AT&T 5G Goal of the Week nominees, last-gasp equalizers, game-breaking and win-clinching assists, lockdown defensive work, defiant clean sheets posted against the defending champs – this week’s YPPOTW rundown is verily packed with decisive contributions to positive results across MLS.
The breadth and scope of youngsters’ involvement in Week 2 was profound, and competition for places on this list was rugged.
As always, you can contribute to the YPPOTW selection process directly: Just find a tweet like this from me on or around Monday and tell me who you think deserves a nod.
Fall, or Mbacke if you’re scanning for his jersey while watching an LAFC match, doesn’t turn 20 until November but has now started 18 straight league matches for the Black & Gold (and going the full 90 in all but two of them). That’s a striking degree of trust in a teenager, much less one that usually works in central defense, and it’s made him one of the fastest-rising prospects in the league.
A product of the increasingly prolific Montverde Academy outside Orlando, the Senegalese youth international defended with composure against Portland on Sunday night, then made a late jaunt into the Timbers’ penalty box deep into injury time to tap home Brian Rodriguez’s pinpoint delivery to the doorstep and salvage a dramatic 1-1 draw for LAFC at Banc of California Stadium.
It all added up to man of the match honors and a place in the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi.
New York City FC completed 638 passes against the 'Caps at BC Place, bossing possession to the tune of 70% and producing enough decent scoring chances to tally 1.5 expected goals. The Cityzens departed Vancouver with just one point, however, thanks in no small part to the scrambling of Hasal.
The homegrown goalkeeper made four saves amid a barrage of 19 shots faced in all, shaking off last week’s 4-0 thumping in Columbus to post a clean sheet and give concerned Whitecaps fans something to feel good about.
Now 22, the unexpected teen hero of the MLS is Back Tournament back in 2020 has grown up a bit – and not a moment too soon, given VWFC’s need for an assertive No. 1 in the wake of Max Crepeau’s sudden offseason flight to Los Angeles.
Given 20 minutes off the bench to impact Saturday’s Charlotte-Galaxy blockbuster, the Mexican international did a lot with a little. Alvarez served two key passes, distributing at a 90% clip overall (10/11), and out of nowhere summoned this outrageous stunner from way downtown to dismay CLTFC’s record crowd and keep the Gs at maximum points in 2022; they’re one of only four unblemished sides left.
LA coach Greg Vanney called him “a super talented player” postgame, adding that “his left foot is like a magician's wand” – and Efra’s hush gestures after the strike showed he can also play the heel with relish. Our dear Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle is among those to have spoken of the buzz around the Galaxy camp suggesting this might be a breakthrough year for Alvarez; rest assured that the YPPOTW selection guild is watching with keen interest.
A couple of weeks ago, Gregory Martinez at distinguished RBNY outlet Once A Metro termed Amaya’s Red Bulls career “a mixed time” thus far. That’s a fair evaluation considering his limited 2021 impact and the $1 million or so in assets required to bring him to the Tri-State area after his trade request at FC Cincinnati last year, which you may remember also had reports of tampering charges linked to it.
Well, the 2019 No. 1 SuperDraft pick has been everything RBNY could have hoped for over the first two weeks of the new season, reminding us of the promise he showed in Cincy, with a few new wrinkles to boot. Amaya was a two-way terror against Toronto FC, hunting the ball with alacrity and then showing swiftness, skill and vision to release his team into attack.
After bagging an assist at San Jose last week, Amaya notched two at TFC and as Mark notes here, there are any number of other metrics to underline how well-suited he appears for Gerhard Struber’s approach.
That was Jim Curtin’s brief, blunt explanation of why he benched Olivier Mbaizo – a Cameroon international fresh off two appearances at the Africa Cup of Nations – in favor of Harriel at right back for Philly’s trip to Montreal.
Mbaizo’s uneven performance levels opened a door for Harriel, and the homegrown strode right through it, shaking off a very unlucky deflection on Lassi Lappalainen’s opener to turn in one of his team’s best outings in the 2-1 Union comeback win at CF Montréal.
Harriel tends to be a bit less enterprising in attack than Mbaizo. But at age 20 he’s a diligent defender, dominant in the air, plays within himself and offers plenty of the mobility Philly ask of their fullbacks. Some highlights of his line vs. CFM: 69 touches, 3 clearances, 3 interceptions, 8 recoveries, 3 fouls drawn and only 1 conceded.
Lucas Esteves: Colorado’s on-loan Brazilian left back posted his first MLS assist on Saturday, feeding Andre Shinyashiki for the Rapids’ exclamation-point third goal, while also handling his business against Atlanta United’s right flank dangers.
Cesar Araujo: Orlando City may have a deep-midfield gem on their hands in the 20-year-old Uruguayan, who distributed capably, won most of his duels and weathered some crunching challenges from Fire FC counterparts as the Lions ground out a road draw in Chicago.
Logan Ndenbe: Sporting KC’s new left back looks legit so far, passing crisply and at volume in the win over Houston while vacuuming up 10 recoveries and getting stuck in as needed. The young Belgian’s defensive acumen will surely be tested more acutely when Kansas City face more explosive attacks in the coming weeks.
Zan Kolmanic: We just love impactful left backs here at YPPOTW, and one of 2021’s standouts in this area is off to a strong start down in central Texas. Austin FC’s classy Slovenian international posted his second assist in as many weeks as the Verde pummeled Inter Miami. He too may need to find another gear as ATX pivot towards two tough meetings with Cascadia foes.
Audi Goals Drive Progress
MLS Academies have been identified as one of the most important resources for building on-field talent in North America. Through the Audi Goals Drive Progress initiative, Audi has committed $1 million per season in an effort to advance academies league-wide, and to drive progress for the sport. For every goal scored in the regular season, Audi will contribute $500 into the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund to directly support each MLS Club Youth Academy.