National Writer: Charles Boehm

Young Players: Who most impressed in Matchdays 29 & 30?

Young Players - 9.5.23

Another double-game week for much of MLS made for a hectic few days before the onset of FIFA’s September international window, including many key intra-conference fixtures with hefty Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs implications.

Here’s our rundown of the youngsters who did the most to help their teams pick up precious points. Two reminders:

  1. We’re now just a matter of weeks away from the unveiling of’s annual 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list, which pulls from the same pool of players we evaluate on a week-to-week basis all season. So stay tuned.
  2. You too can have your say in this process. Just find a post like this at the start of every new week in MLS and let us know who caught your eye on the previous matchday.

How about those Reds, eh?!

On Wednesday night the last-placed team in the Eastern Conference reminded everyone that MLS remains, at heart, a league of chaos, breaking an eight-game losing skid by smacking around the Philadelphia Union to the tune of 3-1 at BMO Field. And their 20-year-old homegrown striker was right at the heart of the upset.

As disappointing as the TFC tenure of Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi has been up to now, here everything worked like Bob Bradley would’ve drawn it up last year, as Kerr’s willing legs and smart understanding of space magnified the quality of the Italian internationals flanking him in Toronto’s attacking trident.

Kerr teed up Insigne for the game’s opening goal with a smart channel run and clinical cutback after a Philly turnover in the back. He then linked up with Bernardeschi on the winner after a smart through ball from Kobe Franklin, peeling away from his marker to latch onto Bernardeschi’s deflected cross and calmly slot home. You could see his influence on TFC’s third, too, as Kerr occupied the attention of the Union’s center backs while Jonathan Osorio stole in at the back post to net a classy diving header.

Kerr nearly added to his banner day a few minutes later when he clanged a shot off the crossbar, and nevertheless earned a spot on the MLS Team of the Matchday presented by Audi, a spark of hope amid a rough season in The 6ix.

Could the Timbers really resuscitate this mostly woeful campaign of theirs at the 11th hour, even after the dismissal of head coach Gio Savarese? The Rose City side just gave themselves reason to believe with two potentially massive results, and their young Colombian right back contributed an assist in each of them, running his season total to six.

Mosquera, who turns 21 today – feliz cumpleanos, pibe! – lofted the cross that his countryman Santiago Moreno headed home to open the scoring in the 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake. And if you have some qualms about the passivity of the RSL backline in dealing with a ball in their penalty box that hung high in the air long enough to pick up a coat of snow on it, you’re not alone – but it’s end product nonetheless.

All told, Mosquera completed 41/46 passes in that match (89%) including two key passes, completed 2/2 tackles and made eight recoveries among other defensive contributions.

Three days later, PTFC’s right back also made his mark in a 2-2 rivalry draw at Seattle. There the Rose City side rallied from 2-0 down after a woeful first half, seizing the opportunity extended by Léo Chú’s ejection to snatch yet another positive result on Puget Sound – Portland have not lost at Lumen Field in six years – and deny the Sounders a shot at the Cascadia Cup.

Mosquera completed 47/53 passes in that match (an 89% rate yet again) including another two key passes, as well as connecting on 4/5 long balls and staying active on the defensive side. Crucially, it was his pass to Evander that preceded the Timbers playmaker’s gorgeous long-range strike to level matters at 2-2. Now Mosquera jets back to his homeland to join the Colombia Under-23 national team for two friendlies vs. Mexico.

One of the most vital and easily overlooked ingredients to Miami’s dramatic upswing since the arrival of Leo Messi is their extremely helpful tendency to score early goals. Farías continued the Herons’ healthy habit against LAFC, opening his MLS account with one of the more resourceful long-range strikes you’re likely to see.

Even if you chalk this one up as an unconventional type of goal, the ambition and intelligence required to catch goalkeeper John McCarthy before he set himself was, well… dare we even say Messi-like? After LAFC had spurned their inviting early looks, it tilted the field in the visitors’ favor and paved the way for a 3-1 road win over the defending MLS Cup champs that Messi himself framed as a measuring stick and proof of concept for IMCF.

The most attack-oriented of the three U22 Initiative players signed by Miami this summer has drawn comparisons to Carlos Tevez, and you could see traces of that in his hard running as Messi’s partner up top in a 5-3-2 formation intended to help their side weather the Black & Gold storm at BMO Stadium. It seems likely we’ll see that look again when the GOAT returns from international duty with Argentina.

The Crown were surely annoyed to concede last-gasp equalizers in both of their matches last week, first letting Orlando City escape North Carolina with a draw via Martín Ojeda’s 88th-minute leveler at midweek, then handing Nashville SC an injury-time penalty kick that let slip what would’ve been a massive road win at GEODIS Park.

But their young French center back was strong in back-to-back 90-minute outings, highlighted by a clever headed assist on Scott Arfield’s strike vs. NSC, his first helper of CLTFC’s league campaign and a sign of useful instincts on his occasional forays into the opposition’s penalty box:

Across this week’s two matches, Malanda's passing numbers were 44/54 (81%) and 62/72 (86%) completed and he won 8/12 and 10/13 duels, respectively. Over the 180 minutes he totaled 16 defensive actions and 14 recoveries and importantly, avoided the types of errors that have hampered his search for consistency in MLS play.

Can Charlotte navigate a path into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in year two? They’re perched right below the line on both points and points per game, but more of these outings from Malanda could be key in scrounging up the points they need down the stretch.

One week after scoring a ferociously-hit consolation goal vs. Philadelphia, D.C.’s homegrown attacker built on that with an influential outing as the Black-and-Red routed Chicago Fire FC 4-0 at Audi Field to keep themselves above the East’s playoff line.

TKDP made the most of his 32 touches in 73 minutes, tabbing one key pass, six recoveries, one foul won and winning the majority of his ground and aerial duels – and doubling United’s early lead with this cold-blooded counterattacking sequence:

Afterwards D.C. boss Wayne Rooney piled warm praise on the 21-year-old.

“He's been excellent. I think he's a player who is a lot stronger than you think for his size, he's a very clever player, and I think it's exciting with him,” said the English legend. “Ted is one of the best young American players, I believe. He’s come back from his [ankle] injury, we've seen the last game the goal he scored. Again tonight, a clever player, he picks up some really good pockets, he’s direct, he runs off the ball.”

Honorable mentions

Jules-Anthony Vilsaint: CF Montréal came out second-best on former boss Wilfried Nancy’s emotional return to Quebec, this time in charge of the red-hot Columbus Crew. But the local kid showed admirable heart in an impactful 1g/1a substitute appearance that kept this 4-2 loss close. Vilsaint’s hustle was the main ingredient in Mahala Opoku’s 52nd-minute tally, and he later bagged his first career MLS goal with a crisp conversion of Matko Miljevic's delivery.

Bernard Kamungo: FC Dallas’ underdog hero just keeps digging out timely goals. This time it was the equalizer in their 2-2 draw with Atlanta United, where the Tanzanian showed real bravery to get onto the end of José Martínez's long ball ahead of Brad Guzan and apply the finishing touch despite the collision that inflicted a shoulder injury when he hit the deck.

Jake Davis: Sporting KC banked an emotional comeback win over their new cross-Missouri rivals St. Louis CITY SC, and beyond his strong work in the air and in the tackle, their homegrown right back’s mazy solo run was essential in Alan Pulido’s winner:

Jack McGlynn: With their cross-Jersey enemies the New York Red Bulls visiting Subaru Park on the weekend, the Union needed to bounce back quickly from their aforementioned ambush loss in Toronto. McGlynn’s midfield labor ensured they did, as he logged 81 touches, 89% completion on his 72 passes and 3/4 tackles won.