National Writer: Charles Boehm

Top 5 young-player performances in Week 5

You want end product? We've got some end product. Thunderous finishes, seeing-eye assists and midfield passing clinics headline this week’s YPPOTW rundown.

Of note: Week 5 brought us the first double-game week of the 2021 season for many teams, prompting some coaches to platoon their lineups and manage minutes. In turn, that opened some doors for youngsters.

Let’s get underway:

The Galaxy soundly beat Austin FC 2-0 to continue their climb up the table, and the kid from Lompoc was key, earning a place in the MLS Team of the Week. Araujo got stuck in all along his right flank, logging 20 defensive actions. He also posted a pass completion rate of 81.6%, his highest such number so far this season.

Araujo capped a solid day with a gorgeously-curled early cross for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to dispatch for the game-clinching goal, a delivery that any fullback would be proud of.

Young players need minutes to grow. They also need to produce moments that reinforce their value and positively impact their team’s results. A couple of weeks ago, Hernan Losada called Nyeman “our best player” and said he was “incredibly happy with his performance” against Columbus, which might have been a left-handed compliment given that an incredibly injury-wracked D.C. United side lost that game 3-1.

But the young central midfielder seems to be earning his new coach’s trust and is showing more and more promise as he racks up playing time. Last Thursday, the 17-year-old produced a key moment in D.C.'s slump-breaking 1-0 win over Chicago, counter-pressing to create a turnover and play the pass before the pass on Edison Flores’ game-winning goal.

As Colorado welcomed 25-year-old homegrown defender Kortne Ford back to the gameday roster for the first time in more than two years, two of his younger counterparts lit up Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Saturday’s 3-1 thumping of Houston.

Vines set the tone with a perfectly-timed gallop into the Dynamo penalty box to smash this clinical first-time finish into the roof of the net and open the scoring:

Yes, one could parcel out a measure of blame for the young left back’s handling of Christian Ramirez on the Dynamo striker’s consolation goal, but any such inquest should start with goalkeeper William Yarbrough. I feel Vines managed that 1-on-1 situation in his own box capably, staying goal-side of Ramirez and forcing a perfectly-struck shot from range that had to arrow across his ‘keeper’s line of sight to find the side netting.

Vines is a usual suspect in this series and so is his fellow Rapkid Bassett, who is applying his high soccer IQ in the run of play with increasing speed and fluidity.

Observe how quickly and ruthlessly he sniffs out Marko Maric’s hesitance with the ball at his feet, reading the Dynamo goalkeeper’s mind as he closes him down before blocking his pass into the net like the world’s most heartless foosball player.

A fleeting glance at the play might lead you to label that a ‘junk goal,’ but the 19-year-old earned it. And the numbers underline how good he was all night: Bassett posted an xG+xA of 0.87 and his 0.41 goals added ranked tops among YPPOTW-eligible players in Week 5.

Week in, week out, Busio is putting in engine-room work for Kansas City. He was an anchoring presence in Sunday’s dominant 3-0 win over Vancouver, a game where the Midwesterners just asphyxiated their guests with overwhelming possession dominance.

On a day when SKC passed at an amazing 91.6% accuracy rate, Busio notched an exemplary 98.51% with his distribution as Sporting camped out in the Whitecaps’ half.

Honorable mentions

Brian Gutierrez: The 17-year-old homegrown got his first-ever MLS start in D.C. as Fire FC coach Raphael Wicky sought a spark for his slumping side. “Guti” showed his promise, drawing a strong save out of United goalkeeper Jon Kempin and clanging another chance off the base of the post.

Jacob Shaffelburg: Remember that section about moments vs. minutes above? Toronto FC’s young winger made the most of his substitute appearance at Yankee Stadium, clinically finishing off a great pass from Patrick Mullins to steal a road point from NYCFC.

Adam Saldana: The Galaxy’s deep-lying center mid is blossoming under Greg Vanney. As Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle detailed in his weekend wrap, Saldana’s progressive pass was instrumental in the buildup to Chicharito’s goal vs. Austin FC.

Ralph Priso: MLS observers (those south of the border, in particular) need to pay attention to TFC’s 18-year-old center mid. Priso is quietly becoming a regular for Chris Armas. Don’t believe me? Listen to Michael Bradley:

“I love playing with him,” Bradley said after Wednesday’s win over Columbus. “I think we’ve developed a really good relationship. He plays with a maturity, he has an aggression, a physical strength to him. He sees things quickly and gets the ball quickly to the next guy … You have to really understand football to understand what he brings to the game and what he brings to our team in terms of balance, in terms of sniffing plays out, coming away with tackles and loose balls.”


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.