National Writer: Charles Boehm

Who were the best young-player performers in MLS Week 25?

Another weekend, another avalanche of goals and a general vibe of chaotic enjoyment across MLS’s 14 matches, with only three teams failing to score at least once. And the young’uns were right in the mix, spearheading some of the biggest results.

We’ll start at Subaru Park, where the Eastern Conference leaders rebounded from last week’s loss to FC Cincinnati by thoroughly thumping Chicago Fire FC by a 4-1 scoreline.

Remember, you can get involved with the YPPOTW selection process – just look for a tweet like this on or around Mondays:

That L in Cincy was just the third league loss of the year for Philly – that’s the fewest in the league – and Carranza helped them turn the page in a big way on Saturday, en route to a spot in the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi.

The Argentine assisted on Daniel Gazdag’s opener before hitting the net himself for the Union’s third, mopping up after Mikael Uhre’s saved one-on-one breakaway with a delicate chip to double the hosts’ lead after Chris Mueller had given the Fire hope shortly after halftime. He also completed 16/22 passes (73%), including two key passes, and stayed busy on the other side of the ball as usual.

With 9g/6a in MLS play, Carranza is Philly’s second-leading scorer behind Gazdag (who’s on 12g/6a), with his strike partner Uhre just behind them on 8g/3a. That adds up to 29 goals and 15 assists from their front three, which tells you a lot about why the DOOP squad is five points clear atop the East standings.

“La Joya” shined brilliantly indeed at Toyota Stadium, leading FCD to a timely and impressive 4-1 dispatching of the error-prone San Jose Earthquakes. Looking lively from the opening whistle, Velasco found Jesus Ferreira for a simple finish barely 120 seconds into the match, then pulled off this truly nasty reverse nutmeg to leave no doubt that he was up for it:

On the night he tabbed 53 touches, played four key passes, went 2/4 on dribbles, made eight recoveries, went 6/13 on duels and coughed the ball up just once, cruising into the MLS TOTW as the North Texans kept in touch with the West elite. If FCD want to be part of the MLS Cup conversation, these are the kinds of outings they need with regularity from their club-record signing from Argentina’s Independiente.

And let’s not overlook Velasco’s exclamation point, this howitzer of a strike he uncorked from somewhere near downtown Dallas:

Certain YPPOTW-eligible ballers find such levels of quality and consistency that their names become ever-present in our notes, almost always in the mix for selection week in, week out. And Petrovic has entered that territory this summer.

The Revs’ shot-stopper has one of the highest save percentages in the league and posted his fourth consecutive clean sheet in Saturday’s 1-0 win over D.C. United.

While it’s certainly true that D.C. are down pretty bad these days – the Black-and-Red are right in the thick of the, um, “race” for the Wooden Spoon – they made Petrovic earn his win, forcing him to make three saves, the most notable this leaping denial of a Ravel Morrison rocket:

“We thought he was going to be good, but not this good, this early,” head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena recently said of his 22-year-old ‘keeper. And if the Revs kick on into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, Petrovic might just turn out to be an X-factor in that tournament.

If you tied ATLUTD’s senior leadership to an armchair and administered a healthy dose of truth serum today, I suspect they’d concede that the performance Almada produced at Cincinnati is exactly what they were hoping and planning for when they splashed out the biggest transfer fee ($16 million) in MLS history to acquire him last winter from Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield.

The 21-year-old was effervescent at TQL Stadium, clanging a well-struck shot off the post in the opening minutes before blasting a gorgeous one-touch finish into the top corner to push the visitors ahead early:

He then stacked up plenty of graft in addition to that splash of glitz, completing 95% of his 62 passes, laying on four key passes (including a role in the buildup to Andrew Gutman's dramatic late equalizer), winning 5/10 duels and drawing three fouls.

This is the version of Almada the Five Stripes need on a weekly basis. If he can sustain it, their ceiling rises dramatically.

If anyone can claim to have eclipsed Velasco’s outing in Dallas-San Jose, it’s Ferreira, who bagged a brace to stay right in the thick of the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race. Cheetah’s evening was a minimalist marvel, as he produced this output with just two shots and 17 touches overall.

Sure, the Quakes’ ragged defending made things easier for him – you’d like to think most opponents would recognize the foolhardiness of letting Ferreira loiter all alone in the goalmouth like this:

And there was a streak of good fortune in his second, in the form of a friendly bounce ricocheting right back to his feet when it seemed his chance had slipped away. But watch it again, and give him some credit for the intelligence and efficiency with which he led Dallas’ swift transition:

We feel we should emphasize that this is a 21-year-old homegrown Young Designated Player – most likely World Cup-bound this fall with the United States – who is fighting for the scoring title while leading the charge for a side with legitimate MLS Cup hopes. That remains rare in league history.

Honorable mentions

Facundo Torres: In many other weeks, Orlando City’s winger would easily make the YPPOTW top five after netting the game-winning goal in a vital 1-0 road win over a conference competitor. The Uruguayan also menaced on the dribble, completed 85% of his passes and was dogged and committed defensively – a vital form of commitment whenever one is visiting Red Bull Arena.

Brenner: Cincy’s Brazilian striker might just be half of the most dangerous forward pairing in MLS, as he and Brandon Vazquez just keep scoring and impacting games in positive ways. Brenner bagged his ninth goal of the season in the 2-2 draw with Atlanta, running his season total to 9g/4a, already surpassing his 2021 totals in less than half the minutes played.

John Tolkin: The New York Red Bulls’ all-action 20-year-old left back made a game-high seven tackles against Orlando, part of more than a dozen defensive actions overall, and also ranged forward to create three scoring chances for teammates.

Joseph Rosales: The 21-year-old Honduran came off the bench to make an instant, and important, impact for Minnesota United FC at Nashville SC on Sunday. Replacing Franco Fragapane in the 73rd minute, Rosales set up Alan Benitez for the game-winning goal just two minutes later, and was tidy on the ball in his 17 minutes.


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.