The 2018 Generation adidas Cupconcluded on Saturday night, with Brazilian giants Flamengo winning the Champions Division and the Seattle Sounders taking the Premier Division. There were many standout performances during the tournament, but a few MLS players stood above the rest. Here are the top five.
Nico Benalcazar (NYCFC)
Benalcazar rises for header against FC Dallas | Andy Mead
His teammates have received most of the attention, but Benalcazar has been a steady presence at the back for NYCFC over the last two years. After featuring at left back in 2017, NYCFC's captain played mostly at center back during the 2018 tournament. The Wake Forest commit showed exceptional passing ability, completing 88 percent of his passes, and the ability to win defensive duels (66% success rate) despite his smaller stature.
Gilbert Fuentes (San Jose Earthquakes)
Fuentes came in as one of the players to watch, as he had already signed a professional contract with San Jose in the winter. Despite playing with a team that was near the bottom during qualifying, Fuentes was able to lead the Quakes to a respectable 1-3-1 record. He scored two superb goals while playing as an attacking midfielder, though he is likely to play in a deeper role as a professional, and his technical ability was second to none.
Johan Gomez (FC Dallas)
FC Dallas finished as the top MLS team in the Champions Division, and much of that was because of the work Gomez put in. He scored three goals, one each against Pachuca, Monaco and Eintracht Frankfurt, and assisted on two more but his work rate up top caused havoc for the opposition offensively and defensively.
Yannick Laurent (Montreal Impact)
Yannick Laurent | Andy Mead
Woobens Pacius was the star up top for Montreal, who made a run to the Premier Division semifinals, but Laurent was the one who made the Impact tick. The central midfielder attempted 49 more passes than any of his other teammates and their ability to get forward was entirely built around Laurent's skill. He is particularly adept at spraying the ball accurately to the wings, giving his fullbacks a chance to send in quality crosses.
Marlon Vargas (Seattle Sounders)
Vargas receiving the trophy from MLS Vice President of Youth Development Fred Lipka | Andy Mead
The Golden Ball winner in the Premier Division, Vargas proved to be the star for a Sounders team that has two players signed to professional contracts (Azriel Gonzalez, Ray Serrano). The left winger was involved in both of Seattle's goals in the final against the New York Red Bulls, finishing a rebound in the box and playing a ball over-the-top to allow his forward to get by the opposing backline. That kind of play was typical from the 17-year-old in the tournament, when he accrued four goals and five assists.