National Writer: Charles Boehm

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

Lock your doors and bar the windows, because Gary the Knifey Lion is armed, dangerous and prowling MLS with harmful intent.

Push those Cincy jokes to the back burner. Thanks to a six-point week (granted they were one of two teams in Week 10 to play two league games) and a wider 4W-1L-1D run across all competitions, FC Cincinnati have moved into the top 10 of the overall table. And that surge in southern Ohio has been fueled in no small part by some assertive young talents.

FCC are the headliners but there’s plenty more weekend grist for the YPPOTW mill. And remember that you can get involved, too – just find a tweet like this on Mondays or thereabouts, and chime in with your picks:

“Football is really brutal,” as Phil Neville put it a few weeks back as Leo Campana took Gonzalo Higuain’s starting spot, and perhaps it applies to Cincy’s goalkeeping job. Alec Kann’s effectiveness over several years in MLS finally earned him a clear shot at a starting role, then he picks up an injury that opens the door just a crack for his 21-year-old rookie backup, and well, here’s how Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle penned it yesterday:

“The No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick, goalkeeper Roman Celentano, might’ve already won the starting job with three wins and two shutouts in his four games (poor Alec Kann, who finally got his chance to be a starter, got injured, and might not get his job back), while center back Ian Murphy, who they took later in the first round, sure seems like a long-term MLS starter.”

(We’ll get to Murphy in a minute.)

Celentano made nine saves across 180-plus shutout minutes this week to stride leisurely into the Team of the Week presented by Audi. He has now allowed just three total goals in these five consecutive starts he’s earned, two of them at the hands of league leaders LAFC. For the time being, the kid from Naperville, Illinois (that’s right, yet another baby-faced beast GK out of Chicagoland) is most definitely The Guy in goal for perhaps the hottest team in the league.

Things are pretty downcast around the Rose City’s men’s team of late, so it was important that Moreno led the charge to a well-earned road point from their cross-continent trip to Harrison to face the in-form New York Red Bulls.

Moreno played three key passes and enjoyed an 89% passing completion rate while adding menace on the dribble and in duels. His perfectly-timed and -placed low cross to the near post also set the plate for Jaroslaw Niezgoda on Portland’s pretty goal.

With his energy and creativity harnessed to an already clever and rapidly-evolving sense of timing and vision, the YPPOTW illuminati grow increasingly convinced that the young Colombian will prove just as essential to PTFC’s hopes of restoring some vibrancy to their plodding season as any of his elder teammates. If they are to reverse their bland 1W-3L-4D skid since mid-March, the Timbers need to show more when Sporting KC visit Providence Park this weekend.

Sentimental FCD supporters may have shed a tear or two in their cervezas this weekend as the younger Ferreira passed his father David on the club’s all-time scoring list with his 25th career goal, a clinically-taken game-winner in a 2-0 defeat of the Seattle Sounders.

They’re different kinds of players – David, who powered the North Texans’ run to the 2010 MLS Cup final, was much more of a traditional No. 10 – so comparisons are imperfect. But the simple fact that Jesus has reached this milestone so much faster and at such a younger age says a lot about him, their club and MLS as a whole.

The kid is already on 7g/1a – he totaled eight goals last year – and on Saturday he also played two key passes and chipped in plenty of off-ball movement and defensive help as FCD made the most of Seattle's Concacaf Champions League hangover.

One more: Ferreira is quietly in a three-way tie for the Golden Boot presented by Audi lead. An FC Dallas player hasn’t won that award since Jeff Cunningham in 2009.

FCC’s rising tide is lifting plenty of individual boats – well, players – who might have gotten overlooked in wider conversations like this earlier in their careers as their team struggled so badly.

Cincy’s English-born winger turned in a promising 58 minutes in the midweek win over Toronto FC, bagging his first MLS goal and passing crisply in a limited number of touches. Harris then followed it up in the best way possible as a supersub against Minnesota United, playing two key passes (9/9 passing overall!) and notching a game-winning assist in just six minutes in the impressive 1-0 road win.

It seems like a long time ago but it was only last year that the 22-year-old went No. 2 overall in the SuperDraft out of Wake Forest with lots of buzz around him. While Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez are the biggest stories in Cincinnati, Pat Noonan’s rebuild may help us learn more about just how high Harris’ ceiling really is.

Let’s not give attackers all the love here. The Mexican international was sturdy and focused as the Gs banked a blue-collar 1-0 road win at Q2 Stadium to quiet some of the buzz around Austin FC and haul themselves further up the Western Conference table.

Araujo completed 86% of his passes, created a chance and handled his backline business pretty well with more than a dozen defensive actions in a clean-sheet outing against one of the league’s highest-flying attacks, at their place.

The World Cup is closer than it seems, and it speaks volumes that the 20-year-old SoCal kid is very much in the mix for El Tri’s starting right back role, much less a seat on the plane to Qatar.

Honorable mentions

Julian Carranza: Are you tired of reading YPPOTW’s incessant crowing about how perfect a striker he is for the Philadelphia Union, and how amusing it is that he was gained, for a relative song, from a would-be challenger to their standing in the East (yep, sorry Inter Miami)? Well, tough. The Argentine was a handful up top yet again this weekend, and scored yet again – it was a doozy:

Ian Murphy: Another draft pick is quietly doing big work for Cincy. The Duke product went the full 90 in both of FCC’s Week 10 wins, handling two subtly different center-back jobs in two different formations without losing sight of the defensive fundamentals, and we suspect he’ll keep blossoming at a comparable rate if and when he keeps racking up first-team minutes in the coming weeks.

Nathan Harriel: The Union were ever so impressive in landing two heavy blows to LAFC to take a point home from Saturday’s top-of-the-table #MLSAfterDark extravaganza at Banc of California Stadium. Their no-BS right back did his thing yet again with 10 recoveries, six clearances, five interceptions and his usual aerial authority.


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.