National Writer: Charles Boehm

Top young-player performances of Week 11

It was a star-spangled weekend across MLS, as the league kept busy under the firework-illuminated skies while the United States marked its Independence Day.

A long list of young talents barged into the spotlight with some of Week 11’s top performances. Here’s the best of the bunch.

Chicago, and head coach Rapha Wicky in particular, have really needed their 21-year-old Young Designated Player to step up this season. Yet injuries hampered the winger throughout the spring, to the point that Saturday’s visit from Atlanta was just his sixth appearance of the year.

Thriving in a fairly free role up top, the Argentine played like someone trying to make up for lost time. Aliseda opened his 2021 account with two goals and an assist in the Fire’s stylish 3-0 win at Soldier Field to cruise to MLS Player of the Week and Team of the Week honors.

You probably saw how viciously the Black-and-Red dismembered Toronto FC, a result that hastened the end of the Reds’ fleeting Chris Armas era. The 7-1 thrashing was a true team effort with seven different players hitting the net at Audi Field. But Paredes, 18, was the one who set the tone less than two minutes after first kick.

As D.C. supporter @hippynothipster pointed out on Twitter, the United homegrown has gotten the hang of Hernan Losada’s left wingback role so adeptly as to keep veteran Costa Rican international Joseph Mora on the bench. His high-tempo effervescence might just epitomize the capital club’s energetic new identity.

Here he is again. FCD’s young spearhead is feeling it right now, with three goals in his last two games, and it’s earned him back-to-back YPPOTW nods. As his 1.85 XG+XA number would indicate, Sunday’s overall outing against Vancouver was probably even better than last week’s brace against New England.

Pepi’s shots and services to teammates drew several outstanding saves from Maxime Crepeau on either side of his latest telekinetic linkup with Jesus Ferreira, which featured a nimble diving header. By the way, has that homegrown duo earned a cute nickname like JesuRico or FerrePepi yet?

RBNY turned some heads when signing this Polish youth international on a four-year Young DP deal from Celtic FC, all via a seven-figure fee in late April. Yet the move is looking rather shrewd as he meshes into Gerhard Struber’s high-pressing system.

With his work rate and No. 9 skills, Klimala may prove to be the ideal frontrunner alongside Fabio, as we saw in the club’s impressive 2-1 road win in Orlando, his two assists outshining the Lions’ Daryl Dike.

You can learn a lot about a youngster on occasions like Saturday’s debut of Field. Even Bruce Arena admitted that the Columbus Crew’s glittering new home was a daunting experience for the visitors, yet it was the second-youngest player in his Revolution starting XI who seized the moment in hostile territory.

Buchanan elevated to thump home the game’s opening goal, quieting the crowd only to stir it back up with a ‘hush’ celebration. He then jetted down the right flank in transition to help double the first-half lead with a lovely low delivery to Gustavo Bou. Now he’ll go try to be the difference-maker for Canada at this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup.

Honorable mentions

Mathieu Choiniere: Considering how challenging home-away-from-home life has been for Toronto and Vancouver, we should all probably be giving CF Montréal more credit for the sturdy collective they’re crafting down in Florida. Choiniere – who first signed with his hometown club back in 2018 – is the latest to step up, as he manned their right wingback role against Inter Miami and bagged his first MLS goal for the match-winner.

Griffin Yow: Maybe it’s unfair, but I rank Yow a smidge below Paredes on the basis of his demolition job coming later, as a substitute against an already-gutted TFC. But let's take nothing away from the 18-year-old's delightful finish from a sharp angle.

Alvaro Barreal: You may have noticed that FC Cincinnati have risen from the canvas in recent weeks and are slowly shedding the "automatic three points" perception that’s followed them throughout their MLS existence. The form of their Argentina youth international winger – a member of the league’s new Under-22 Initiative – is a big factor in that, and Barreal scored again to smuggle a road point out of Houston.

Tomas Romero: Two promising young goalkeepers faced off when LAFC visited Real Salt Lake, and perhaps surprisingly to some, it was Romero (with some help from Eddie Segura’s unreal late clearance off the line) who outshined David Ochoa. The former Georgetown national champion made several excellent stops en route to a timely clean sheet.

Daniel Pereira: With approximately zero fanfare, the No. 1 2021 SuperDraft pick has quickly acclimated not just to the professional environment but Josh Wolff’s meticulous positional-play philosophy with Austin FC. Doing the dirty midfield work that allows attackers to shine, Pereira completed 49 of his 50 passes and won the lion's share of his 11 duels in the expansionists’ cathartic 4-1 win over Portland.


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.