Hat trick, dramatic golazo to spark delirious late comeback, key strike to bank historic inaugural victories… the kids were up to things in MLS Week 4.
Here’s the rundown of the best of the best among top performances by young players around the league last weekend. Don’t forget: you too can take part in the YPPOTW selection process. Find a Monday tweet like this from me and share the standouts you believe deserve consideration.
FC Dallas’ No. 9 doesn’t walk into this list so much as strut in doing his solo dance of choice across center stage like a Soul Train Line. Ferreira was devastatingly effective in the pulsating 4-1 win over Portland, bagging three goals in 10 first-half minutes before heading off any Timbers' comeback hopes with a late assist to Paul Arriola.
Watch out, Mexico! USMNT's Jesús Ferreira sends warning shot
In doing so, he also underlined the potential of Nico Estevez’s US men’s national team-style 4-3-3 tactics and the reasons for the USMNT and their fans to take heart from Ferreira and Arriola performing well on the eve of a huge trio of World Cup qualifiers.
Confession: Even to this day, in the year 2022, I still find myself mistakenly typing “David” instead of “Jesus” when writing about FCD’s star Ferreira. That’s me showing my age, though it also points to the big shoes Jesus’ father’s own career, the 2010 MLS MVP, left him to fill. Now more than ever, we have reasons to believe the son might match or even exceed his dad’s legacy.
Philly beat reigning champs NYCFC in their own house on Saturday, and needed less than 27% of possession to do it. Intensity and efficiency is the name of the DOOPers’ game, and their 20-year-old right back – who, remember, is basically getting his first extended run with the first team this season – epitomizes that.
Harriel handled his defensive duties expertly, helping to stymie Talles Magno and a visibly frustrated Taty Castellanos on his own pitch, and even saved a goal with a headed goal-line clearance. He then got forward to deliver an expert low cross for Daniel Gazdag to tap home at the far post for the clincher.
“He’s only been with us for a pretty short time, he’s still a young defender, but the one thing I love about him is how brave he is,” said Union head coach Jim Curtin of Harriel. “He always defends forward and never does it in an aggressive way, he comes out on a lot of duels. So if you look today, NYCFC tried to overload his side because he is a young defender, he wins all of his aerials duels, and wins his one-on-ones. It was another great performance from Nathan and the thing he has improved on most in the past six months is his ability to join the attack, he’s so fast with the ball.
“I think there is another level he can get to, and we want him to be impactful in attack, but overall he is a damn good defender.”
Speaking of family legacies, the Petrassos sure have churned out some footballing quality.
Luca, 21, dished up two assists in TFC’s 2-1 comeback win over D.C. United to hand Bob Bradley his first Reds victory, displaying a classy left foot as he roamed forward to join the attack from his left back spot. His older brother Michael, also a TFC academy product, has carved out a solid career in England and Canada – and now it seems his younger sibling is well on track.
Petrasso served up three key passes, went 3/3 on dribbles and tackled well to boot. All in all, he was good value for his slot in the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi and Bradley will be encouraged to see such impact from the fullback position given their importance in his system.
We’ll stay north of the border to salute Montréal’s 19-year-old central midfield wunderkind, who was massively involved in many key events, both for better and for worse, in the breathless 3-3 draw at Atlanta United. It was a rough start, as Kone mislaid the back pass that Josef Martinez pounced on to open the scoring and fire up the Mercedes-Benz Stadium home crowd. But the kid persevered.
Kone assisted on Djordje Mihailovic's jailbreak opener shortly thereafter, exposing the dreadfully disorganized Five Stripes with a through ball from deep. He then scored their second himself with a perfectly-timed arrival in the penalty box before earning the penalty kick converted by Romell Quioto to push the Quebecois into a 3-1 advantage before halftime.
It was a microcosm of Kone’s baptism by fire in MLS and Concacaf Champions League play this spring, showcasing his talent, resilience and room for growth. He was rewarded with a call-up to the Canadian national team by John Herdman, with this World Cup qualifying window offering another priceless set of learning experiences.
The YPPOTW council may have to start writing in Bender’s name in pen if the No. 1 SuperDraft pick keeps balling out like this.
Roaming CLT’s left flank to good effect again, the Baltimore kid was instrumental in the expansion club’s first-ever victory, a stylish and fully-deserved 3-1 defeat of the New England Revolution in front of nearly 30,000 thrilled fans at Bank of America Stadium.
GOAL: Ben Bender, Charlotte FC - 64th minute
Thiago Almada: The talented young Argentine arrived in ATL with a big price tag hanging over his head, which can complicate the learning curve for most anyone. Perhaps we’ll look back on Saturday as a watershed moment for Almada, though, as he came off the bench for the second half and scored a worldie to cut Atlanta’s deficit in half and set the stage for their late-leveler.
"Oh, what a goal!" | ELECTRIC Thiago Almada opens Atlanta United account
Facundo Torres: Another vaunted South American newcomer, “El Cuervo” got off the mark for Orlando City with a powerful header of an Ercan Kara cross to deliver the Lions their first win on the West Coast since the Obama administration.
Brian Gutierrez: From where we’re standing, MLS was long overdue for a skillful “Guti” of its own, and Chicago Fire FC might just have one. The 18-year-old creator came off the bench to ice their 3-1 dispatching of Sporting KC at Soldier Field, running onto an Xherdan Shaqiri pass and chopping up his defender before squaring to Kacper Przybylko for the undefeated Fire’s third goal.
Obed Vargas: Seattle’s rock-solid 16-year-old center mid just keeps doing the dang thing. The Alaskan showed both grit and guile in his 90 minutes against Austin, where the Sounders gutted out a 1-1 road draw fresh off an intense CCL duel in Mexico vs. Club Leon. He shows additional layers of his game with each performance, to the point that the dual-eligible Mexican-American has grabbed the full attention of key observers on both sides of the border:
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.