National Writer: Charles Boehm

Young Players: Who most impressed in Matchdays 21 & 22?

Young Players - Obed Vargas - Seattle Sounders

“The young ones are showing up.”

“This is a good example of what the club wants to do. We develop young players and help them to get better.”

“He has been in the spotlight from a young age and handled it very well. I know that he is up to the challenge of taking on a more expanded role with more responsibility.”

Scan recent MLS headlines and young talent is part of the story everywhere you turn. Just this past week, it powered league leaders Inter Miami’s ability to produce results despite the absence of Lionel Messi and other stars. It made the path ColumbusAidan Morris walked to become one of the next multi-million-dollar outbound transfers. It dominated the backstory of Canada’s new captain Alphonso Davies and his side’s Copa América dreams.

The pattern continues on the scoreboard, too. If you want to compete for a place in the MLS elite, odds are you’ll need to call on youth sooner or later. So it was again on Matchdays 21 and 22.

RBNY’s 21-year-old Venezuelan doubled his 2024 goals and assists numbers this week, helping his side snatch a 2-2 draw at CF Montréal on Juneteenth despite trailing 2-0 at the hour mark and dominate Toronto FC to the tune of 3-0 on Saturday.

Carmona sparked Wednesday’s comeback with an emphatic first-time left-footed finish, sniffing out the rebound when Jonathan Sirois threw himself at the feet of Elias Manoel after a lightning-fast Red Bulls transition. It was one of four shots by Carmona, all of them on target, and he also completed 23/28 passes, one of them a key pass, and won 3/5 ground duels.

“Wiki” then notched his second assist this season in Saturday’s big win. After intercepting a pass in RBNY’s half of the pitch, he surged forward on the dribble before laying a sensational curling delivery across the face of goal that Dennis Gjengaar slid in to finish at the back post:

Carmona also offered six recoveries, four defensive actions, an 80% pass completion rate and 4/8 duels won.

Amid several international absences, Atlanta are asking several homegrowns to step up, and Fortune is the latest to answer the call. The Trinidadian-American did plenty of hard running and smart distribution as the Five Stripes took four points from six on a two-game road swing through D.C. and St. Louis to stay undefeated under interim head coach Rob Valentino.

In the 1-1 draw at STL, Fortune completed 85% of his 40 passes, including 6/8 long balls, went 2/2 on dribbles, 3/3 on tackles and 8/10 on ground duels, and contributed 10 defensive actions and nine recoveries.

Coming off the bench against D.C. United, he was active in his 25 minutes, highlighted by a game-winning assist on Thiago Almada’s wondergoal – and if you think Almada’s individual brilliance on the dribble cheapens that stat, well, take it up with the number crunchers.

“He knows that there's opportunity and I think he pushes really hard, in a respectful way, but he also knows that he can step in and do a job,” said Valentino of Fortune after the St. Louis match.

Only the truest of ball-knowers would have seen it coming, but sure enough, Dallas at Seattle turned out to be a faceoff between a couple of the more interesting youngsters in the Western Conference.

Just days after making headlines for his switch of international allegiance from the United States to Mexico – “It's the team I grew up watching. It's a way for me to honor my family, my culture,” he saidVargas put in real work on Saturday to undergird the Sounders’ second comeback of the week, a wild late rally from 2-0 vs. FCD to 3-2 winners.

Vargas tabbed 71 touches, completed 51/55 passes (93%), four of them creating scoring chances, and added five recoveries and three defensive actions. But who are we kidding? All of the other stuff got left in the shade by his gorgeous, immaculate through-ball assist on Jordan Morris’ delirious injury-time winner:

The week in total displayed the homegrown’s resilience, as he weathered some early struggles in the midweek draw at Houston, where he was among those culpable on the Dynamo’s opener before the Rave Green fought back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 road result.

Vargas and the Sounders had to mount that ferocious late rally largely due to Delgado, who scored Dallas’ first goal at Lumen Field and assisted on their second.

With the score still at 0-0 in the 66th minute, the Ecuadorian showed razor-sharp instincts to drift into the danger zone when Logan Farrington created a turnover along the right touchline deep in Seattle’s end of the field, and his leaping volleyed finish – Delgado’s third in league play this season – past Stefan Frei was top-shelf.

When FCD signed him on loan from Independiente del Valle last winter, Delgado was thought to be predominantly a holding mid. Yet he showed a No. 10’s quick feet and eye for space on the North Texans’ second, drifting into a pocket atop the box to receive a pass and play in Petar Musa with a delightfully-weighted pass:

On just 32 touches, Delgado completed 19/22 passes, with two chances created and five defensive actions.

Bangers, dimes, penalty kick saves, lead changes, comebacks: Real Salt Lake’s 4-3 midweek shootout win over Sporting KC had almost everything you could want from an #MLSAfterDark special, and Luna grabbed a starring role.

Moon Boy delivered excellent service on both of RSL’s first two goals to run his season assists total to nine. First, he led a counterattack with a long carry before slotting an angled pass into the run of Andrés Gómez, releasing the Colombian for a clinical finish.

Then Luna stroked one of the most beautiful through balls of the year to date, a raking delivery from his own half that set up Anderson Julio for a cheeky chip over Tim Melia.

Luna got a Team of the Matchday nod for his efforts, became the youngest player in RSL history to record 20 career goal contributions, and RSL set a new club record by running their unbeaten streak to 15 games.

Honorable mentions

Gavin Beavers: Salt Lake might have been ruing two dropped points in Kansas City were it not for their 19-year-old goalkeeper. Beavers made eight saves, including a clutch denial of a Johnny Russell penalty kick in the first half, ensuring SKC underperformed their 4.2 expected goals.

Julian Hall: The Red Bulls’ teen phenom, who turned 16 just a couple of months ago, chalked his name next to Freddy Adu’s on Wednesday by scoring his first career MLS goal, which also happened to be the last-gasp equalizer that drew RBNY level with Montréal in the dying moments:

Nathan Ordaz: LAFC trounced San Jose so badly on Saturday that it sealed the fate of Earthquakes head coach Luchi Gonzalez, who was dismissed on Monday. If the Quakes thought they might catch a break when the Angelenos threw on a battery of youngsters in the final stages, Ordaz and Tomás Ángel disabused them of that notion by combining for the final goal that ran the rout to 6-2. Keep an eye on LAFC’s kids.