Everybody loves goals, and young players chipped in plenty of them over the weekend. Several of them were of downright superb quality.
Ayo Akinola, Gianluca Busio, Cristian Casseres Jr., Caden Clark, Luis Diaz and Erik Lopez all found the net in Week 7, reminding us yet again that kids can and should be more, much more, than just role players and window dressing.
Did those strikes earn them a coveted spot on the YPPOTW list? Read on to find out.
“He is not only an incredible talent, but he's incredibly mature for his age,” said his manager Peter Vermes. “The things that he's able to pull off on a regular basis, and do it consistently, is incredible.”
“He plays every game better than his last game,” said his teammate Gadi Kinda. “I've never seen a 19-year-old play like this. I love to see him play. He's a top-level player.”
That kind of praise speaks volumes about Busio’s startling breakthrough in 2021, and his assertive, intelligent, one-goal, one-assist outing vs. Houston on Saturday. But the goal – have you seen the goal?
Just watch the goal.
The YPPOTW brain trust has been quietly watching and waiting as Bello earned Gabriel Heinze’s trust and became ATLUTD’s everyday left wingback, stacking up the match minutes that he needs to find the next step up in his young career. He hasn’t yet featured in this space because his breakthrough moments have been elusive in 2021.
But no longer.
Until their late collapse fumbled away two points, Atlanta were clearly the better team for most of Saturday’s meeting with Nashville. And Bello was a big influence, whether hugging the touchline or drifting inside to confuse and disorganize the NSC rearguard. The 19-year-old 88.2% of his 51 passes and laid this lovely end-line service into the near post for Erik Lopez to cheekily finish:
Let’s give the left-siders some more shine. Stateside audiences probably aren’t paying much attention to the Belgian-Canadian left winger’s gradual bedding-in with CFM, whose 3-4-1-2 system hinges on rangy, dynamic flank players like him and his opposite number Zach Brault-Guillard. The Quebecois club continue to defy expectations under Wilfried Nancy, who gave Bassong his first start over the weekend and was rewarded with his precise in-swinging delivery of the game-winning assist on Mason Toye’s dramatic late header.
Bassong, who just turned 22, has the lungs and steel to roam endline to endline on both sides of the ball, and could yet blossom into a key contributor for the Canadian national team, Les Rouges having recruited him west after time in Belgium’s much-respected youth setup.
At this point YPPOTW might as well just cut a housekey for RBNY’s bustling Venezuelan terrier and his teenage teammate Caden Clark, because they’re spending a whole lot of time in our rundowns with one impactful display after another.
Casseres helped sink previously undefeated Orlando City with his usual spiky combativeness in the high press, getting stuck in all over the pitch and winning one duel after another – and then he conjured up the game-winning goal by pulling a lesser-known tool out of his locker: Taker of gorgeously unstoppable free kicks:
His passing wasn’t particularly clean, he turned the ball over more than is ideal and committed too many fouls. But when his team really, really needed some end product, the 22-year-old spotted his chance and took it. When Diaz switched on the afterburners to punish TFC’s reckless commitment of numbers forward on an early corner kick with a long, long run capped by a composed finish, it tilted the game in Columbus’ direction at a crucial juncture.
James Sands: While his attributes fly under the generalist fan’s radar all too easily, the NYCFC homegrown is performing like a veteran week in, week out. He was quietly integral to the Cityzens’ resourceful comeback win on a cross-country visit to LAFC, completing a whopping 97.2 of his passes from the heart of their three-player back line.
Caden Clark: The RBNY tyke just keeps producing, whether with goals (this week’s was a cleverly sniffed-out tap-in), pressures and work rate or simply the touch of passing class he brings to a side that generally completes fewer of them than most.
John Tolkin: Let’s lean right in to this week’s left-backs-and-baby-Bulls theme by tipping the cap to RBNY’s rising left back prospect, who’s 18, could easily pass for 14 and on Saturday handled his first career MLS start with all the bravery and pluck of Frodo on his epic journey to Mount D – oh no, now I’m doing it too...
Erik Lopez: The Paraguayan was active, edgy, clean with his passing vs. Nashville and was rewarded with that aforementioned brave, resourceful and technically-demanding golazo.
Ayo Akinola: TFC look downcast, confused and adrift at the moment. Their talented young striker did his best to push some wind into their sails in Columbus, though, with some composed passing and a hard-won hustle goal that kept them in contention.