Meet Bryang Kayo, DC's box-to-box midfielder already drawing rave reviews

FRISCO, Texas — At 6-foot-1, Bryang Kayo’s frame naturally sets him apart from his peers.

However, as the match begins, the box-to-box midfielder's build is almost an afterthought. The youngster’s touch and ability to think one step ahead show why U.S. Soccer and D.C. United are so excited about the 16-year-old.

And Kayo has made rapid progress, called up to the U.S. U-17 national team camp in early April. On Saturday, he came off the bench in the 57th minute for Loudon United, the Black and Red’s USL team, in a 2-0 loss against the Ottawa Fury.

Now, the midfielder is making his mark on the Premier Division of the 2019 Generation Adidas Cup. He played a vital role in a group-stage win over the Houston Dynamo (shootout) and a 3-0 drubbing of South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai.

“I think the game went pretty well,” Kayo told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “I think there was a bit of a slow start, but given the 25-minute half, you can’t come out slow. You gotta come out fast. It took us a while to get into a rhythm, but we got into it and we created a lot of chances, and that led to us scoring the goal.”

Providing runs deep from midfield, his strides mirrored that of another lanky midfielder, Manchester City great Yaya Toure, going up the pitch and evading defenders, all while still searching for options.

His maturity is that of a first-team player as well, being the first to comfort his teammate after a miss in Monday’s penalty-kick shootout. He was calm and composed even as Dynamo players clipped at his heels, unable to stop him as he slalomed down the field.  

Those characteristics are ones Kayo has garnered from being with the first and second teams. Now, the translation to D.C.’s younger age groups is evident.

“You gotta expect it,” Kayo said. “You’re going to get pushed around playing with bigger guys. They always feel threatened by young guys coming in, so you just gotta deal with it. I think coming down makes it easier because I get used to it and I just play my game.”

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