National Writer: Charles Boehm

Top young-player performances in MLS Weeks 20 and 21

Another double-game week for most of MLS means another jam-packed dogpile of YPPOTW contenders.

Here’s the top tier.

Is the 22-year-old SuperDraft pick from South Carolina more important to the Herons than Gonzalo Higuain or Blaise Matuidi? At first glance it sounds like a stretch, right?

But Miami’s dramatic upturn in results coincides with his return to the starting lineup last month (they’re 3-1-1 in that stretch) and he scored pretty goals in both of their well-taken wins last week, in addition to being centrally involved in Indiana Vassilev’s opener vs. Chicago. Robinson’s 1-v-1 skinning of Toronto FC’s Omar Gonzalez was particularly jaw-dropping:

Now the fleet-footed attacker’s efforts have been rewarded with an even bigger carrot, as he earned an invite to the Chilean national team’s (his mother’s homeland) upcoming camp ahead of their Conmebol World Cup qualifiers.

The Rapids were another side that enjoyed a six-point week, snatching an opportunistic road win over the LA Galaxy before edging their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals from Salt Lake. And their 20-year-old Argentine wild card was a significant factor, earning Team of the Week presented by Audi honors for his work in the first and coming off the bench to serve up Mark-Anthony Kaye for his game-winning bullet header in the second.

There’s something enjoyably chaotic about Galvan, who’s nominally a left flank player but loves to pop up in all sorts of other interesting places on the pitch, and clearly draws energy from exposing defenders in any way possible.

The knock on the Mile High Club is that they’ve built a sturdy and balanced squad but lack the elite game-breakers their Western Conference rivals boast. But Galvan, when deployed so savvily by Robin Fraser, might just turn out to be the answer.

Break up the Five Stripes! Once-comatose ATL are undefeated in August (4-0-1) and the Boat has been central to that dramatic revival, becoming an increasingly regular presence in the Teams of the Week with his all-around contributions.

Over the past week Barco sliced and diced TFC, scoring a gorgeous game-winner and playing five key passes, then helped set up Marcelino Moreno’s decider in the impressive 2-1 win at D.C. United, completing a range of passes crisply and probing between the lines as he does so well.

The YPPOTW sounds like a broken record at this point when it comes to the Revs’ relentless Canadian winger, who’s now scored in three straight matches and is on the verge of completing a reported $7 million transfer to Club Brugge in Belgium. Jetting across the Atlantic to sort out the final stages of that deal kept him from getting his much-deserved shine at the All-Star festivities in Los Angeles this week, but we’re willing to bet he’s OK with that tradeoff in the big picture.

Buchanan slashed FC Cincinnati to bits over the weekend, adding an assist to his own strike and going close on a number of other chances. And his clinical angled volley vs. D.C. in midweek helped bag an important Eastern Conference win while also earning an AT&T Goal of the Week nomination.

Did someone say Goal of the Week? RBNY’s 19-year-old homegrown also got the nod for the Week 20 shortlist. And while Seattle Sounders fans again flexed their collective muscle to stuff the ballot box for Raul Ruidiaz, this neutral sees genius in Tolkin’s delightful run-cutback-weaker-foot-nutmeg-finish against Columbus, his first ever in MLS. It was the conclusion to a well-worked team sequence, ended his team’s seven-game winless skid and showed that Tolkin can use that right foot for more than just running.

And his place here isn’t just about the goal, of course. He also played three killer passes and won most of his duels while working in an adjusted tactical role as Andrew Gutman took up residence along the left touchline, underlining Tolkin’s increasing influence on the Red Bulls’ fortunes despite his tender age.

Honorable mentions

Ricardo Pepi: With young players often slated for streakiness, we watched approvingly as Pepi ended his five-match scoring schneid with an important goal against FC Dallas’ Texas rivals from Houston, part of a mature overall performance down in the Bayou City. It was the ideal way to ensure that the El Paso kid could go experience All-Star week with a clear head and bright eyes.

Quinn Sullivan: I’m sure that Philadelphia’s 17-year-old schemer can score non-bangers, but his first two MLS goals have been absolute golazos. His net-stressing late equalizer vs. CF Montréal was also a timely contribution to salvage a point at home. Here’s hoping Jim Curtin gives him some more run as a super-sub.

Abdoulaye Cissoko: Well-oiled machines like the Seattle Sounders run not only on the top-shelf performers like Ruidiaz and the Roldan brothers, but also quietly effective contributors across the pitch like Cissoko, who provided vital steadiness along the backline on the midweek trip to Dallas.

Adalberto Carrasquilla: Things have generally been grim for the Dynamo lately, yet their 22-year-old Panamanian summer acquisition may offer reasons for hope. The new arrival from Spanish second-division side FC Cartagena stepped straight into La Naranja’s starting XI and showed promise as a stabilizing force in the engine room against RSL and FCD.


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.