What is The Leap™️ and how does a player make it?
Don’t overthink it. That’s the first thing to remember. The Leap™️ is probably what you think it is. You’ll know it when you see it. For the more pedantic among you – I’m looking at you, comment section cowboys – we’re defining it here as a significant and noticeable elevation in a player’s level of play from year to year.
The second thing to remember is that The Leap™️ doesn’t have a singular definition. Not every leap is created the same, and the definition changes on a case-by-case basis, depending on the player and the jump in level. From non-factor to contributor, reserve to starter, starter to star and star to superstar, progress isn’t universal.
Now you’ve got the frame of reference down, let’s get into it. Below are five players I think have made The Leap™️ this season. Feel free to make a case for anyone I overlooked, forgot or just didn’t have room for in the comment section or get at me on Twitter.
Alphonso Davies (Vancouver Whitecaps)
The Leap: Elite prospect to Bayern Munich
Duh. There’s not much to say here that you haven’t already heard. Alphonso Davies is a one-man wrecking crew in the open field, and his final product in and around the 18-yard box has gone from spotty to spot on in the past year. The 17-year-old (still staggering) got his feet wet in 2017 then became so dominant in 2018 that Bayern Munich dropped eight figures to secure his services. Davies made The Leap™️.
Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC)
The Leap: MLS regular to MLS game-changer
2018: 15 goals all comps
2017: 2 goals all comps
2016: 8 goals all comps
2015: 1 goal all comps
2014: 3 goals all comps<
2013: 5 goals all comps
We always knew Jonathan Osorio had something special in the final third, but he’s gone vintage Frank Lampard this year. Late runs, tidy finishes and goals in big moments. From Concacaf Champions League to MLS to the Canadian Champioship, the 26-year-old made The Leap™️ at the perfect time.
Why is that? His contract is up at the end of this season. Will his hometown club be able to hold onto him? And why doesn’t Canada play him more?
Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls)
The Leap: MLS starter to MLS All-Star
Like Tyler Adams, who made The Leap™️ last season, Aaron Long is a Red Bulls success story. After bouncing around MLS and USL, he found a home and a long-term position with Red Bulls II, excelled in the second division and got the call to the first team.
Long was very good in 2017 as he established himself as an MLS starter. He’s been even better in 2018 – a consistent partner in Tim Parker certainly helps – while adding MLS All-Star to his resume for the Supporters’ Shield leaders. He’s only 25 years old, and is second in MLS in aerials won and fifth in duels won — and has picked up just one yellow card in New York’s high-press system.
Could a USMNT look be coming? TBD.
Daniel Salloi (Sporting Kansas City)
The Leap: Rotation player to first-choice starter
It took a few years for Daniel Salloi to break into Peter Vermes’ rotation, but you can make a compelling argument that he’s been Sporting KC’s best attacking player this season.
The Hungarian is tied with Johnny Russell for the club lead for goals in all comps (9), is tied for second in assists (6), is tops among SKC attackers in chances created (30) and is tops overall in shots (40) and shots on target (21). There’s a reason Vermes locked the 22-year-old down with a new long-term deal before this season even began.
Salloi more than passes the eye test as well, and he’s done all this while splitting time between his normal spot on the left wing and deputizing at center forward. Full national team call-ups are coming, and the new-look partnership with countryman Krisztian Nemeth at club level could take him to another level as well.
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)
The Leap: Learning the ropes to unquestioned starter
Reggie Cannon played all of one minute in 2017, subbing in to a 2-2 game against the Red Bulls last September. In 2018, the 20-year-old Homegrown made right back his own in Dallas, starting all 23 games he’s played in and pushing his way into the conversation about the best defenders in MLS.
That’s all good, but it’s not enough to have one good season as a young player. With his raw ability, Cannon should be in that conversation year after year. One season does not a career make, and nobody is talking about Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster this season, though both seemed ready to make The Leap™️ in 2017.
Check out this thread for more on Cannon. Sometimes video is better than words.
20-year-old Reggie Cannon is starting at right back for the Western Conference leaders FC Dallas and is doing good things. Let's take a look at what makes Cannon such a special player:— Joseph Lowery (@joeInCleats) August 15, 2018
One of the first things that stands out about Reggie Cannon is his skill in the final third. He's always overlapping or positioned high up the field so he can involve himself in FC Dallas' attacks. Look at how comfortably shifty Cannon is on the ball here before playing a pass. pic.twitter.com/UatpLQq86q— Joseph Lowery (@joeInCleats) August 15, 2018
Here, Cannon hesitates for a moment and then touches the ball down the line to beat a defender before playing a pass into the box. Really clever skill and good speed. pic.twitter.com/ObN0Rdah8y— Joseph Lowery (@joeInCleats) August 15, 2018
Another shifty moment on the ball high up the field, Cannon creates space for himself and plays a perfect little ball right to Urruti. pic.twitter.com/n4CCbQ22km— Joseph Lowery (@joeInCleats) August 15, 2018
Reggie Cannon's comfort on the ball lead directly to this goal against San Jose. He picks up a loose ball, dribbles through a couple of defenders, and plays a teammate through. pic.twitter.com/hqFyxyWyBT— Joseph Lowery (@joeInCleats) August 15, 2018
His skill on the ball obviously translates to other areas of the field as well. Cannon collects a ball deep in Dallas' own half, spins away from pressure, and plays a pass forward. pic.twitter.com/FYFUVlT2wk— Joseph Lowery (@joeInCleats) August 15, 2018