MLS Youth Report

Clark's dream debut, Aaronson's playmaking, Ebobisse's scoring highlight MLS youth

In the first of a brand new regular sengment that will run on Monday's here at ASN, Justin Sousa will breakdown the progress of young American players in MLS. This week, Caden Clark steals the show but we also saw continued progress from top players like Jeremey Ebobisse, Brenden Aaronson, and others. 
BY Justin Sousa Posted
October 12, 2020
10:25 AM

WITH THE INCREASING presence of under-23 Americans across Major League Soccer, every week in the league seems to provide the start of another prospect’s career. The Philadelphia Union’s trio of homegrowns continued to push their side up the Eastern Conference standings with a confident 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati, a pair of young strikers got on the scoresheet and a midfielder not named Darlington Nagbe ran the show in Columbus on Wednesday night.

Brenden Aaronson continued his fine run of form with an assist and pre-assist in two games last week, helping the Philadelphia Union get two wins over FC Cincinnati and the Montreal Impact.

Caden Clark made his MLS debut for the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night and scored the game-winning goal with a well-hit volley off a corner kick. Omir Fernandez also grabbed a goal in the Red Bulls’ loss to Inter Miami earlier that week. Jeremy Ebobisse’s brace against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday night secured three away points for the Portland Timbers in a nine-goal thriller. Julian Araujo scored his first career MLS goal in that game as well, picking up the ball from a cleared corner kick and firing a low shot into the net from range.

Aidan Morris ran the Columbus Crew’s midfield in his first MLS start in the absence of Darlington Nagbe during Wednesday night’s loss to Montreal. Mason Toye made hisdebut for the Impact that night and played 51 minutes. Keaton Parks and James Sands started their 12th and 13th games together at the base of NYCFC’s midfield that peaked with Parks scoring a late goal against DC United on Wednesday. The homegrown trio of Griffin Yow (’02), Kevin Paredes (’03) and Moses Nyeman (’03) all started for the first time in DC’s 4-1 loss to NYCFC in midweek, and DC became the first club in MLS to start three players born after the year 2000. Ayo Akinola scored his third goal of the regular season and the game-winner against the New England Revolution on Wednesday night.

16-year-old Christian Torres came on as a half time substitute for LAFC, providing the cross that ultimately led to their third goal against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday. Joshua Atencio made a short cameo for the Sounders towards the end of that match as well. Andre Reynolds II came in for an injured Wyatt Omsberg to help the Chicago Fire see out a 2-1 win over DC United alongside fellow homegrown Mauricio Pineda on Sunday. Nashville SC’s Jack Maher also made his MLS debut on Sunday as a 76th minute substitute in their 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City.


Clark’s Dream Debut


The acquisition of Caden Clark’sMLS rights from Minnesota United was announced Saturday morning, and the 17-year-old midfielder started against Atlanta United that night. His introduction to the New York Red Bulls’ first team wasn’t a surprise given the immense promise he showed in the USL this season, but nobody expected his first game with the team the same day he signed with them.

But what a debut it became for Clark. On top of displaying a refreshing vision for seemingly imperceivable passes and the confidence to attempt them in the middle third, he scored the game-winning goal from what was his only shot of the game. 

He was a constant source of dynamism and creativity for the Red Bulls going forward – two characteristics the club has lacked for the entirety of 2020. Deployed on the right wing for most of the match, Clark didn’t have the most influential performance on the game’s tempo as he may have wanted but he made his mark where it counted most: on the scoresheet.

Clark grew into the game, and he always looked to connect with teammates through short, quick combination plays or take on his defender despite the physical mismatches at times. This probably won’t be the last time Clark takes the field for the Red Bulls this season.


Aaronson Pulling Philly’s Strings


Brenden Aaronson’s understanding of the right pass and technique to make the unexpected pass have continued their steady progression since the end of the MLS is Back tournament. Though he only walked away from this week’s pair of matches against FC Cincinnati and the Montreal Impact with one assist, he got involved with the Union’s build-up play earlier in the sequences. 


The Impact’s improvement in their defensive astuteness limited his involvement for much of the match, but transitional moments such as the one above is where he made the most of his time on the ball. Aaronson was near unstoppable against Cincinnati though, creating the most chances (6) and winning the most duels of any player in the game (10) on Wednesday night.

Despite his impending move to RB Salzburg at the end of the season, Aaronson continues to be an instrumental piece to Jim Curtin’s side. His start against the Impact meant that he stayed level with Mauricio Pineda for most starts by any American player under the age of 23 outside of the MLS is Back tournament. However, Aaronson has started all 20 of the Philadelphia Union’s games this season across all competitions.


Morris Shines in First Start


In the absence of Darlington Nagbe, Caleb Porter entrusted an 18-year-old Aidan Morris with the responsibility of deputizing his midfield. To everyone’s happy surprise, Morris did a tremendous job in facilitating possession for the Crew and doing the defensive dirty work when needed against the Impact on Wednesday.

With much of the recent hype around Crew youngsters being around Sebastian Berhalter and Aboubacar Keita, it could be that the lack of expectations for Morris allowed him to play with freedom and confidence. He dealt with the physicality of the game with ease and often looked more in control of those physical battles than the seasoned professionals he battled against in midfield. 

Unfortunately, the Crew fell behind to the Impact in the 74th minute and Morris was substituted off for Fanendo Adi in the team’s attempt for a late equalizer. His numbers from Wednesday night:


  • 49 touches
  • 32/34 passes
  • 6 ball recoveries
  • 3/3 tackles
  • 3/3 long balls
  • 2 interceptions
  • 2 fouls won
  • 1 shot assist


Ebobisse, Williamson Tear Apart Galaxy


The developments of Jeremy Ebobisse and Eryk Williamson have added an entertaining, American perspective to a team that’s often lacked the presence of young prospects in the first team fold.

This past week was no different for the duo. Ebobisse bagged a brace that included a thunderous free kick from the first free kick attempt in his MLS career. Williamson provided the assist to Ebobisse’s second goal, collecting a headed down pass at the top of the box and calmly playing his teammate through for Portland’s sixth goal of the night. 


 Ebobisse’s involvement from the right wing was interesting. He seemed much more involved in a passing sense with Portland’s build-up play, hitting cross-field passes or driven through balls from the top of the box. His passing range isn’t a quality often touched upon given he naturally plays as the lone striker, but Ebobisse left foot put on a passing clinic against the LA Galaxy in midweek.

 Ebobisse started Sunday’s win over the San Jose Earthquakes on the bench, but Williamson terrorized their midfielders and defenders from the jump. Matias Almeyda’s system easily breaks when players drive at their defensive shape, and that’s exactly what Williamson did for 90 minutes. He completed the most dribbles (4), won the most fouls (3) and won the most duels (9) of any player that night. Ebobisse came on as a substitute in the 61st minute.


Akinola Scores Again


As the tension over whether Ayo Akinola will choose to represent the United States or Canada at the senior international level, the 20-year-old prospect continues to bang in goals for Toronto FC. With Jozy Altidore out for the foreseeable future, the opportunity to make the starting striker role his own is in Akinola’s lap.

He started in midweek against the Revolution, bullying and berating their defenders as he usually does with his muscular build. Unfortunately for Andrew Farrell, he joined Jukka Raitala of the Montreal Impact on a list of players Akinola has simply destroyed in hunt of a goal scoring opportunity.


 The finish with the outside of his boot was the salt in the wounds for the Revolution. It was the first time Akinola had scored in back-to-back MLS games, and the goal was his third in the last five games for Toronto. He was rested on Sunday after starting the last four games and playing 45 minutes against DC United before that, but Akinola did play just over 30 minutes in Toronto’s 1-0 win over FC Cincinnati.


Most Minutes Played by Under-23 Americans


  • Mauricio Pineda – 1244 minutes
  • Henry Kessler – 1215 minutes
  • Jackson Yueill – 1170 minutes
  • Mark McKenzie – 1170 minutes
  • James Sands – 1159 minutes
  • Keaton Parks – 1138 minutes
  • Brendan Aaronson – 1122 minutes
  • Aaron Herrera – 1076 minutes
  • Frankie Amaya – 1052 minutes
  • Kyle Duncan – 1022 minutes


Most Goal Involvements by Under-23 Americans


  • Brendan Aaronson – 4 goals, 2 assists
  • Jeremy Ebobisse – 4 goals, 2 assists
  • Benji Michel – 4 goals, 2 assists
  • Daryle Dike – 4 goals, 1 assist
  • Eryk Williamson – 2 goals, 3 assists
  • Djordje Mihailovic – 1 goal, 4 assists
  • Anthony Fontana – 4 goals
  • Brooks Lennon – 2 goals, 2 assists
  • Gianluca Busio – 1 goal, 3 assists

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