After 8 weeks of play in the 2022 MLS season, we’ve seen a lot of consistency at the top of this list. Cade Cowell continues to move up the list after his first assist of the season, becoming the second American U21 to have multiple score contributions. The other being Ben Bender. Gaga and the Chicago Fire recorded another shutout and Jaziel Orozco got his third start at CB. Caleb Wiley had an impressive start as the 2004 class continues to emerge. On the flip side, a lot of the big name 2003s continue to have quiet seasons, most notably Paxten Aaronson, Caden Clark and Moses Nyeman. Paxten and Reed Baker-Whiting drop from the top 25 and Bryce Duke and Josh Atencio join the list for the first time this year. 

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

Previous Ranking: 1

630 minutes
GA/90: 0.29
PSxG +/-: +1.7

Gaga recorded his league leading 5th clean sheet this past weekend and continues to be very solid. Chicago’s field players deserve a ton of credit for Gaga’s incredible 0.29 goals against per 90 stat. The entire squad has been so sound. We are yet to see Gaga come under too much fire this season, but all he can do is save what comes at him and he has done that very well. 

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

Previous Ranking: 2

522 Minutes
1 Goal
3 Assists
Shot Creating Actions: 20
Goal Creating Actions: 3

Ben has not had a goal contribution in a few weeks, but he continues to start and continues to create chances for Charlotte. He leads all American U21s in assists (3) and shot creating actions (20). 

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

Previous Ranking: 8

379 minutes
1 Goal
1 Assist
Shot Creating Actions: 12
Goal Creating Actions: 2

Cade had an assist in week 7 and has a good run of starts. You can see his assist below: 

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

Previous Ranking: 4

630 minutes
xGoals: 0.6
xAssists: 0.4
Shot Creating Actions: 12
Goal Creating Actions: 1

John has played every minute for NYRB. His durability and defensive play has been fantastic. He is still looking for his first score contribution, but it’s coming, he is almost up to an expected goal for the year, so it’s coming. 

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

Previous Ranking: 5

540 Minutes
xGoals: 0.1
1 Assist
Shot Creating Actions: 10
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Nathan Harriel’s underlying stats continue to be very good for Philly. He’s started every match at RB since week 2 and he had three shot creating actions in week 8. 

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

Previous Ranking: 6

558 minutes
xGoals: 0.1
xAssists: 0.3
Shot Creating Actions: 8
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Long Pass Success Rate: 70.4%

It looks as though George is the preferred starting CB alongside Miles Robinson when everyone is available and that is really fantastic news. George continues to be inconsistent with his decision making, but he continues to pepper very nice long balls and has a lot of shot creating actions for a CB. He has completed 50 of 71 long balls, very impressive. 

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

Previous Ranking: 3

584 minutes
xGoals: 0.2
1 Assist
Shot Creating Actions: 5
Goal Creating Actions: 0

Leon has started every match for the first place Union and is a very reliable, defensively minded player in their midfield. 

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

Previous Ranking: 10

209 Minutes
xGoals: 0.3
1 Assist
Shot Creating Actions: 7
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Brian started in week 7 in place of Shaqiri who was out with a knock, but picked up a red card and was not available in week 8. 

#9 | DM, Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders (2005)

Previous Ranking: 7

382 minutes
*xGoals: 0.2
*xAssists: 0.2
*Shot Creating Actions: 7
*Goal Creating Actions: 0

Obed has continued to be a part time starter and regular for Seattle and has been very impressive when given the opportunity. He is 16 and playing meaningful minutes for a top MLS club. 

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

Previous Ranking: 16

126 Minutes
1 Goal
xAssists: 1.0
Shot Creating Actions: 7
Goal Creating Actions: 0

Caleb Wiley was the story of week 8. After not receiving a ton of time in the last several weeks he got the start at LW, not his natural LB position and he was very impressive. He created the chance that led to a penalty after a very nice dribble and run into the end line before cutting it back for a striker. He was 3/3 on dribbles, had six (!) shot creating actions and 0.7 expected assists in one match, that’s a lot of danger. I expect this performance will lead to more opportunities. Caleb has the look of a top 5 prospect in the 2004 class. 

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

Previous Ranking: 16

358 Minutes
xGoals: 0
xAssists: 0.1
Shot Creating Actions: 8
Goal Creating Actions: 0

Sebastian seems to now be a fixture in the starting lineup and has been steady, but not spectacular in the midfield. 

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

Previous Ranking: 22

315 Minutes
xGoals: 0.1
xAssists: 0
Shot Creating Actions: 2
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Jaziel has started the last three matches at RCB for Real Salt Lake and has continued to climb this list. Breaking through at CB is really hard to do at a young age. He is the first CB from the 2004 age group to do so. He was given the opportunity because of an injury, but if he seizes this moment, he may not give the spot back. He had a really strong second start in week 7. He was poised and showed some good ball playing ability. Week 8 was rough for all of RSL. They lost 6-0 to a pissed off NYCFC club coming off of a CCL defeat. Orozco wasn’t great. He committed a foul that led to a penalty, but the whole match was out of hand. He’s young, he’ll rebound. 

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

Previous Ranking: 9

220 Minutes
xGoals: 0.1
1 Assist
*Shot Creating Actions: 5
*Goal Creating Actions: 1

Tayvon Gray is back in the starting lineup and Jasson’s impact has taken a hit because of it. 

#14 | AM, Tyler Wolff, Atlanta United FC (2003)

Previous Ranking: 11

253 minutes
xGoals: 0.3
xAssists: 0.2
Shot Creating Actions: 7
Goal Creating Actions: 1

I projected in previous week reports that Wolff’s minutes were likely to go down as Atlanta players regained health and fitness. That has unfortunately come to fruition as he did not see any time in the last two weeks. 

#15 | LWB, Adam Armour, Charlotte FC (2002)

Previous Ranking: 12

83 minutes
1 Goal
xAssists: 0.3
Shot Creating Actions: 5
Goal Creating Actions: 0

Adam has not received a lot of playing time in the last several weeks, but he did come on as a sub in week 8 and created a big chance. 

#16 | CM, Caden Clark, New York Red Bulls (2003)

Previous Ranking: 13

94 minutes
xGoals: 0.2
1 assist
Shot Creating Actions: 3
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Caden was injured during the second U20 friendly at the end of March and won’t be back in action for a few weeks. 

#17 | WING/AM, Griffin Yow, DC United (2002)

Previous Ranking: 15

199 minutes
xGoals: 0.4
xAssists: 0.3
Shot Creating Actions: 6
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Griffin’s playing time has gone down and he did not play in week 8. 

#18 | LB, Noah Allen, Inter Miami (2004)

Previous Ranking: 17

281 Minutes
xGoals: 0.1
xAssists: 0
Shot Creating Actions: 3
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Noah has played as a sub in the last two matches and has been respectable. No big offensive contributions but he is in the rotation and has been reliable. 

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

Previous Ranking: 18

223 Minutes
xGoals: 0.5
xAssists: 0
Shot Creating Actions: 5
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Cameron Duke has had a few starts but has mainly had a role off the bench. He’s gotten into some dangerous positions as evidence by his 0.5 expected goals, but has not capitalized yet. 

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

Previous Ranking: 14

198 Minutes
xGoals: 0.3
*xAssists: 0.2
*Shot Creating Actions: 6
*Goal Creating Actions: 0

Not much has changed for Matko. He is a regular off the bench but has yet to contribute in any real meaningful way. 

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

Previous Ranking: 17

200 minutes
*xGoals: 0
*xAssists: 0
*Shot Creating Actions: 1
*Goal Creating Actions: 0

Tayvon is back in the starting lineup for NYCFC after being out with a muscle injury for a few weeks. He, along with pretty much everyone on NYCFC, played well in a 6-0 win over Real Salt Lake. He didn’t have any score contributions but was solid defensively and had some moments in the attack. 

#22 | DM, Moses Nyeman, DC United (2003)

Previous Ranking: 20

142 minutes
xGoals: 0
xAssists: 0
Shot Creating Actions: 0
Goal Creating Actions: 0

Moses seems to be out of the midfield rotation with Chris Durkin back to DC. Moses even found himself with Loudoun United recently, DCs USL affiliate. The trajectory isn’t looking great for Moses. It’s now up to him to show the staff in training that he is worthy of another opportunity. 

#23 | AM, Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union (2004)

Previous Ranking: 23

121 Minutes
xGoals: 0
xAssists: 0
Shot Creating Actions: 0
Goal Creating Actions: 0

Quinn’s minutes for Philadelphia, like many of their young and talented players, have been inconsistent all year. 

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

Previous Ranking: NR

36 Minutes
xGoals: 0
xAssists: 0.1
Shot Creating Actions: 3
Goal Creating Actions: 1

Bryce Duke transferred from LAFC this offseason and was expected to play a key role in Inter Miami’s midfield, but that impact was delayed because of injuries. Bryce has now played in the last matches and may be nearing his first start for Inter Miami. He’s played well in limited minutes. 

#25 | DM, Josh Atencio, Seattle Sounders (2002)

Previous Ranking: NR

48 Minutes
xGoals: 0.1
xAssists: 0.1
Shot Creating Actions: 3
Goal Creating Actions: 0

Josh Atencio, a player that played a critical role for Seattle Sounders last year, finally got a long run out with his first start. 

Dropped from the list: Paxten Aaronson, Reed Baker-Whiting

Week 6 Rankings >