National Writer: Charles Boehm

Who were the best young-player performers in Matchday 18?

Quinones HOU - Young Players - 6.12.23

We probably don’t have to point out which of the weekend’s MLS results were the most striking. What we ARE here to do is make note of the youngsters that were prominently involved in them.

Without further adieu, let’s jet south to sweltering Houston:

La Naranja’s 4-0 ambush of reeling LAFC had to start somewhere, and as good as MLS Team of the Matchday honoree Héctor Herrera was in midfield, it was Quiñónes who tilted the balance with an early goal at Shell Energy Stadium, his first in MLS:

Constantly menacing right back Ryan Hollingshead on the dribble, the 20-year-old Colombian then earned the penalty kick which was converted by Amine Bassi for a 2-0 Houston lead early in the second half. Though an injury forced him to hobble off not long after, it was a banner night for Quiñónes with 12/14 passes complete, 2/4 dribbles, 5/9 duels won and two fouls drawn in 63 minutes.

“When he decides to play downhill, he’s terrifying for a defender, and he was again tonight,” said Dynamo assistant coach Brendan Burke. “He’s learning his own tools on the job as well and as a young kid. He’s starting to understand that he could be really dangerous at a high level on a consistent basis, but it takes hard work. He has to track back; he has to be part of our defensive block to allow himself those isolations going the other way. Whether it's in our build or in transition, he has to do the defensive piece first. I think he’s really taken that to heart and he’s starting to do that on a regular basis.”

Quiñónes was also influential in the US Open Cup quarterfinal win over Chicago Fire FC at midweek, and not a moment too soon, considering his year-long loan from Once Caldas is about to expire at month’s end. He says he’d “love to stay” in Houston, where he offers a key infusion of creativity and speed in a veteran-laden squad. Here’s hoping the decision-makers do what’s needed to keep him around.

From bottom of the table to above the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line in just over a month, Sporting KC are suddenly the hottest team in MLS. The likes of Alan Pulido and Erik Thommy have been prominent in that revival, but don’t sleep on the young homegrown doing his part.

Davis, 21, has quietly locked down SKC’s starting right back spot and while he’s capable of doing nice stuff on the ball, it’s been all about substance rather than style. He completed 4/4 tackles, won 4/5 duels and 2/3 aerial duels in the 4-1 eviscerating of Austin FC, and also played eight passes into the final third, made six clearances, five headed clearances and five recoveries.

The combination of Sporting’s well-crafted youth development system and elder influences like Graham Zusi seems to have Davis on a steep upward trajectory. We’ll be watching closely to see if he can sustain it through the summer.

The elder of Josh Wolff’s MLS sons may have been overshadowed by the rise of his lil’ bro Owen out in Austin (and subsequently with the US Under-20 national team). But Tyler is carving out minutes in Atlanta as a hard-running supersub on the flanks.

Wolff bagged his third goal of the season – all since the start of May – on Saturday, icing the Five Stripes’ 3-1 win over D.C. United by expediting to the back post for a tap-in of Andrew Gutman’s inviting low cross. He also completed all three of his passes, making the most of just six touches of the ball.

The 20-year-old also pulled his weight under far different circumstances on Wednesday, when ATLUTD held on to Brad Guzan’s cape for dear life en route to a hard-earned 0-0 road draw with LAFC. Wolff offered five recoveries, won 5/7 duels, completed 5/8 passes and drew a foul, showing that he can roll up his sleeves and hustle in both directions.

First of all, get a look at these two baby GOATs:

Just back from the U-20 World Cup, McGlynn and his fellow young Yank Cade Cowell faced off at PayPal Park on the weekend. While Cowell’s side snagged the W, helped by his assist on Jeremy Ebobisse’s opener, it was McGlynn who posted the more head-turning performance, which will only add to the buzz around him among overseas scouts impressed with his outings in Argentina.

Pressed into action off the bench when Damion Lowe picked up an early injury, the homegrown midfielder's 24th minute entry was accompanied by a Philly formation shift from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 diamond, and McGlynn proceeded to cook: 45/46 pass completion, four recoveries and 3/4 duels won.

The Union can feel unlucky to have lost this game, and McGlynn looks quite ready to kick on from his international adventure.

Columbus' YPPOTW regular overcame some early slip-ups to produce another characteristically impactful outing in the dramatic win at Chicago, completing 90% of his 82 passes, including one key pass, 3/4 tackles, 7/12 duels and 10 recoveries.

And yeah, Morris notches an assist on Lucas Zelarayán’s game-winning wondergoal. Sure, the Argentine-Armenian star did most of the heavy lifting on that one, but every pressure, every dispossession counts! Credit to Morris for the commitment and awareness to be doing the work even deep into injury time after 90-plus minutes of hard graft.

Monday afternoon brought more good news for the Crew academy product. He was named to the US men’s national team’s Gold Cup roster, which likely means he’s committing his international future to the States after an approach from Canada – with Les Rouges coach John Herdman having said last week that he expects Morris to be cap-tied during the tournament.

Honorable mentions

Ibrahim Aliyu: Houston’s other livewire youngster was also a key cog in the thumping of LAFC, notching two key passes and an assist as he showed further signs of settling well in the Dynamo attack. While we generally limit our evaluations to league action in the interest of evenhandedness, the brace he bagged in the Open Cup win over Chicago is also a promising signpost for the Nigerian youth international.

Bode Hidalgo: RSL are not getting it done in the attacking third right now, as their latest 0-0, this week against New York City FC, illustrates. Their homegrown right back nevertheless put in work, going 5/5 on dribbles, completing one key pass amid 38/46 overall passing completion, winning 7/8 duels and logging nine recoveries and one foul drawn.

Erik Dueñas: Going the full 90 back-to-back during a difficult moment for LAFC has been a steep challenge for the 18-year-old center mid, and he, like his elder teammates, didn’t show his best in the humbling loss in Houston. Still, we’re impressed with how he’s coming to grips with a very tough job on a very good team. He completed 32/36 passes including two chances created, went 4/4 on the dribble, won 10/22 duels and notched 10 recoveries and four fouls drawn in the midweek draw with Atlanta, earning MOTM honors from the 3252 supporters’ group: