National Writer: Charles Boehm

Who were the best young-player performers in MLS Matchday 10?

Young Players 5.1.23

We’ve got lots of love for fullbacks this week, especially those doing distinguished work in difficult environments. The kids are doing plenty of laudable work in the center of the park as well, though, and we’ll start with one prominent example from a bright new face.

Phil Neville handed Miami’s highly-regarded 18-year-old Argentine-American his first MLS start as the Herons visited the Columbus Crew. And Cremaschi vindicated that faith by notching his first MLS assist on IMCF’s opening goal, dropping a lovely cushioned header into Leo Campana’s path to aid the Ecuadorian forward's Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire performance.

Given a difficult tasking at the heart of the Herons midfield on a night when they would hold just 30% of possession, “Benja” was surprisingly sturdy over his 71 minutes on the pitch. He logged 34 touches, an 87% pass completion rate, went 2/3 on dribbles and 2/2 on tackles, and fought the necessary wars to keep the visitors above water against a skillful adversary.

What a welcome set of contributions it was, too: Miami’s unexpected 2-1 win ended a grisly six-match losing skid that had raised the temperature of Neville’s seat. Add all this up, and it would seem that Cremaschi stands a very good chance of earning more minutes in the weeks ahead.

We’ll whip up Florida’s Turnpike – or perhaps Amtrak’s Silver Meteor is more your speed? – for our next stop, Exploria Stadium. While the Lions weren’t quite as desperate as Miami were, they’d dropped three consecutive home losses before Chicharito and the LA Galaxy hit town and really needed to staunch that bleeding.

It was a pretty decent time, then, for Halliday to turn in one of the better outings of his fledgling pro career. The right back produced his first career MLS assist on Ercan Kara’s game-winning goal, racing forward to the endline and threading a smart low cross that the Austrian striker adeptly nutmegged Jonathan Klinsmann with:

Halliday also recorded 22/29 pass completions, went 3/6 on ground duels and 3/5 in the air, committed just one foul and logged 10 defensive actions in the 2-0 win. Perhaps the demanding but edifying experience of facing mighty Tigres in Concacaf Champions League action helped the 20-year-old take the next step. We’re expecting big things from him at the U-20 World Cup later this month.

Forgive us if our Tolkin blurbs are starting to feel cut-and-pastey. It’s just that the 20-year-old keeps doing the business week in, week out – amid, let’s be honest, a pretty pallid overall backdrop at RBNY.

No one in Red Bulls' colors has scored more than once in league play so far this season, and only Sporting KC and the Colorado Rapids have scored fewer goals than RBNY’s seven. Yet Tolkin has already bagged four assists, his latest coming via an excellent corner-kick delivery to the head of Cory Burke to snatch a last-gasp 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field.

Sprinkle in a 79% overall pass completion rate, 3/5 accurate long balls, 3/5 on duels, six recoveries, three clearances and two interceptions, and there’s your recipe for Tolkin to stroll into the MLS Team of the Matchday presented by Audi for the first time in 2023.

The Revs1-1 home draw with FC Cincinnati kept the two sides neck-and-neck atop both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings, and also featured some of the most relentless and at-times brutal physicality we’ve seen to date this season. To his great credit, Buck, who just turned 18, waded right in and more than held his own throughout this fleeting taste of Audi MLS Cup Playoffs soccer in April.

He won 9/13 duels (69%), drew three fouls, made nine recoveries and completed two tackles, going toe to toe with Cincy’s excellent defensive midfielder Obinna Nwobodo time and time again. Buck was also his usual clean and tidy self on the ball, completing 51/60 passes (including 4/4 accurate long balls) and going 4/4 on dribbles. Crucially, he’s clearly striking up a fluid understanding with Carles Gil, the Revs’ most important player.

"I thought Noel Buck was excellent,” said Bruce Arena. “Might have been our best player on the day.”

Did we mention that this was New England’s third game in a week, and that Buck went the distance in all three?

TFC’s 1-0 win over New York City FC was a big milestone for the Reds’ 19-year-old fullback. On his debut first-team start, the homegrown got 73 touches, completed 93% of his 55 passes, went 2/4 on dribbles, won 6/10 duels and 2/4 tackles and gobbled up seven recoveries on the left corner.

And all this came under what we can safely call less-than-optimal circumstances:

“Kobe came in and did a really good job,” said coach Bob Bradley postgame. “Kobe's trained really well lately and as it turned out, his chance to start came when Raoul \[Petretta\] pulled out of the warm-up. But we've seen and told Kobe that he continues to get better and better, so, happy for him.”

Honorable Mentions

Jacob Greene: Congrats to D.C. United’s 20-year-old homegrown defender, who made extremely good of what was officially only three minutes on the pitch in the final stages of the Black-and-Red’s 3-0 win over Charlotte. Greene raced nearly the length of the pitch to clinically slot home United’s third goal, the first of his MLS career – and the euphoric reactions of his teammates spoke volumes about the regard in which the youngster is held around Audi Field.

Sean Rea: One of Canada’s top rising prospects, Rea was active and incisive for CF Montréal in their 2-0 road win over SKC. Working as an attacking winger, he logged assists on both goals and appears to be coming to grips with the pace of MLS after a highly successful loan stint in the Canadian Premier League last year.

Juan Mosquera: Portland’s 2-1 win at St. Louis CITY was impressive and so was their Colombian right back. He played one key pass, went 4/6 on dribbles, made 13 recoveries and won most of his duels amid the hurly-burly of STL’s press. It’s remarkable how quickly he seems to have settled in the Rose City.