The 2019 Generation adidas Cup came to a close on Saturday, with the Seattle Sounders Under-17 side topping the Champions Division, the first MLS side to win the top tier of the competition since international teams joined the fray.
While several of Seattle’s youngsters shone bright, last week’s competition served for some of the best and brightest academy talent to put their best foot forward.
Below is a look at 10 of the top performances from MLS academy players at this year’s GA Cup.
LB Jonathan Gomez, FC Dallas
Gomez provides everything a coach would hope for from a modern fullback. He can connect play, get up the left flank and serve in a good ball. While there were moments of uncertainty at the back for Gomez, his ability to man that side of the field was a big part of FC Dallas emerging from their group in the Champions Division.
LW Kamron Habibullah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
It was a strong week for the Whitecaps, who bossed group play in the Premier Division, scoring in bunches without conceding. Habibullah’s ability to make things happen in the final third was notable, as he scored four goals and completed 81% of his passes. While he showcased the ability to finish in impressive fashion, he moved the ball quickly, finding teammates in dangerous pockets of the field with his distribution.
The only downside from his week was picking up a red card in the final group game against Toluca, a game where he had already scored one of the goals of the tournament. Born in 2003, he could be in line for a call-up to the Canadian U-17 national team for next month’s Concacaf Championship.
LB Kobe Hernandez-Foster, LA Galaxy
A dynamic left back, Hernandez-Foster buzzes around the field, getting forward into the attack while also showing good decision-making when it comes to staying home. When he paired with Cameron Dunbar on the left flank, the Galaxy enjoyed plenty of joy on that side of the field. Hernandez-Foster is also heading to for next month’s Concacaf Championship, where he should be a key player for the Americans, most likely playing as a center back.
LW Theo Ku-DiPietro, D.C. United
While it was his spectacular goal against Ulsan that caught the attention, Ku-DiPietro showed in that moment he is capable of trying something outrageous and pulling it off. The forward/winger was constantly dangerous through most of his time in Frisco, completing 82% of his passes while drifting out wide or staying central. D.C. United finished their week strong after two losses on the first day of group play, securing wins in regulation or via a penalty shootout in the team’s final five games of the week.
CM Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders
The Champions Division MVP, Leyva shook off a slow start in the very first game vs. Valencia to provide a lockdown option in central midfield. A recent Sounders Homegrown signing, Leyva backed up that promotion by captaining his side to a Generation adidas Cup-winning week.
Deployed mostly as the No. 6 for the bulk of his time on the field, Leyva won 63% of his defensive duels and made himself available for the ball as his team looked to build up from the back. His set-piece service created plenty of danger, including the winning goal against Flamengo in the second group game. A late addition to the US player pool, he too is bound for the Concacaf Championship.
F Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Seattle Sounders
It’s hard to imagine Seattle having the same kind of success without Ocampo-Chavez’s heroics. He finished tied for the Golden Boot lead with six goals in six games, and he capped it off in the final by setting up teammate Ray Serrano for the championship-winning goal.
The week is sure to be a huge boost for the Tacoma Defiance-signed forward, as he tussled with defenders from Valencia, Flamengo and River Plate, finding ways to convert chances in a variety of ways. After his successful week, Ocampo-Chavez is heading to Florida to join up with the US Under-17 men’s national team in May for the Concacaf Championship in fine form.
GK Chituru Odunze, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
It was a sensational week for Odunze in the Premier Division, as he didn’t concede a goal in the four group games he appeared in the starting lineup. The US youth national team shot-stopper looked smooth and comfortable when challenged, making some of the most impressive stops of the tournament.
While Monterrey finally bested him in one of the placement games, the Whitecaps’ defensive effort was impressive, conceding just twice from seven games in the week. Like a few others here, he’ll be part of the US squad at the upcoming Concacaf U-17 Championship.
AM David Rodriguez, FC Dallas
Tidy and effective in tight spaces, Rodriguez doesn’t earn the same kind of attention as some of his Dallas teammates, but is yet another player looking to break through. Already signed to a deal with North Texas SC, Rodriguez can create danger with the ball at his feet, showing the ability to beat players with the ball.
Three goals from the week showed his ability to chip in goals from midfield as well, while he completed 80% of his passes during Champions Division play. Keep an eye on the attacking midfielder as he looks for minutes in USL League One this year.
F Jacen Russell-Rowe, Toronto FC
A big part of what can make a striker special is his ability to pop up in the right place at the right time. And that was a massive reason why Russell-Rowe continues to be a nightmare for opposing defenders at the academy level, scoring five goals at the Generation adidas Cup.
The classic No. 9 is one of several intriguing attacking prospects coming through the Toronto FC academy, and Russell-Rowe showed that he can be clinical in front of goal, despite the team just missing out on a spot in the quarterfinals.
CM Aidan Wolf, Columbus Crew SC
Goal-scoring central midfielders are a coach’s dream, providing an additional scoring punch. And while Wolf added that for the Crew, tallying three times, his ability to connect play and influence was the buildup was just as impressive.
Wolf looked for the ball and made himself available to teammates, forming an enticing tandem with Elton Chifamba. A late game-winning penalty kick against the New England Revolution in one of the group games showed that he can deliver in pressure-filled moments as well.