HOUSTON — The U.S. Soccer Development Academy finals wrapped up on Saturday night with Real Salt Lake-Arizona and the New York Red Bulls claiming the Under-16 and Under-18 championships, respectively.
Eight of the 16 teams that participated in the tournament were MLS Academy teams, meaning there is a chance that a future Homegrown signee was on the field, someone who could follow in the footsteps of LA Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew midfielder Wil Trapp or Houston Dynamo forward Bryan Salazar as the next Homegrown star in MLS.
MLSsoccer.com spoke with several coaches and scouts during the week and here are five players that stood out:
5. Christian Lucatero, midfielder, Houston Dynamo U-16s – File this name in the “one to watch” category. Lucatero’s name was mentioned by several coaches and scouts when talking about the Dynamo's talented youth side. The attacker, who just turned 16, showed one of the smoothest touches of any player in the tournament. While he can sometimes have too much confidence in that skill, he has the technique to dominate. Plus, his sterling left-footed free kick goal in Game 2 against RSL reminded of the attempts of another left-footer who wears orange and has "Davis" on his back.
4. Diego Silva, left back, Real Salt Lake Arizona U-16s – RSL are loaded with talent, but Silva stood out. He’s extremely comfortable on the ball and was able to create from the back. Left backs with good touch and the ability to blow by opposing defenders are a hot commodity in MLS and Silva, whose nickname is "El Diablo," showed that and more against the best his age group has to offer.
3. Sean Melvin, goalkeeper, Vancouver Whitecaps U-18s– Goalkeepers rarely stand out in these type of competitions but Melvin certainly looked the part of an MLS netminder. The Victoria, B.C., native has a big frame, can move well, commands his box and is quick off his line to claim balls or stop shots. On his way to allowing just two group-stage goals, Melvin highlighted his week by stopping a Alex Muyl penalty kick in a 1-0 win for Vancouver.
2. Ethan Decker, forward, New York Red Bulls U-18s – New York’s roster is another one that is loaded with talent and Decker (above) is part of that collection. The New Jersey native makes smart runs and has a nose for the ball. Scouts and coaches said the University of Connecticut commit has the quality you want in a front man, including the ability to find the ball in dangerous spaces and finish. He punctuated his week with a 30-yard golazo in the U-18 final.
1. Alex Muyl, forward, New York Red Bulls U-18s – Muyl was impressive as a 16-year-old at this tournament last year and his game has taken a step up since. The skill that separated him in 2012 from others is still there, but now comes at a faster pace. The Georgetown University commit is skilled on the ball and his ability to cut through a defense and finish were on full display with his four group-stage goals this week.
Others to watch: Brooks Lennon, winger (RSL-Arizona U-16), Jordan Morris, forward (Seattle Sounders U-18), Arun Basuljevic, midfielder (New York Red Bulls U-18)