HOUSTON – In Philadelphia, they're celebrating the MLS All-Stars of the present. This past week here in south Texas, they're minting the All-Stars of the future.
Youth was on display this past week at the Houston Amateur Sports Park, where US Soccer held their Academy Finals for the last eight days in front of hordes of fans and scouts. And with the FC Dallas U-18s and the New York Red Bulls U-16s making it an MLS sweep on the team side, here are five players, plus one, who stood out. Maybe they'll be gracing the field at the 2017 MLS All-Star Game...
Ben Fisk, midfielder, Vancouver Whitecaps U-18
The Golden Boot winner of Finals Week, with tallies that included one in the final, Fisk (at right) drove the Vancouver attack. His seven goals will get the headlines, but it was the Whitecaps and Canadian U-20 midfielder's ability and touch in the final third to both facilitate and score that set him apart. While teammates Caleb Clarke and Bryce Alderson get the pub as Homegrown signings, Fisk stamped his name on Vancouver’s run in Houston.
Kellyn Acosta, midfielder/defender, FC Dallas U-18
On a very talented and championship winning roster, it was Dallas’ latest Homegrown signing that stood out. Acosta (above left) split time between the midfield and fullback during the week and flourished in both spots with his top-shelf passing separating him from the field. The US U-18 international rarely wastes a chance and is extremely calm in tight spaces. Midfield is his likely position in MLS and he has the technical ability to do very well there.
Alex Muyl & Adam Najem, forwards, New York Red Bulls U-16
It's tough to pick just one player from the talented New York squad, but watching Muyl (committed to Georgetown) and Najem (comitted to Akron) combine was a treat as the pair tallied five goals on the week. The duo showed an ability to take defenders one-on-one while also showing some standout combination play. Najem scored some truly great goals for the Red Bulls from long range and Muyl showed an uncanny ability to get into dangerous spaces. The well is deep in New York.
Marcus Epps, left midfielder, Chicago Fire U-16
Speed kills at any level, and Epps (pictured at right, on left) has it in droves. The slender midfielder can push the game up and down the flanks and has the ability to turn a one-on-one situation into pure magic when given the opportunity. He is the type of player that can turn a game with one run.
Ahinga Selemani, forward, Crew Soccer Academy Wolves U-16
One of the most exciting players to watch in the tournament was the compact forward from Columbus. His explosion and lateral movement is the stuff that makes coaches drool and he has a feel for goal. However, it was his movement off the ball to get into space that was perhaps more impressive. Part of the US residency program in Bradenton, Selemani is a name for US and Columbus Crew fans alike to know.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.