It’s another typical Monday, and frankly, the YPPOTW politburo is tired. A busy schedule, late-summer heat, back-to-school season, the vague sense of impending doom that’s settled over much of humanity lately – there are myriad reasons for human adults to feel this way.
But young people, they’re not like us. They’re fresher, more energetic, they recover quicker, their bodies retain much more elasticity, and most haven’t lived long enough to develop sustained ennui. And so it often is on the soccer pitch as well, especially in MLS, where the mileage and stress are adding up with about one month remaining in the regular season, and the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs are no longer a realistic possibility for everyone.
The kids are thriving. Some have already hit the metaphorical wall and regrouped; others have found and maintained their stride. Many – too many to fit here, in fact – were downright dominant over the weekend.
Here are the best under-23s of Week 27.
No Walker Zimmerman, no Shaq Moore? No problem for NSC, who jetted northwest to Vancouver and banked three road points in emphatic fashion even while resting two key defenders and limiting a couple more starters to bench duty. Maher was a big, big reason it worked out for Gary Smith.
The Indiana University product thumped home a first-half corner kick to double Nashville’s early lead, then doubled his own tally with a quirky looping effort just after the break, his first and second goals of the year.
He also completed 73/89 passes (89%), played two key passes, won nine aerials and made eight clearances, four blocks and six recoveries at the center of the Coyotes' three-man back line. No surprise, then, that the St. Louis native strolled into the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi after showcasing the depth resurgent NSC can call on in the home stretch.
Someone with a vivid imagination once said that raising kids is like getting pecked to death by ducks. Gonzalo Higuain and Inter Miami might feel similarly about their visit to Harrison, New Jersey on Saturday, where they were hustled, harried and hassled to within an inch of their lives by the baby Bulls, with Casseres leading the way.
Working in an advanced midfield position, he contributed two assists, three key passes, two shots on target, 2/4 on dribbles, 8/14 on duels and a bunch of other defensive actions, with nary a single foul committed in the 3-1 win.
MLSsoccer.com’s resident scoops specialist Tom Bogert reports that RBNY have rejected “numerous” bids from European clubs ahead of most transfer windows closing across the Atlantic later this week.
If you’ve spent any time watching the Venezuelan do just about everything at one point or another for the Red Bulls over the past few years, you probably don’t have any difficulty understanding why they’re holding out for more, probably a good deal more, than the numbers presently being batted around.
Congrats are due to Casseres’ younger teammate after he scored his first career MLS goal, a deserving reward for his efforts not only on Saturday but over the past few weeks, during which time he’s become a regular starter – and on a very Red Bulls type of play, as well:
Playing on the front foot, numbers pouring into the opposition’s penalty box, direct service hit from wide, then out-reacting the opponent to create and finish a high-probability chance – many hallmarks of energy-drink soccer from the US youth international here.
The 19-year-old center mid also posted some uncharacteristic numbers in other departments, though. Edelman logged 46 touches and completed 85% of his 40 passes, including a key pass, in addition to his five recoveries and two accurate long balls. The kid can press, yes, and he can also play ball. It’s already prompting some pretty striking comparisons:
With just two league wins – and several ugly losses – between mid-May and mid-August, Orlando City had given us ample reason to expect the worst from their run-in. Yet with Sunday’s dramatic, chaotic, rain-drenched 2-1 victory over New York City FC, they’ve suddenly reeled off three straight wins, and their 22-year-old Uruguayan attacker has been massive.
Torres assisted on Junior Urso’s opener, his eighth helper of the season, en route to a TOTW honor. He also completed 41/55 (75%) passes in a central playmaking role, drew three fouls, won most of his eight duels and gobbled up nine recoveries as the Lions dug deep to find an injury-time winner after the defending champs had equalized in the second half via Maxi Moralez.
It’s understandable if you aren’t ready to bet the house on a deep postseason run for OCSC at this point. Torres’ contributions are a leading reason such a concept is even conceivable, though.
FCD have reason to be frustrated from another batch of dropped points after Real Salt Lake held them to a 1-1 draw in Frisco on Saturday. The contributions of their “Jewel” should nevertheless be noted and appreciated.
Velasco was quite dynamic in this one, scoring his fifth goal of the season with a calm, clinical low finish and creating four scoring chances while passing at an 86% completion rate overall.
Jayden Nelson: Though we were recently accused of overlooking the Toronto FC homegrown, rest assured that YPPOTW eyes have very much been tracking the 19-year-old’s intriguing shift from the wing to central midfield now that the Reds have their luxurious battery of Italian stars to work the flanks. Nelson worked hard in the engine room to help TFC bank a badly-needed road win at Charlotte FC, and we detect shades of the fruitful breakthrough Latif Blessing made when Bob Bradley deployed him in a similar situation at LAFC a couple years ago.
Ismael Kone: While one could certainly argue that the second yellow card that got him ejected before halftime was a harsh refereeing decision, we’ll readily acknowledge that it kept him out of this week’s YPPOTW top five just the same, because sentencing your teammates to a full second half shorthanded is generally a bad idea. CF Montréal managed to hold their 2-0 lead in Chicago, however, and Kone’s wonderstrike from just outside the box was both a gorgeous hit and a decisive influencer of the game states that got them there:
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.