May is here, and as temperatures rise across MLS, so does the intensity of the weekly grind.

With the season’s rhythm cranking into higher gears, depth is tested and many coaches are trying new options in the search for results and consistency. That opened some doors in Week 9, and we’ll start with one case of a youngster seizing just such an opportunity.

The Revs entered Saturday’s date with Inter Miami on a 1W-5L-0D tailspin, and who should lead the way in arresting that plunge but a 19-year-old homegrown making his first career MLS start? With less than a minute on the clock, to boot:

Sure, Nick Marman’s slack pass out of the back offered the home side an opening big enough to drive a truck through – the chance still had to be created and finished, and Rivera’s technique and composure in the box was outstanding.

The kid from Cranston, Rhode Island went on to play 72 minutes, accruing 46 touches up top alongside Adam Buksa, completing 79% of his passes, going 1/1 on dribbles and drawing two fouls. “Tico” did some decent defensive work, too: six recoveries, 4/7 duels won, and overall showcased the value of the minutes he’s been logging with Revolution II.

“He’s just getting better, it’s his third year, we saw improvements this year in preseason,” head coach Bruce Arena said of his promising prospect postgame. “He continues to make progress. We have to pick the right times to get these young players an opportunity. I think it’s important that you don’t put them in at the [wrong] time and damage their confidence, so the timing has to be right. It’s never perfect trying to figure that out. I think he’s been brought along in a manner where he can step on the field, especially in a home game, and try to produce.”

The Ecuador international was arguably the best player on the pitch in Sunday night’s 2-0 win over Minnesota United, a tiger on both sides of the ball. Palacios served up an impressive five key passes and an 83% completion rate from his left back spot, notching an assist on Jose Cifuentes’ clincher.

He also went 2/2 on dribbles, got stuck into five tackles, won 89% of his duels and made six interceptions and eight recoveries. All in all, it was the kind of outing that can draw the attention of a national team coach making player-pool evaluations some six months out from a World Cup adventure.

In taking over an LAFC project in need of adjustment but not full refurbishment after Bob Bradley, Steve Cherundolo has one of the more nuanced, and thus difficult, tasks in the MLS coaching ranks. The Supporters’ Shield standings show that he’s acing it thus far, and Palacios stands out as one Black & Gold regular who’s shown marked individual evolution and progression.

As my colleague Joe Lowery documented this week, some subtle adjustments in Palacios’ positioning have unlocked a new level of impactfulness, and made him one to watch in the coming weeks.

Here we go again: Another confident NYCFC victory, another agonizing dilemma for the YPPOTW high command as to which of their young talents deserve prime placement in this week’s rundown.

In Sunday’s 3-0 win over San Jose, the Pigeons used a whopping five attacking players currently eligible for this series, and four of them got onto the scoresheet at Yankee Stadium. After much comparison and contemplation, we’re leading off with Rodriguez on account of his relentless work rate and quality on the ball.

The Uruguayan completed 32/37 passes, served up five key passes, went 4/5 on dribbles and 3/3 on tackles, and assisted – his fourth helper of the year in league play alone – on the Cityzens’ crucial second goal, scored by the even younger Gabriel Pereira.

While an elite No. 9 like Taty Castellanos undoubtedly makes it easier for everyone around him to shine, it’s becoming increasingly clear that NYCFC’s young, predominantly South American attacking corps is an absolute Hydra, an incredible array of saucy, quick-thinking and aggressively dynamic kids who can cut you open in short order. Rodriguez is thriving at the heart of it all.

Meanwhile, the red half of Gotham is also riding a young core up the table with a series of impressive performances, and their Venezuelan center midfielder is carrying plenty of the load with some inspired box-to-box play.

While his engine-room partner Frankie Amaya got plenty of consideration too, Casseres trots onto the YPPOTW list for the second week running thanks to his contributions in the resourceful comeback win over Chicago Fire FC that extends the Red Bulls’ 2022 road mark to an MLS record-tying 5W-0L-0D.

Casseres played two key passes (and probably deserved an assist), won most of his duels and was incisive on the ball despite the extremely wet, sloppy conditions on Lake Michigan. He’s the complete package right now and RBNY will be a very tough out as long as that continues.

The Reds continue to grapple with defensive troubles, falling 2-1 at home to FC Cincinnati. That shouldn’t obscure another impressive outing from their 19-year-old homegrown attacker.

Nelson completed 91% of his 35 passes and a jaw-dropping 80% of his 10 dribbles, showing real menace and guile on the ball and drawing three fouls. It was truly entertaining stuff!

He also waded into 25 duels, winning most of them, showing that he’s up for the fight as well. The kid has that special something, with uncommon individual creativity that could become truly devastating once he puts it all together in a team structure with consistency.

With two losses on the trot, head coach Bob Bradley may look to mix up his XI in this week’s cross-Canada visit to Vancouver. From where we’re standing, Nelson is one ingredient that should stay on the lineup sheet.

Honorable mentions

John Tolkin: While we lack in-depth reporting on how the atrociously stormy conditions at Soldier Field affected the texture and styling of his incredible mane of hair, the Red Bulls’ all-action left back looked quite comfortable in the cold and wet as his side beat the Fire. The 19-year-old flew up and down the flank as usual, completing passes at a decent clip, sending in a steady stream of crosses to his strikers, vacuuming up loose balls and crashing into one duel after another.

Alan Velasco: FC Dallas’ teenage tornado has been all over the place in his early MLS career, and we mean that in a mostly good way. The Argentine winger’s passing numbers are inconsistent so far and he can be a turnover machine at times, though it all seems part of the experience with this explosive skill set. And those dips are much easier to take when the highs are this high:

Cam Duke: Sporting Kansas City’s 21-year-old homegrown had to adapt quickly when inserted at right back in place of the injured Graham Zusi vs. FCD on Saturday. He came to grips with that tricky assignment, coping with the threat of Velasco and his teammates and notching an assist on Daniel Salloi’s late equalizer, which helps staunch the bleeding for Sporting after a brutal start to the season.

Chris Gloster: Congrats are due to NYCFC’s young fullback, who entered in place of the injured Malte Amundsen vs. the Earthquakes and made the most of his 34 minutes on the pitch, scoring his first career MLS goal and offering enterprise and imagination along the Pigeons’ left flank.


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.