You know about the Chicago Fire's Harry Shipp, I'm assuming. Shipp is the captain of the MLS Homegrown team that will be taking on Club America's U-20s in Tuesday night's Chipotle Homegrown Game (9 pm ET; live stream on MLSsoccer.com), and he's among the best playmakers in the league.
That's Harry. Damn good stuff.
You also probably know the Vancouver Whitecaps' Russell Teibert, who is a full-fledged Canadian international, and Colorado duo Dillon Serna and Shane O'Neill, who've been called into USMNT camp. And you know Zach Pfeffer, who's a part-time starter for the Union, and Erik Palmer-Brown, who's been linked with Juventus on-and-off since before he could drive.
I'm going to focus on other guys – five of them who I think will play a key role in this game, and who you should know about:
Justen Glad, CB (RSL): Chose to sign with RSL instead of going to Stanford, and at just 18 he's logged 355 minutes for the MLS team so far in 2015 after spending most of last year in the reserves.
Central defense is a tough spot for most kids, because you have to be A) a good soccer player, B) a good communicator, and C) a ruthless and physical. You can't really know how high a defender's ceiling is until you've seen and heard him communicating with his teammates when the pressure is on.
By all accounts, Glad excels at the first two parts of the game. The obvious comparison is Nat Borchers, who's been one of the most clear-headed and communicative center backs in league history, and was an integral part of RSL's glory years.
"Starting central defender for a decade" is a high bar to hit, but I expect Glad to clear it before he even turns 30. He's in the same "laden with potential" group as Palmer-Brown and US youth international Cameron Carter-Vickers, and now – like RBNY Homegrown central defender Matt Miazga – the next step is to win a starting job outright.
Jay Chapman, MF (TFC): "Can I play you a pass in traffic?"
That's a question worth asking of every player on every team you support. Do you trust them to receive the ball in tight spots? Do you think they'll be able to hold onto it? Do you think they'll be able to turn a typical pass into a dangerous moment? Do they have the footwork and balance to make defenders miss, and then the vision to make them pay?
The answer for all of the above with Chapman is "yes." The 21-year-old hasn't quite gotten used to the speed of things yet, and somebody needs to get him a Chipotle card so he can pack on some pounds and add strength, but the tools (soft feet, good balance) are there for him to be game-opening No. 8 who will work on both sides of the ball.
Current NYCFC demigod Tommy McNamara represents the measuring stick for Chapman going forward. He's not going to break games open all by himself, but he will make the right play and will improve as the talent around him improves.
Sean Davis, MF (RBNY): Eric Alexander is one of my favorite players in the league, and one of the most underrated. And Davis' presence on the RBNY roster is why Alexander became expendable this offseason.
Davis is a classic No. 8 who covers a ton of ground and contributes on both sides of the ball. He hits a big switch and is actually more aggressive and clever in the final third than you'd expect of a guy who didn't really have a "pure attacker" reputation coming into MLS.
Chelsea got a dose of that, by the way:
Like Alexander at the same age, he has to improve his defensive awareness and ability to recover loose balls. If he does that, he'll have an international-caliber future.
Alex Zendejas, MF/F (FCD): He's the youngest player on the team at just 17, and the one with the most upside. Zendejas is a pure playmaker from the FC Dallas Academy, which is setting the standard by which all others in MLS should and will be judged.
Zendejas is a phantom on the ball, just picking perfect spots to be available and then using close control to glide past defenders. He's not full of tricks and step-overs, and is surprisingly economical with his touches and production. Perhaps he'll eventually become a showman, but what makes him fun is that right now, he doesn't need to be.
Shipp is a good comparison for Zendejas at this point. And while Zendejas obviously won't follow in those footsteps to college ball, he needs to learn the lesson playing in the NCAA gave Shipp: How to deal with big, physical, clumsy defenders who will just wipe him out with size, speed and strength.
If Matt Lampson never plays another soccer game, he'll still have made a bigger impression than 95 percent of those who ever lace up a pair of cleats, because what he's doing in his spare time saves lives. Watch that video, folks.
But Matt Lampson will play more soccer games because he's actually a very good goalkeeper, having just posted two straight clean sheets on loan with USL's Charlotte Independence. Lampson takes good angles and has good hands, and should be a calming, veteran presence on Tuesday.