Playoffs - 2020 - Tajon Buchanan - New England Revolution
Conor Kvatek

The breakout players of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs | Greg Seltzer

Every postseason sees previously unheralded players step up with vital performances to help their teams wend though the draw, and the Audi 2020 MLS Playoffs have certainly been no exception.

There has been no shortage of guys that were able to "turn it up to 11" once the postseason arrived. And as success breeds notoriety, it will come as no surprise that four of the six sudden standouts remain alive with their teams in the MLS Cup hunt.


Brian Anunga & Alistair Johnston

Nashville SC

The honorary cheat pick goes to a Nashville SC duo that helped the expansion side come shockingly close to the Eastern Conference Final. Thanks to his forceful work rate, Anunga suddenly emerged in the playoffs as a very difficult central midfielder for even the best teams to play against. Johnston had started all but two regular season games at right back, but made good use of the bigger spotlight by raising his two-way game in the playoffs.

Both were essential in all but completely shutting down Toronto FC and in taking Columbus to extras scoreless. In fact Nashville did not concede a single goal in the 193 postseason minutes played by Anunga, who brilliantly covered for Anibal Godoy against some of the league's top midfielders.


Tajon Buchanan

New England Revolution

It can be argued that nobody has raised their profile as much during the playoffs as New England's recently converted right back. Given more runway to hit the jets, Buchanan has repeatedly flashed his natural winger credentials to great effect.

He scored the bold raid insurance tally that basically broke Philadelphia's back and earned the ice-breaking spot kick in their win at Orlando City. His emergence isn't all about attack capabilities, either. The 21-year-old frustrated the hell out of Nani in the latter win, racking up 13 total defensive stops.


Emanuel Reynoso

Minnesota United

Prior to the playoffs, I wrote that it seemed as though a lot of people were sleeping on Minnesota United's big midseason pick-up. Somehow, Reynoso was flying under the radar despite his immediate success sparking the team's best run of the year.

Now that he's artfully notched three assists in each of the Loons' postseason victories, that will no longer be an issue.

The man they call "Bebelo" has everyone's attention now, most of all conference final foe Seattle. If they can't limit his time in Zone 14, it could be a big problem for the champs.


Alex Roldan

Seattle Sounders

Speaking of the holders, they've again proven that even dynasty-adjacent clubs need some "next man up" heroics to run deep in the MLS Playoffs. Like Buchanan, Roldan (who is Cristian's younger brother) entered the year as a winger. He may well leave it as a right back.

The performances spelling hobbled flank ace Kelvin Leerdam in wins over LAFC and FC Dallas were quite arguably his two best as a pro. The 24-year-old was notably solid from end to end (eight shot creating actions, 18 recoveries and nine duels won for possession across the two games), making the already rich Sounders even richer.


Dayne St. Clair

Minnesota United

Truth be told, I could pick a handful of Minnesota United players for this list. Kevin Molino would probably be many people's first impulse, but to me he's less a textbook breakout player and more of a Steve Austin situation ("We can rebuild him... better, stronger, faster").

Instead, I'll go with the Loon that most strictly fits the definition of a breakout star. Young netminder St. Clair actually took over for injured starter Tyler Miller midway through the season, but often went unnoticed despite finishing fourth in save percentage and tied for this in expected goals allowed-goals allowed per 90. After making huge early stops to stymie Colorado and Sporting KC until his field mates warmed up, the 23-year-old is likely done being overlooked.
 
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