Who were the best young-player performers in Matchdays 25 & 26?

Young Players - 7.16.23

With the advent of the newly expanded Leagues Cup looming, the past week’s performances in league action are likely to linger on the mind – for better or worse – as MLS pauses its regular season for a month to focus on the meetup with Liga MX. 

Several of the teams who’ll enter the break with positive momentum did so via the craft and graft of youngsters. We’ll start with a certain white-hot club up in the mountains who haven’t lost in nine games, thanks in large part to…

It’s our pleasure to introduce you to the reigning Player of the Matchday, bagger of a brace in the 3-1 thumping of the New York Red Bulls. Oh, and also the youngest player in RSL history to score multiple goals in a game... [checks notes] ahhh, yes, and it says here he’s ALSO also the only player age 20 or younger to tab three goals and three assists in MLS in 2023.

With growing incision of movement and composure around goal in addition to his obvious silky slickness on the ball, “Moon Boy” is shining like never before, and it’s powered unheralded Salt Lake up to third place in the Western Conference table after a four-point week. Luna also played two key passes in the midweek draw at Sporting KC and churned out the defensive work that RSL boss Pablo Mastroeni is demanding of him. 

“He's got a lot of tools that you can't teach. They're innate, like the way his brain works about soccer, the passes that he makes, the way he sees the game,” mused Mastroeni, who as most readers will know is no soft touch in this department, on Saturday. “He's got a great perspective on what this game's all about, and he's showing it every day in training.”

At this point Luna is not merely one of the most exciting young players in MLS, but all of the Americas. It’s right there in the data:

Another week, another clutch goal for The Abilene Dream, so the Tanzanian Cinderella duly gets another spin through the YPPOTW spotlight. Kamungo took flight across the Lumen Field turf like a Tanzanian grey crowned crane to thump Sebastian Lletget’s delicious delivery past Stefan Frei to snatch FCD a road point on Saturday:

As we’ve noted before, we’re as sympathetic as anyone about Dallas being shorn of distinguished YPPOTW alum Jesús Ferreira’s scoring prowess during the Gold Cup. And overall things are not going great for Nico Estevez’s bunch right now, especially in attacking terms. Some of that is reflected in Kamungo’s relatively low usage rates – he got just 32 touches in Seattle.

Yet they’re hanging in there and hanging around, still somehow north of the playoff line despite just two wins in their last 11 games, and he’s pulling his weight and then some. If all he does is score goals like Saturday’s, well, somebody’s got to if the North Texans are to stay on course.

Here’s another one with a scoring touch who can grind when it’s called for. 

The Croatian youth international came off the bench to net his third league goal of the season and help ice the Black & Gold’s impressive 3-0 defeat of West-leading St. Louis on Wednesday, then put on his hard hat to log 88 committed minutes under much different circumstances at Allianz Field at the weekend.

Biuk completed 15/20 passes (75%), including two chances created, and also logged a litany of defensive actions to help LAFC secure a road result against a surging opponent with an atmospheric matchday environment. With the Californians shadowing CITY SC in second place, it’s looking more and more like Biuk will be a linchpin of his team’s plans to climb back up to their 2022 perch.

The Ecuadorian still shows his age, and we’d ideally like to see more consistency from him from week to week. But the way VWFC are currently structured, he doesn’t have to be a match-winner every time out, and can find his feet and seek out ways to positively impact matches.

He was more like the former in the 2-1 win over Austin, scoring in just the first minute to tilt the field in Vancouver’s direction, and went on to post 32/38 pass completion (84%) with one key pass and 6/8 long balls completed, won 3/3 duels and chipped in five recoveries and a foul drawn.

Then Designated Player Ryan Gauld grabbed the wheel in the 4-2 weekend smacking of the LA Galaxy, and Vite supported him ably with 3/3 tackles successfully completed, 3/5 duels won and 85% pass completion in 50 minutes to help the 'Caps enjoy a six-point week on home turf.

Yep, the Windy City side also bagged six out of six points before the Leagues Cup break, and their 20-year-old playmaker remains an integral component of Frank Klopas’ XI.

Guti scored his first league goal of ‘23 in the 3-0 win over CF Montréal – he’s already up to seven assists, by the way. He then followed that up with an arguably more impressive overall outing in the tight 1-0 defeat of Toronto FC, with three key passes and 33/42 (79%) completed overall, 3/6 crosses completed, four recoveries, 3/6 on duels and two fouls in each direction. 

We’ll cut right to the point: One of the most prominent missing faces from the US squad at the U-20 World Cup (Chicago didn’t release him) has just GOT to get a nod and some time with one level or another of the national team program, and soon.

Honorable Mentions

Georgios Koutsias: Guti’s Greek teammate was the standout of the Fire’s win over CFM, going 5/6 on dribbles, winning 6/8 duels and creating one chance in addition to his goal.

Aziel Jackson: St. Louis’ all-action youngster keeps producing end product for a top-shelf team, this week notching an assist, three key passes and 2/4 tackles in the 3-0 win over Inter Miami. So we’re going to keep giving him a shout here.

Andres Jasson: Congratulations to the New York City FC homegrown on his first career MLS goal, the consolation in a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia, a game in which he made the most of his 33 minutes on the pitch with good work in both directions.