003)

Minutes: 953
G+: -0.41
G+A / 90: 0.09
xGA / 90: 0.04
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

Kayden Pierre was one of the most noticeably improved American U21 players in my eyes this year. He went from being a very fringe prospect to potentially the best U20 right-back in the US pool. He didn’t get an opportunity until midway through the season when Graham Zusi went down with an injury, but he played really well covering for Graham in the middle part of the season where he started 9 times and appeared 19 times overall. 

Kayden didn’t create a ton of opportunities, but was strong defensively and added his first career assist. Kayden’s G+ was okay, not great, just slightly negative. He was strongest in dribbling and interrupting and weakest in receiving. 

As I said above, I think Kayden and Justin Che are the two best right-back options for the U20 group, but he has not been with the group in a while. I think Kayden is a different player from the last time he appeared for the U20s and I would love to see him get another opportunity. Hopefully next year Kayden gets a chance to be the full-time starter for Sporting KC next as Graham Zusi ages out and is out of contract at the end of this year. 

#20 | DM, Daniel Edelman, NYRB (2003)

Minutes: 993
G+: –0.83
G+A / 90: 0.09
xGA / 90: 0.06
Goals: 1
Assists: 0

Daniel Edelman had a solid first pro season for NYRB and ended up having a bigger role than many, including myself, thought he would this year. The midfield was a revolving door and Edelman ended up being a consistent starter at the end of the year. He ended with 10 starts and appeared in 16 games total. Danny is more of a sweeper/destroyer 6 like Aidan Morris, so he doesn’t get involved a ton on the offensive side of things, but he did score his first career goal and has some good shots on goal. 

Edelman’s G+ wasn’t great, ending at -0.83. He struggled the most at receiving and interrupting. I go back to my point about Aidan Morris. Defensive minded midfielders tend not to score well with G+. 

Danny is a 2003 and a core player for the U20 team. He looks to be the preferred 6 for Mikey Varas in the most important games. It also looks like Danny might get a chance to be the full-time starter for NYRB next year. 

#21 | WING, Cameron Harper, NYRB (2001)

Minutes: 765
G+: 0.52
G+A / 90: 0.47
xGA / 90: 0.30
Goals: 2
Assists: 2

I had Cameron on my preseason top 25 list and a few people laughed at me, but I had seen flashes of potential in the past and thought this was the year he might start to make an impact. For the most part I think I got that right. Cameron received 6 starts and 745 minutes, but started the year off injured and finished the year injured, so he didn’t get as much of an opportunity as he could have. 

Cameron had an impressive goals and assists per 90 average of 0.47, with 2 goals and 2 assists. He was lucky as his expected goals were at 1.1 and his expected assists were at 1.5. Overall Cameron had a really strong G+ at 0.52, scoring positively in dribbling, interrupting and passing. His receiving grade was where he had the most room for improvement. 

Cameron is another 2001 which means he will not be eligible for this list. I also do not think Cameron will be a key player for the U23 Olympic team, as I think other wingers will likely be higher on the depth chart. 

#22 | CM, Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders (2005)

Minutes: 851
G+: -0.81
G+A / 90: 0.00
xGA / 90: 0.06
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

Obed Vargas was one of the bigger young American stories in MLS at the beginning of the year. He had surpassed Josh Atencio and Danny Leyva in the midfield and had some impressive performances in both MLS and in the Concacaf Champions League championship run. He was the first player born in 2005 to really start to breakout in the MLS. Unfortunately Obed’s season was cut short due to lingering back issues that Seattle was rightfully very careful about. Hopefully a full offseason can help Obed get back to fitness and he continues to shine next season. 

Obed played a hybrid 6/8 role for Seattle as one of the two midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 setup. Obed isn’t a flash player, but one that does a lot of the little things well to help control the midfield. Obed did not have any goal contributions in just over 800 minutes and 10 starts. His G+ was not great at that time, but he showed flashes, which is all that you are looking for in a super young player like Obed. He had positive marks for dribbling and fouling, but was negative in Interrupting, passing, receiving and shooting. Passing was his worst category and after digging into the numbers it appeared he was very safe and lacked danger with his passing. 

Hopefully Obed can build off his early success and show improvement next season. He was one of the few 2005s getting time with the US U20s and he will attempt to get back into that mix ahead of the 2023 U20 World Cup. 

#23 | CM, Owen Wolff, Austin FC (2004)

Minutes: 913
G+: -1.60
G+A / 90: 0.10
xGA / 90: 0.23
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

Owen was a surprise player for me this year. I did not expect him to have as big of a role as he did with Austin. He didn’t have a huge impact, but he didn’t look out of place either. He had a good run of starts in the middle of the year and totaled 11 for the year and 24 appearances in total. 

Owen was a bit unlucky in that his expected goals and assists were twice what he actually tallied. He set up some big chances but did not have his teammates finish in many of those instances. Owen finished with a pretty poor G+ I think mainly because he struggled to really impact the game when he was on the pitch. He was poor in most categories other than fouling with dribbling being his worst category. 

Owen is a young 2004 and played all year as a 17 year old, one of the few 2004s with a key role for a winning club. Owen has not yet played with the United States U20s, but has been a key player for the U19s. I am not sure he is going to get an opportunity with the U20s before the World Cup, but if he comes out next year with a bigger role for Austin and a hot start, he could force his way into the picture. 

#24 | WING, Jackson Hopkins, DC United (2004)

Minutes: 904
G+: -1.77
G+A / 90: 0.10
xGA / 90: 0.23
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

Jackson was one of three in-season homegrown signings for DC United and the one who received the most playing time. I was surprised that Jackson received as much of an opportunity as he did as I do not rate Jackson super high, but he clearly built trust with the coaching staff and must train very well. Jackson started 11 times and appeared in 21 games. He tallied his first assist on a nice set piece cross in. Jackson had a poor G+ which mirrored what my eyes saw when I watched him play. He didn’t seem ready or deserving of the role he was given this year. Interrupting and receiving were two particularly bad categories for him. 

Jackson is another 2004 and a surprise player for me on the list. There must be something I am missing about Jackson. Rooney seems to rate him as he has been given more of an opportunity than other young DC players I rate higher and he keeps getting calls to the United States U20s even though he continually looks like one of the weaker players. In the end I don’t expect him to make the 2023 U20 World Cup, but he seems to keep getting opportunities, so who knows?

#25 | GK, John Pulskamp, Sporting KC (2001)

Minutes: 1028
G+: -3.21
GA / 90: 1.58
PSxG +/- /90: -0.09
Clean Sheets: 3

John Pulskamp is the third goalkeeper on this list. John started 11 games this year after Tim Melia had a very poor start to the season. Sporting KCs turnaround at the end of the year coincided with John starting to play better in goal. John’s underlying numbers weren’t great, but he really started to improve towards the end of the year. 

John had a negative post-shot expected goals minus goals conceded and his G+ was -3.21, not great. Shot stopping was the main problem area for John. John will likely get every opportunity to win the starting job next year, but he won’t be eligible for this list. John will also be in the keeper pool for the U23 Olympic team. 

Honorable Mentions

Justin Haak, Matko Miljevic, Josh Atencio, Caden Clark, Paxten Aaronson, Serge Ngoma 

Statistical sources 

Football Reference, American Soccer Analysis

Continue Reading

MLS

MLS 2022 — American U21 Impact Rankings — Version 15

Published

on

Tayvon Gray

This is the second to last ranking before the end of the regular season. Clubs either have 2 or 3 games left to play and it is looking like Tolkin is going to hold on to the #1 spot over Gaga Slonina. 

TRENDING UP

  • Kayden Pierre: With Graham Zusi out, Pierre has received another run of starts and for the most part he has been good and has shown his continued development from last season
  • Cade Cowell: Cade has been earned the opportunity to start the last 4 games and while he has not delivered a goal contribution, he’s been dangerous and creating an adequate amount of chances
  • Tayvon Gray: recorded his first assist of the season and is having a quietly solid season as a first team, part-time starter
  • Daniel Edelman: Danny has started the last 7 games with Frankie Amaya out, he appears to be the preferred option and has been playing pretty well 

TRENDING DOWN

  • Caleb Wiley: Caleb has seen a significant drop in minutes with Gutman back and Atlanta opting to go with different options at left-wing

#1 | LB, John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls (2002)

Previous Ranking: 1

Minutes: 2564
G+: 0.32
G+A / 90: 0.14
xGA / 90: 0.13
Goals: 1
Assists: 3

#2 | GK, Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire (2004)

Previous Ranking: 2

Minutes: 2790
G+: -0.92
GA / 90: 1.41
PSxG +/- /90: +0.04
Clean Sheets: 12

#3 | CM/DM, Leon Flach, Philadelphia Union (2001)

Previous Ranking: 3

Minutes: 2565
G+: -2.30
G+A / 90: 0.07
xGA / 90: 0.08
Goals: 0
Assists: 2

#4 | RB, Nathan Harriel, Philadelphia Union (2001)

Previous Ranking: 4

Minutes: 1678
G+: 0.77
G+A / 90: 0.11
xGA / 90: 0.09
Goals: 1
Assists: 1

#5 | RB, Tayvon Gray, New York City FC (2002)

Previous Ranking: 6

Minutes: 1803
G+: -0.19
G+A / 90: 0.05
xGA / 90: 0.10
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

Tayvon recorded his first goal contribution of the season with a very nice cross for an assist: 

https://twitter.com/NYCFC/status/1567677352120913920?s=20&t=edJZQHscHMCRKC8vKjnn0w

#6 | AM, Ben Bender, Charlotte FC (2001)

Previous Ranking: 5

Minutes: 1600
G+: -1.12
G+A / 90: 0.51
xGA / 90: 0.31
Goals: 3
Assists: 6

#7 | CB, George Campbell, Atlanta United (2001)

Previous Ranking: 7

Minutes: 1476
G+: -0.17
G+A / 90: 0.00
xGA / 90: 0.07
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

#8 | WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes (2003)

Previous Ranking: 10

Minutes: 1443
G+: -0.55
G+A / 90: 0.31
xGA / 90: 0.27
Goals: 2
Assists: 3

#9 | LB/LW, Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United (2004)

Previous Ranking: 8

Minutes: 1477
G+: -0.85
G+A / 90: 0.12
xGA / 90: 0.21
Goals: 1
Assists: 1

#10 | WING/AM, Brian Gutierrez, Chicago Fire (2003)

Previous Ranking: 9

Minutes: 1476
G+: -0.94
G+A / 90: 0.24
xGA / 90: 0.28
Goals: 1
Assists: 3

This was nice:

#11 | DM, Aidan Morris, Columbus Crew (2001)

Previous Ranking: 11

Minutes: 1612
G+: -2.07
G+A / 90: 0.00
xGA / 90: 0.04
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

Aidan had maybe his finest performance of the season last weekend: 

https://twitter.com/_Susaeta/status/1571573524669546496?s=20&t=s_R4y3L_EAYxq-vPM1b_LA

#12 | CM, Cameron Duke, Sporting Kansas City (2001)

Previous Ranking: 13

Minutes: 1227
G+: -0.70
G+A / 90: 0.15
xGA / 90: 0.24
Goals: 0
Assists: 2

#13 | AM, Bryce Duke, Inter Miami (2001)

Previous Ranking: 12

Minutes: 1275
G+: -1.24
G+A / 90: 0.28
xGA / 90: 0.27
Goals: 1
Assists: 3

#14 | GK, Rocco Rios Novo, Atlanta United (2002)

Previous Ranking: 14

Minutes: 1350
G+: -4.63
GA / 90: 1.57
PSxG +/- /90: -0.28
Clean Sheets: 2

#15 | CM, Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union (2003)

Previous Ranking: 15

Minutes: 887
G+: 0.66
G+A / 90: 0.41
xGA / 90: 0.22
Goals: 1
Assists: 3

#16 | WING, Indiana Vassilev, Inter Miami (2001)

Previous Ranking: 17

Minutes: 935
G+: 0.46
G+A / 90: 0.19
xGA / 90: 0.24
Goals: 2
Assists: 0

#17 | WING, Cameron Harper, NYRB (2001)

Previous Ranking: 16

Minutes: 765
G+: 0.52
G+A / 90: 0.47
xGA / 90: 0.30
Goals: 2
Assists: 2

Cameron is out with an injury. 

#18 | RB, Kayden Pierre, Sporting KC (2003)

Previous Ranking: 23

Minutes: 930
G+: -0.44
G+A / 90: 0.10
xGA / 90: 0.04
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

#19 | DM, Sebastian Berhalter, Vancouver Whitecaps (2001)

Previous Ranking: 18

Minutes: 805
G+: -0.31
G+A / 90: 0.00
xGA / 90: 0.05
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

Sebastian is likely out for the season with a right foot injury.

#20 | DM/CM, Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders (2003)

Previous Ranking: 21

Minutes: 807
G+: -0.35
G+A / 90: 0.11
xGA / 90: 0.08
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

#21 | DM, Daniel Edelman, NYRB (2003)

Previous Rank: 24

Minutes: 813
G+: –0.58
G+A / 90: 0.11
xGA / 90: 0.06
Goals: 1
Assists: 0

#22 | DM/CM, Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders (2005)

Previous Ranking: 19

Minutes: 851
G+: -0.78
G+A / 90: 0.00
xGA / 90: 0.06
Goals: 0
Assists: 0

Obed is out for an indefinite amount of time due to a back injury. 

#23 | CM, Owen Wolff, Austin FC (2004)

Previous Ranking: 20

Minutes: 911
G+: -1.58
G+A / 90: 0.10
xGA / 90: 0.23
Goals: 0
Assists: 1

#24 | GK, John Pulskamp, Sporting KC (2001)

Previous Rank: NR

Minutes: 938
G+: -3.37
GA / 90: 1.73
PSxG +/- /90: -0.10
Clean Sheets: 2

#25 | WING, Matko Miljevic, CF Montreal (2001)

Previous Ranking: 22

Minutes: 667
G+: -0.28
G+A / 90: 0.27
xGA / 90: 0.33
Goals: 1
Assists: 1

Dropped from the list: Jackson Hopkins

Version 14 Rankings >>>

Statistical sources: Football Reference, American Soccer Analysis

Continue Reading

MLS

2022 Youth Series: MLS Club Youth Talent Rankings

Published

on

Series Overview

This is this last article in a series of articles that looks at the landscape of United States eligible youth soccer players. US eligible players have the ability to play for the United States and have not yet been cap-tied at the senior level. This means there will be some players on this list that might surprise you and may never play for the United States, but they could, and isn’t that possibility what makes tracking all of these guys fun?

In this series I will be reporting on players born in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 — the U19 to U15 levels from the 2022 season. The first part of this series will focus on who I grade as the top 20 prospects for the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 class and then it will commence with a youth talent ranking of all the United States MLS clubs, specifically looking at the talent that each club has within their 2003 to 2007 classes. 

MLS Grading Framework

Let’s start by saying it is really difficult to scout and grade youth soccer players and it gets even harder the younger you go, which is why I don’t typically scout players below the U15 level. My grading system consists of three categories: physical profile, technical ability and soccer intelligence / intangibles. There are a lot of sub-categories within each, but I won’t go that deep here. The grades that I give are based on where the player is at relative to their age level, not where I project them to be. With this framework, it’s possible that a player grades out as an elite U17 player, but doesn’t progress in any of the aspects of the game and turns out to be a very average player. 

MLS Rankings

This is not a MLS Academy Ranking. Well, not exactly. It’s a look at which United States based MLS club is doing the best job of recruiting, identifying, developing and giving opportunity to players born in 2003 to 2007. I based these rankings off of which clubs have the most talent, have given homegrown contracts to worthy talent and have shown a plan for integrating talent into the first team. I have not seen every play from every club from 2003 to 2007, so I may have missed some players and I may have not seen enough from each Academy because film can be difficult to get, but this is a good representation for how these clubs are doing for the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 class. 

#1 | Philadelphia Union

Overview 

  • Philly is the model MLS club when it comes to youth development
  • They identify and recruit talent incredibly well 
  • They scout their geo well and they recruit prospects away from other academies
  • They have balance across their classes, each level has good talent
  • They have also done a great job of identifying the right talent and signing good players to homegrown deals
  • They have five players U19 that are on deals and there are likely more on the way from the 2005 class
  • Not only do they offer homegrown deals, but their players have a role on the first team as well
  • They have also had success selling talent to Europe and seeing those players succeed. 

If I am a sporting director for a club in a talent rich region that doesn’t have an enormous budget, Philly would be the model to emulate. 

Key prospects 

AM, Paxten Aaronson, 2003 / CM, Jack McGlynn, 2003 / LB, Anton Sorenson, 2003 / SS, Quinn Sullivan, 2004 / CB, Brandan Craig, 2003 / CF, Marcos Zambrano-Delgado, 2005 / CF, Nelson Pierre, 2005 / WING, Luciano Sanchez, 2005 / AM, Bajung Darboe, 2006 / DM, Alex Perez, 2006 / WING, CJ Olney Jr, 2006 / DM/CB, Gavin Wetzel, 2006 / AM, David Vazques, 2006 / SS, Ed Davis, 2006 / WING, Diego Rocio, 2007 / CB, Andrew Craig, 2007 / CB, Neil Pierre, 2007 / RB, Jeremiah White, 2007

#2 | Real Salt Lake

Overview 

  • Real Salt Lake does not have the most talent rich territory, but they recruit outside of their territory better than any club in the MLS
  • They are able to do this because they have an Academy that allows players to live and go to school on campus. 
  • They have as much high end talent of any MLS club from 2003 – 2007 classes.
  • Have done a great job of giving out homegrown contracts, not always to the players I would have, but they are trying to bring youth into their first team. 
  • They have not yet integrated young players super well to the first team, that is the next big step in their youth development.
  • Their 2007 class specifically was already stacked, but they recruited more good prospects away from other academies this offseason and now they are fully loaded. 

Key prospects 

AM, Diego Luna, 2003 / WING, Chris Garcia, 2003 / GK, Jeff Dewsnup, 2004 / CB, Jaziel Orozco, 2004 / GK, Gavin Beavers, 2005 / CM, Julio Benitez, 2005 / WING, Terron Williams, 2005 / AM, Jude Wellings, 2006 / WING, Izahi Amparo, 2006 / GK, Blake Kelly, 2006 / CB, Gershon Henry, 2006 / CF, Axel Kei, 2007 / WING, Zavier Gozo, 2007 / LB, Luis Rivera, 2007 / CB Nicholas Nobles, 2007 / CM, Dominic Berrios, 2007 / CB, Jahmani Stapleton, 2007 / GK, Ty Rinker, 2007 / CM, Owen Anderson, 2007 / AM, Brice Miller, 2007

#3 | FC Dallas

Overview 

  • Without a doubt the most acclaimed and accomplished academy in large part because they prioritized before other clubs did
  • Other clubs have seen the rewards and are now catching up
  • Dallas is also a great territory for talent and they did not have a lot of competition for that talent. Houston, Austin and others are stepping up their efforts and as a result Dallas is weakening, but only slightly.
  • Losing Matthew Corcoran to USL was a big loss 
  • A great collection of talent throughout the age levels and 2007 got a big boost this offseason with the acquisitions of Scabin, Swann and Munson, but lost a couple of key guys to Real Salt Lake
  • Their 2007 class is about as good as any in the MLS Next. 
  • Their two top 2003s are on loans at big clubs: Justin Che at Hoffenheim and Dante Sealy at PSV, both would likely be impacting the first team right now in Dallas if they were there. 
  • It will be interesting to see if they give homegrown deals to Scott, Ramirez and Norris who I believe are their top 2005s and will be turning 18 next year, which means they will have more options available to them. 

Key prospects 

RB, Justin Che, 2003 / WING, Dante Sealy, 2003 / RB, Collin Smith, 2003 / GK, Antonio Carrera, 2004 / WING, Tarik Scott, 2005 / AM, Anthony Ramirez, 2005 / LB, Nolan Norris, 2005 / GK, Julian Eyestone, 2006 / RB, Malachi Molina, 2006 / CF, Nairobi Vargas, 2006 / RB, Kaka Scabin, 2007 / AM, Caleb Swann, 2007 / RB, Michael Cortellesa, 2007 / LB, Kaden King, 2007 / CB, Myles Nicholes, 2007 / CM, Jeyden Arboleda, 2007 / CB, Luke Munson, 2007 / AM, Jaidyn Contreras, 2007

#4 | Chicago Fire

Overview 

  • Chicago Fire ranks well for first team integration, specifically with Gaga Slonina and Brian Gutierrez, both key players for Chicago at a young age
  • Duran was also a great signing that is still a U19. 
  • Chicago does a pretty good job of both collecting talent and giving out homegrown contracts, though I am not sure how many of their current HGs will impact the first team in the future outside of Brady and Oregel. 
  • The concern for the fire is that they did lose a lot of prospects from their 2007 class and the 2006 and 2007 class does not look great, so Chicago could start trending in the wrong direction in future ranking lists, though the 2008 class looks promising, especially with a huge recruiting win over LAFC with Decarlo Guerra  

Key prospects 

AM, Brian Gutierrez, 2003 / CF, Jhon Duran, 2003 / CM, Javier Cesas, 2003 / AM, Missael Rodriguez, 2003 / WING, Alex Monis, 2003 / GK, Gaga Slonina, 2004 / GK, Chris Brady, 2004 / RB, Justin Reynolds, 2004 / CM, Sergio Oregel, 2005 / DM, Tino Vasquez, 2006 / RB, Jayden Quezada, 2007

#5 | San Jose Earthquakes

Overview 

  • The San Jose Earthquakes have one of the most talent rich territories in all of MLS and they don’t have a ton of competition in their area
  • San Jose’s ranking is led by some high end talent like Cade Cowell, Niko Tsakiris and Cruz Medina
  • They have defined a pretty high standard for homegrown deals and have lost some pretty good prospects because of it. 
  • They also lost a few 2006 and 2007s players this offseason like Fidel Barajas to Charleston Battery and Owen Anderson to RSL. 
  • Big concern with them is their ability to develop older prospects as we have seen Cade stall out a bit as an example
  • The incoming manager Luchi Gonzalez, a key figure in the FC Dallas Academy rise, should be a boon for development and opportunity

Key prospects 

WING, Cade Cowell, 2003 / CB, Casey Walls, 2003 / CB, Alejandro Cano, 2004 / CM, Niko Tsakiris, 2005 / DM, Ethan Kohler, 2005 / GK, Emi Ochoa, 2005 / CB, Drew Murray, 2005 / AM, Cruz Medina, 2006 / RB, Oscar Verhoeven, 2006 / DM, Edwyn Mendoza, 2006 / CF, Tomo Allen, 2007 / CB, Scott Chavira, 2007 / DM, Rohan Rajagopal

#6 | New York Red Bulls

Overview 

  • The New York Red Bulls Academy is one of the most storied in all of MLS
  • They have a lot more competition in their region now, but still do a good job of identifying talent, giving homegrown opportunities and integrating young talent into the first team
  • Serge Ngoma has developed an incredible amount this year, as has Daniel Edelman
  • Caden Clark has not been as consistent as you’d like to see and their use of him this year has been a little questionable.
  • Bento Estrela, Davi Alexandre and Nate Worth look to be the next wave of high end talent
  • Continue to do a good job of getting young players opportunities with Red Bulls II in USL

Key prospects 

AM, Caden Clark, 2003 / DM, Daniel Edelman, 2003 / WING, Serge Ngoma, 2005 / CM, Bento Estrela, 2006 / RB, Copeland Berkely, 2006 / CB, Davi Alexandre, 2007 / CM, Nate Worth, 2007 / CF, Pipeloore Olanrewaju, 2007 / DM, Brady Boulanger, 2007 

#7 | Inter Miami

Overview 

  • Inter Miami is a growing Academy powerhouse that I expect to continue to rise over the next few years
  • They are investing well and identifying and recruiting talent in the very rich area they reside in
  • They have yet to integrate a homegrown player really well within the first team and that is the next challenge for them, we will see if Azcuna and Allen get more of an opportunity next year
  • The 2005 – 2007 class have as much talent here as any club in MLS and it will be interesting to see who they offer homegrown deals to
  • Now we wait to see how they develop and integrate them
  • I think they mishandled Kaka Scabin last year and have now lost him to Dallas, which in a few years could be seen as a big miss. 

Key prospects 

WING, Edson Azcuna, 2003 / LB, Noah Allen, 2004 / WING, Felipe Valencia, 2005 / CM, Ben Cremaschi, 2005 / AM, Kobi Thomas, 2005 / RB, Izzy Boatwright, 2005 / CF, Bryan Destin, 2006 / CB, Tyler Hall, 2006 / WING, Miles Perkovich, 2006 / LB, Ezequiel Abadia-Reda, 2006 / CF, Justin Ellis, 2007 / CB, Nicholas Almeida, 2007 / LB, Tyler Bush, 2007 / RB, Tyler Austin, 2007 / CB/DM, Victor Fung, 2007 / CM, Santi Morales, 2007

#8 | DC United

Overview 

  • Good balance of talent from U19 to U15 level with a few potential high impact players
  • Moving Moses Nyeman when they did was a questionable decision
  • Lost a big talent last winter in Kevin Paredes
  • Showing willingness to give young players opportunity with first team, but the change in leadership has made for inconsistent plans and preferences
  • They do a good job of recruiting players in their rich territory to the academy 
  • Do a good job of moving high potential players up through the academy levels 
  • Big question is if they can keep a consistent plan for the first team with these players

Key prospects 

RB, Jacob Greene, 2003 / WING, Tyler Freeman, 2003 / AM, Jackson Hoplins, 2004 / WING/CF, Kristian Fletcher, 2005 / CB, Jace Clark, 2005 / CB, Matai Akinboni, 2006 / CB, Garry Zhang, 2006 / GK, Luke Peacock, 2006 / LB, Graham Jones, 2006 / CF, Sydney Aggrey, 2006 / CB, Dash Papaz, 2006 / DM, Gleb Bagdanov, 2006 / WING, Ignacio Alem, 2006 / AM, Gavin Turner, 2007 / CM, Nelson Hernandez, 2007

#9 | LAFC

Overview 

  • Very good talent from 2004 – 2007 group, nobody from 2003
  • Has shown a good bar for homegrown deals, but nobody signed from the 2005 class and younger
  • 2007 class is extremely talented
  • Will always have recruiting battles with LA Galaxy, but the territory is as rich as any in the country and there is plenty of talent to go around 
  • Have yet to show the ability to integrate a U19 players into the first team, understandable this year given the talent in the first team, but that is what these young players are going to be looking for

Key prospects 

CB, Tony Leone, 2004 / WING, Nate Ordaz, 2004 / RB, Erik Duenas, 2004 / DM, Bryan Moyado, 2005 / CB, Tyler Bindon, 2005 / LB, Carlos Diaz, 2005 / WING, Adrian Wibowo, 2006 / CB, Christian Diaz, 2006 / CB, Javen Romero, 2006 / CM, Kyrome Lumsden, 2007 / WING, Dempsey Resich, 2007 / AM, James Arteaga, 2007 / RB, Josh Santiago, 2007 / CF, Charlie Rosenthal, 2007 

#10 | Atlanta United

Overview 

  • A few top prospects in Wiley, Gordon and Torres 
  • Integrating Wiley in first team well, giving him opportunities to learn, injuries have helped open door for opportunity
  • Morales is a high talent player they have not been able to develop super well
  • Opportunities for mid level talent have been lacking 
  • 2006 class looking pretty weak, but 2007 could be very good
  • Lost some potentially good 2004s to NCAA

Key prospects 

SS, Tyler Wolff, 2003 / LB, Caleb Wiley, 2004 / DM, Efrain Morales, 2004 / LB, Mathieu Brick, 2005 / CB, Noah Cobb, 2005 / AM, Jonny Vilal, 2005 / AM, Michael Howard, 2006 / LB, Malachi Grant, 2006 / WING, Ashton Gordon, 2007 / CM, Adyn Torres, 2007 / LB, Kaiden Moore, 2007 / GK, Dillon Griner, 2007

#11 | Seattle Sounders

Overview 

  • Develop players well throughout the academy system and have had good success at the team level in academy
  • Not a super deep pool of talent, but high end talent with Leyva, Vargas, RBW, Hawkins and Veillard 
  • 2004 class is empty
  • Yet to really integrate a player with first team and sell to a big club, but Obed Vargas could change that
  • Concerned about development trajectory of Reed Baker-Whiting
  • They seem to have Danny Leyva back on track, which is very encouraging
  • Stuart Hawkins could be a special player, likely on track for homegrown deal very soon
  • Veillard played up a level last year with U17s, good to see

Key prospects 

DM, Danny Leyva, 2003 / DM, Obed Vargas, 2005 / AM, Reed Baker-Whiting, 2005 / CB/DM, Angel Martinez, 2005 / CB, Stuart Hawkins, 2006 / AM, Chris Aquino, 2006 / CF, Michael Luande, 2006 / WING, Etienne Veillard, 2007

#12 | Orlando City

Overview 

  • Competing with Inter Miami in a rich Florida market, but losing the recruiting battle right now
  • Waiting to see their plan for Halliday, Freeman and Williams with the first team
  • Alex Freeman has a super high ceiling, but lots of risk
  • Loyola likely next in line for homegrown deal
  • Lot of high potential players in the younger classes, could see some breakouts
  • Doing a good job of giving young talent opportunity in MLS Next Pro
  • A lot of above average players, not too many elite prospects 
  • Balanced classes from 2003 to 2007

Key prospects 

RB, Michael Halliday, 2003 / RB, Alex Freeman, 2004 / CB, Thomas Williams, 2004 / AM, Favian Loyola, 2005 / CF, Ethan Subachan, 2005 / CB, Dominic Bell, 2006 / LB, Tahir Reid-Brown, 2006 / DM, Alejandro Granados, 2006 / CF, Majed Abdullah, 2006 / CB, Shawn Platts, 2007 / GK, Zackary Campagnolo, 2007 / AM, Bernardo Goncalves, 2007 / CF, Theo Franca, 2007

#13 | LA Galaxy

Overview 

  • Shares massive talent territory with LAFC and right now I think LAFC is winning, but it is close
  • They have been good about giving homegrown deals to top prospects, but none of the U19 players have been given a chance with the first team yet
  • 2003, 2005 and 2007 classes look strong, but nothing from 2004
  • Good recruiting win to bring Javen Romero over from LAFC
  • Didn’t get a chance to scout the 2007s very much, hard to get tape

Key prospects 

CB, Jalen Neal, 2003 / CB, Marcus Ferkranus, 2003 / WING, Jonathan Perez, 2003 / AM, Alex Alcala, 2005 / CM, Brandon Tellez, 2005 / WING, Justin Knighton, 2005 / CM, Paulo Rudisill, 2006 / LB, Riley Delgado, 2006 / CF, Ruben Ramos, 2007 / DM, Jose Magana, 2007 / WING, Harbor Miller, 2007 / WING, Christian Coreas, 2007

#14 | Houston Dynamo

Overview 

  • They are trying to catch up to Dallas, but they gave them a big head start
  • Isn’t much in the 2003 and 2004 class
  • Brooklyn Raines was a great get from Barca Residency, likely the first player to impact the first team
  • Will they keep Pinilla or will he go abroad?
  • Potential stars in the 2006 class but they haven’t signed any of them to homegrown deal yet
  • Lost Jaidyn Contreras so FC Dallas

Key prospects 

GK, Xavier Valdez, 2003 / CM, Juan Castillo, 2004 / CM, Brooklyn Raines, 2005 / CB, Mateo Pinilla, 2005 / WING, Andre Gitau, 2006 / CM, Luis Moreno, 2006 / LB, Brian Alanis, 2006 / CM, Parker Jackson, 2006 / CF, Ezekiel Soto, 2007 / GK, Angel Jaimes, 2007

#15 | Columbus Crew

Overview 

  • An ascending youth program with strong 2005 – 2006 class, 2007 is looking average, nothing from 2003 to 2004 (lost a lot of players to NCAA)
  • Nobody on this list is on a homegrown deal yet
  • Haven’t given a ton of opportunity at MLS Next Pro level
  • Recruiting well, but need to see how the integrate with first team and give top talent opportunity at higher levels

Key prospects 

CM, Caleb Bornia, 2005 / CB, Ty Nero, 2005 / DM, Gio DeLibera, 2005 / CB, Jackson Lindimore, 2005 / GK, Stas Lapkes, 2006 / WING, Owen Presthus, 2006 / CM, Taha Habroune, 2006 / AM, Cole Mwroka, 2006 / CM, Aaron Hurge, 2007 / CB, JJ Volar, 2007

#16 | Austin FC

Overview 

  • Also chasing FC Dallas in Texas and southern territory
  • Nice to get Owen Wolff from Atlanta, showing they have a plan for him with first team
  • 2005 class has a lot of solid players, but not sure any are worthy of homegrown deal
  • Micah Burton has star potential, great recruiting job away from Minnesota
  • Garza was a nice win from San Antonio, but they lost Agustin to San Antonio
  • 2007 class has some potential 
  • Overall, aside from Burton, they lack elite prospects 

Key prospects 

CM, Owen Wolff, 2004 / WING, Bryan Arellano, 2005 / LB, Anthony Gonzales, 2005 / CM, Daniel Ordonez, 2005 / AM, Micah Burton, 2006 / GK, Charlie Reed, 2006 / CF, Diego Rodriguez, 2006 / WING, Izaiah Garza, 2006 / WING, Jesus Gonzalez, 2007 / DM, Ubau Ibeanu, 2007 / CM, Ervin Torres Jr, 2007

#17 | New York City FC

Overview 

  • Should be doing more given their club and their territory, losing to Red Bulls, Philadelphia and DC as east coast powers in talent recruiting and development 
  • 2007 class is as loaded as it gets, but that is pretty much all they have and word is Klapija will leave for Europe when he turns 16, McFarlane, Baiera and Shore all have star potential
  • McFarlane only player on homegrown deal from this group, big time prospect
  • Doing a good job of bringing top players into NYCFC 2
  • Lost Diego Rossi to Europe
  • Cupboard is empty for 2003 and 2004
  • 2005 and 2006 class is weak

Key prospects 

LB, Christian McFarlane, 2007 / RB, Drew Baiera, 2007 / CM, Jonathan Shore, 2007 / CF, Din Klapija, 2007 / CB, Jeffrey Lopez, 2007 / WING, Julian Archer, 2007 / WING, Chris Arias, 2007

#18 | Portland Timbers

Overview 

  • Has been a laughing stock for player development, but starting to do a better job of recruiting out of state
  • 2006 and 2007 class looking pretty good, showing signs of improvement within the academy
  • 2003 – 2005 classes are pretty weak, Ikoba only player on homegrown deal and he doesn’t look close to impacting first team
  • They won the U15 GA Cup, which was a huge surprise
  • Giving young players lots of chances with Portland Timbers 2

Key prospects 

CF, Tega Ikoba, 2003 / DM, Alexis Moreno, 2005 / CB, Michael Dunne, 2006 / CM, Ian Shaul, 2006 / LB, Victor Enriquez, 2006 / RB, Sawyer Jura, 2006 / CF, Noah Santos, 2007 / CB, Max Schimke, 2007 / WING, Max Eisenberg, 2007 / AM, Grayson Carter, 2007 / DM, Eric Izoita, 2007 

#19 | Sporting KC

Overview 

  • Disappointing trajectory for what once was a pretty stacked academy
  • They seem to struggle to develop players as they get older, also had some bad injury luck
  • Pierre has had some changes with first team this year and he is developing nicely
  • Nati Clarke was once a top 2005 prospect but he has had a lot of injuries, but showing some signs in MLS Next Pro
  • Michaeli been a pleasant surprise with Sporting KC II
  • Not a ton of talent in 2006 and 2007 classes

Key prospects 

RB, Kayden Pierre, 2003 / AM, Ozzie Cisneros, 2004 / RB, Nati Clarke, 2005 / CF, Guy Michaeli, 2005 / DM, Edgar Bazan, 2006 / GK, Carlito Saylon, 2006 / WING, Leo Christiano, 2007 

#20 | FC Cincinnati

Overview 

  • Academy program seems to be a bit of a mess, but still has some talent
  • Ordonez could be an impact first teamer pretty soon
  • Lack depth in the pool
  • Have lost a good amount of important recruiting battles, Crew seem to be winning the region

Key prospects 

CF, Quimi Ordonez, 2003 / GK, Beckham Sunderland, 2003 / CB, Isaac Calderon, 2005 / RB, Matthew Schenfeld, 2006 / CB, Ben Manfroy, 2007 / DM, Stiven Jimenez, 2007

#21 | St Louis City 

Overview 

  • Great spot to be in prior to first year in MLS
  • Good territory for soccer talent, not a ton of competition 
  • Have Jensen signed to a pro deal and Heard likely not far away 
  • Leveraged U16 level last year and that benefitted 2006 class
  • Faupel has been hit with injuries, but still has nice potential 
  • We will see what their plan is to integrate young talent with first team 

Key prospects 

WING, Isak Jensen, 2003 / WING, Anthony Faupel, 2005 / CB, Fritz Volmer, 2005 / AM, Aaron Heard, 2006 / CM, Braydon Sellers, 2006 / WING, Jackson Delkus, 2006 / CB, Zach Stanton, 2006 / CF, Caden Glover, 2007 / CB, Tyson Pearce, 2007

#22 | New England Revs

Overview 

  • Nothing from the 2003 class
  • Lost Jack Panayotou and Isaiah Louis to NCAA
  • Great job bringing Esmir and Noel into the first team and showing good signs of a good plan with the first team 
  • 2006 looks pretty week, as does 2007, but I have not scouted them much and could be missing some players

Key prospects 

AM, Esmir Bajraktarevic, 2005 / CM, Noel Buck, 2005 / AM, Peyton Miller, 2007

#23 | Nashville SC

Overview 

  • No homegrowns for these age levels
  • 2003 – 2005 is empty
  • Tough talent region for soccer 
  • 2007 class looks promising, did a great job of recruiting Braxton Hayes away from DC United

Key prospects 

AM, Alejandro Velazquez-Lopez, 2006 / CB, Scott Cheevers, 2007 / RB, Ryan MacClary, 2007 / CB, Frank Manrod, 2007 / CB, Braxton Hayes, 2007

#24 | Colorado Rapids

Overview 

  • Decent region for soccer talent, but not great, needs to ramp up their out of state recruiting
  • 2004 class is one of the few good ones in MLS with Yapi and Toure both showing good first team potential and having nice years in MLS Next Pro
  • Lost to Toure to second ACL injury which is brutal
  • Travis was a surprise homegrown deal for me
  • 2005 – 2007 class might lack elite talent, though Maddox Brown could be something
  • Sullivan has been given some opportunity with Rapids 2, but I think he is destined for NCAA soccer 

Key prospects 

CF, Darren Yapi, 2004 / WING, Dantouma Toure, 2004 / LB, Jackson Travis, 2004 / AM, Jack Sullivan, 2005 / RB, Tadeo Razo-Sanches, 2006 / GK, Adam Beaudry, 2006 / WING, Amos Glah, 2007 / CB, Maddox Brown, 2007 /

#25 | Charlotte FC

Overview 

  • New club so not a lot in 2003 and 2004 classes
  • Lost their best 2005, Chris Thaggard, to NCAA — my guess is they did not offer a homegrown deal which is a missed opportunity
  • Will they lose Marshall to the NCAA as well?
  • Good talent region, could they steal some talent from North Carolina FC?
  • Great sign that they gave Romera a homegrown deal at a young age, probably best player in their academy right now
  • 2007 class has good potential

Key prospects 

CB, Brandon Marshall, 2005 / WING, Brian Romero, 2006 / CF, Anthony Pena, 2007 / CB, James Nyandjo, 2007 

#26 | Minnesota United

Overview 

  • Not a great talent region and they have also not put up much of a fight for top talent in their region (see Caden Clark and Micah Burton)
  • No young players impacting the first team 
  • Not a lot of talent here at all, but 2008 class looks promising
  • Didn’t get a chance to see much of the U15s, so there might be more here than I know of

Key prospects 

LB, David Padelford, 2003 / CF, Patrick Weah, 2003 / GK, Fred Emmings, 2004 / DM, Justin Arias, 2006

Top 20 Lists

2003 Class Top 20 Rankings >>>

2004 Class Top 20 Rankings >>>

2005 Class Top 20 Rankings >>> 

2006 Class Top 20 Rankings >>>

2007 Class Top 20 Rankings >>>

Continue Reading

Trending