With the 2016 Generation adidas Cup in the books, it's time to look back at the MLS prospects who dazzled at the tournament. Here are the top 10 MLS academy players from the event:
Sean Zawadzki, Columbus Crew SC
It may be unfair to even mention Wil Trapp’s name alongside a young holding midfielder but there is a striking similarity. Zawadzki came into the tournament just 15 years old, one of the youngest players on his roster, and was a rock in the midfield. Playing at the base of the midfield, he did well defensively, especially in a matchup against Villarreal, who dominated possession throughout the tournament. He still has room to grow both physically and mentally, but he is a strong defender and an excellent passer starting the attack. When the day comes that Trapp moves on, the Crew might already have his replacement waiting in the wings.
JP Marin, New York Red Bulls
As expected the New York Red Bulls academy continues to produce some of the most promising talent around MLS. While not easy to pick out one individual from their strong squad, Marin was an interesting player to watch. Starting out just below the center forward, Marin combined creativity on the ball, technique, and strength to take on defenders and set up his teammates. After spending much of the year playing up an age group with the U17/18 squad, Marin was able to battle and be a difference-maker against the very physical eventual champion River Plate.
Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas
Possibly the best player in the tournament, Pomykal started out the week pulling the strings as an attacking mid in a 3-1 win over Valencia. He then ended the tournament with a first-half hat trick at center forward against Villarreal eight days later. This special young attacking player is an MLS and US national team starter in the making. Pomykal has a special soccer brain that brings a level of creativity that most players lack.
Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas
Often combining with Pomykal in the attack is Ferreira. Capable of playing at center forward or out on the wing, Ferreira is a goalscorer who also has phenomenal set-up instincts (like his dad, former MLS MVP David Ferreira.) Often opening up the attack with a deft touch or perfect switch of the field, Ferreira is another star in the making. Don’t be surprised to see these two players with the first-team squad sooner rather than later.
Andrew Paoli, San Jose Earthquakes
Paoli lived up to the hype heading into the tournament, controlling the game from central midfield. Paoli is a player who you can see making the jump to the next level very soon. A great soccer brain and with considerable technique, Paoli can be a star because of his talent on both sides of the ball.
Marko Mandekic, Toronto FC
The TFC and Canadian youth international playmaker is clearly someone to watch out for. Sitting right behind the striker, Mandekic was rated one of the highest chance-creators in the tournament by OPTA, and was highly regarded by coaches in attendance. One thing that is promising about Mandekic is that he has size, which can be rare for a playmaking No. 10. That should ease the transition up to the next level.
Wilson Harris, Seattle Sounders
He's a steady hold-up forward who is learning to develop and expand his game. Harris was constantly an outlet for his team when pressured, and made good runs in the box when given service. Needs to add composure in his finishing (as any young forward does) but is a promising prospect.
Alex Touche and Jose Bencomo, Colorado Rapids
A tall physical presence at center back, Touche helped build a reliable partnership with Bencomo. Alex is only half of the Touche talent in the Rapids' starting lineup, as his twin brother Charles is their starting center forward and both have next-level talent. A strong central defender with composure on the ball Touche, along with Bencomo, led his team to only concede two goals in the entire group stage.
Alejandro Pereira, Orlando City SC
A tall athletic forward, Pereira is a US youth international and has a knack for scoring goals. Linking up well with his playmaking teammate, Juan Esteban Carmona, he led the line for his club. Not just a goal scorer but also a high level passer, Pereira is one of the many up-and-coming Orlando City youth players.