National Writer: Charles Boehm

Who were the best young-player performers in MLS Week 11?

Goals, goals, goals.

We can never get enough of them, and this week’s YPPOTW rundown is jam-packed, be it cold-blooded finishers netting match-winners or creators dishing up delicious deliveries for teammates.

We’ll start with the brace from a certain 21-year-old Golden Boot presented by Audi leader – but first, remember that you too can get involved with this column’s selection process. Just track down our usual day-after tweet and share your nominations and observations:

The Cheetah has raced out to an early lead in the MLS goal-scoring race, and it’s no fluke. He’s second in the league in expected goals and goals per 90 minutes, and nary a single one of his strikes came from penalty kicks.

This week Ferreira and FCD climbed all the way to second place in the Supporters’ Shield table as they put the LA Galaxy to the sword in under 23 minutes, blasting the doors off their hosts with three fleet-footed goals before the game had reached the half-hour mark. Ferreira opened the scoring with a back-post tap-in after Jader Obrian sped past Chase Gasper, then basically walked in his second after Marco Farfan’s ball in behind exploited LA’s high line, leaving Gasper and goalkeeper Jonathan Bond flailing.

That’s nine tallies in 11 games for the homegrown, who also played two key passes on Saturday, already besting his career season-high of eight goals set in 2021 and 2019. Can he sustain this absurd rate of productivity? Probably not, but even a modest dip will still keep him on track for the Golden Boot – and might just do the same for his prospects of starting up top for the US men’s national team in Qatar.

In retrospect, probably the most shocking thing about last week’s edition of YPPOTW was the absence of NYCFCers, considering the depth, quality and consistency of their youth movement.

That’s not happening this time around, because their 19-year-old Brazilian wunderkind – bear in mind they also have a 20-year-old Brazilian wunderkind (Gabriel Pereira) and a 21-year-old Brazilian wunderkind (Thiago Andrade) – played match-winner against Columbus in the Bronx. Watch the kid’s unreal footwork closely here, if your eyeballs can manage it:

It’s his second league goal of the season and fifth across all competitions, and the 2-0 win moves the Pigeons to 5W-0L-1D since their Concacaf Champions League campaign came to an end with a semifinals loss to Seattle. We urge you to read Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle’s detailed Cityzens rundown from Sunday’s weekend wrap, highlighted by this passage:

“Undergirding all of this is NYCFC’s approach to player acquisition, as they are perhaps the best example of a team that’s embraced the ideas behind the U22 Initiative. Their cadre of young imports – Santi Rodriguez, Thiago Andrade, Gabriel Pereira, even Nico Acevedo a little bit, and especially Talles Magno – are starting to blossom into starters and even match-winners. It happened too late to save their CCL campaign, but it’s right on time to turbo-charge what seems set to be another 60+-point regular season.”

Don’t worry: If that cedilha in his surname is giving you trouble, you can just call him Nathan – and the 22-year-old is already being written into Timbers lore as the first player in club history to score two or more goals in his first career MLS match.

He was the tip of the spear as the Rose City side snapped their slump emphatically with Saturday’s 7-2 thrashing of Sporting KC, calmly dispatching two first-time box finishes as Portland scored as many goals in 90-plus minutes as they had in their previous eight league matches.

The Brazilian striker is making a rapid rise from relative obscurity. The Coritiba product showed ample promise in a 2021 loan stint with San Antonio FC, bagging 13 goals in 34 USL Championship appearances. But at the start of this month he was toiling away on the Timbers’ MLS NEXT Pro squad, looking more like a medium-term project than someone primed to break out in his first MLS start.

That’s a tribute to him, as well as to Portland’s quiet identification and cultivation process. Nathan has certainly earned a chance at more first-team minutes, and with a PTFC roster that can really use his type of youthful vigor, we’re eager to see where he goes from here.

With a goal in US Open Cup play at midweek followed by an outstanding performance against New England on Sunday, the Five Stripes’ $16 million showcase winter acquisition is heating up.

The Argentine completed 85% of his passes, laid on a whopping five key passes, threatened on the dribble and whipped this lovely long-range finish past Matt Turner just moments after the Revs’ goalkeeper had denied him with a superb save on an expertly-struck free kick:

Almada’s budding chemistry with Luiz Araujo was also encouraging for ATLUTD, as he served up the assist on his Brazilian teammate’s equalizer. As frustratingly inconsistent as Atlanta have been this season – and their fans would have reason to consider Sunday a case of dropped points, even as their home unbeaten streak now runs to 13 games – that could be a prelude to a summer surge when Josef Martinez returns from his knee troubles.

Last week’s workmanlike 1-0 win over Colorado was all well and good, but let’s be real: Deep down, the Quakes just love open, messy slugfests like Saturday night’s 3-3 second-half barnburner in Vancouver, don’t they? And something tells us it will remain so long after Matias Almeyda’s departure.

That setting seems to work just fine for Cowell, who is slowly developing an awareness of when and how to deploy his skill set to maximum effect in such situations.

The strapping winger notched two assists at BC Place, one a well-placed center to Jeremy Ebobisse with his left foot – that willingness to trust his weaker foot when the moment called for it absolutely delighted the YPPOTW politburo – and the other a hockey-style helper in the buildup to Ebobisse’s second.

Interim boss Alex Covelo is probably most concerned with San Jose’s persistent defensive fragility, understandably. Still, the growing understanding among Cowell, Ebobisse, Cristian Espinoza and Jamiro Monteiro bodes quite well for their front line’s productivity.

Honorable mentions

Cameron Harper: The New York Red Bulls’ 20-year-old Scottish-American winger earned his first MLS minutes of 2022 by dishing an assist in their 3-0 US Open Cup win at D.C. United. He then vindicated Gerhard Struber’s faith with another helper on Saturday, delivering a delicate ball for Luqinhas to finish as 10-man RBNY snatched a hard-earned road point off their cross-Jersey antagonists the Philadelphia Union.

Gabriele Corbo: CF Montréal’s on-loan Italian defender has had to bide his time on the bench lately as Wilfried Nancy’s first-choice players thrived. Yet he was ready when called upon at Charlotte, stepping in for the suspended Joel Waterman in a 2-0 CFM victory. Corbo completed 19/23 passes, including one key pass, and made three blocks, three interceptions and two recoveries as the high-flying Quebecois surged into first place in the Eastern Conference.

Paxton Pomykal: If you’ve been following the FCD kid’s roller-coaster battle with the aggravating string of injuries that keep sidetracking his obvious talent, you had to appreciate his quietly vital role in the 3-1 humbling of the Galaxy. “The Lewisville Messi” assisted on Paul Arriola’s strike, one of two key passes amid an 86% overall completion rate, and tabbed three accurate long balls and half a dozen recoveries.

Jhon Duran: The 18-year-old offers a bright spot in the midst of late-spring struggles for Chicago Fire FC, who, despite winning the expected-goals battle, contrived to lose 2-1 at home to Cincinnati via two gaffes in the back on Saturday. The much-hyped Colombian attacker came off the bench to level the score at 1-1, heading a corner kick past Roman Celentano for his first career MLS goal, and he also completed 9/10 passes.


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.