MLS Youth Report
MLS Youth Report: Morris breaking through, McGlynn's expanding role, and more
April 05, 2023
WEEK SIX of the 2023 MLS season saw a lot of young American players earn minutes in the league as the international break ended and most of the U-20 roster returned to their clubs. Right now, we are still getting a picture as to which players are become true impact players and which players are being given opportunities for seasoning.
Here are some of my takeaways
Morris breaking through
It’s becoming clear with each passing week that Aidan Morris could be in the beginning of a true breakthrough season. The Columbus Crew defensive midfielder has had an interesting start to his career. He was a late replacement for Darlington Nagbe at the 2020 MLS Cup and he helped the Crew win the title with an eye-opening performance. He then had a rough 2021 as the U-20 World Cup was cancelled and he later tore his ACL missing the remainder of the year. In 2022, he was simply getting his form back. Now in 2023, it is back and he looks the part.
In a big 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake, Morris scored two goals and put up big numbers on both sides of the ball. He seems to be in a great place to take the next step in his career under Wilfried Nancy.
???? Aidan Morris is becoming an all-around star for @ColumbusCrew.— dataref (@dataref_) April 4, 2023
Through six matchdays, he's got:
? 18 tackles (league-best).
? 3 goals (4th-best).
? 1 assist.
? 92.8% accurate pass percentage.
He's just 21 years old.#Crew96 #MLS pic.twitter.com/BrgbtyPBmY
But what is next for Morris? He will probably get called up to the U.S. national team this month for the Mexico friendly and it will be interesting to see if he can compete with Kellyn Acosta for the No. 6 as mostly domestic players are being called. The backup No. 6 spot is currently unclaimed and there is a good chance Tyler Adams won’t be back in time for the summer games. After that, Morris will likely shift to the U.S. U-23 team for the Olympics next year. Success then could attract interest but he still likely needs to put more distance between his current form and the ACL recovery.
Aidan Morris.. Crew looking good pic.twitter.com/SnNxOJlzep— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 2, 2023
Also in that game, it’s worth noting that RSL had some U.S. youth national team news to report. Gavin Beavers made his debut for the club and the 2005-born goalkeeper made a mistake on one of the goals but he wasn’t the reason why the team was played off the field. It’s good to see RSL producing goalkeepers after the David Ochoa saga and the Jeff Dewsnup early retirement. For Beavers, it’s good that he builds off whatever experiences he gets.
Also for RSL, U.S. U-20 attacker Diego Luna came off the bench and played the second half. He was one of the only positive performances on the day in the loss.
Arena's young midfielders
Bruce Arena continues to roll with giving young players important minutes. If Bruce Arena is playing a young kid, chances are the kid is pretty good. Unlike the previous week in a win over DC United during the international break, Arena started Noel Buck, Esmir Bajraktarevic, and Jack Panayotou in the midfield– all teenagers. Over the weekend in a 1-1 draw with New York City FC, just Buck and Panayotou started while Bajraktarevic was an unused substitute.
Buck, 18, was very good once again and he continues to show himself as one of the league’s top young players. What is interesting about Buck is that he is still somewhat small but he is handling the physical side of the game in the midfield. He is well rounded on both sides of the ball. As for his future, he should play the rest of the season out in New England. After that, the offers should start to arrive.
Also with Buck, he is making a great case to be part of the 2023 U.S. U-20 World Cup team – which would have him playing up a cycle. With youth teams, form and evaluations of players fluctuate. What was working for the U.S. U-20 team in 2022 might not be what works in 2023. Buck has the best case for a late inclusion.
Panayotou, 18, is only eligible for the current U-20 team but he doesn’t have a great case right now. He played only the first half. His passing was okay but physically he lost nearly all of his duels. He could still get there, but he is still more of a work in progress.
McGlynn taking an expanded role
The Philadelphia Union has some key American prospects, even following the sale of Paxten Aaronson over the offseason. But the problem has been getting these young players minutes. Aaronson was having a tough to getting around Daniel Gazdag, an MVP candidate. Brandan Craig is locked behind Jack Elliot and Jacob Glesnes, who are the league’s best central defense tandem. Quinn Sullivan has been stuck behind Julian Carranza or Mikel Uhre in the attack.
But right now, it seems like Jack McGlynn has a path for more significant minutes. It might come at the expense of U.S. U-23 eligible midfielder Leon Flach, but McGlynn looks like he adds more on the ball and can provide more offensive to their possession. Flach is good defensively and he reads the game well. But he doesn’t get on the ball a lot or hit sophisticated passing.
On Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Union defeated Atlas 1-0 in the first leg of their quarterfinal of the CONCACAF Champions League. McGlynn got the start over Flach and while Atlas played the second half down a man thanks to a red card, McGlynn kept the Union on the front foot. He also nearly scored on two occasions where he forced diving saves.
Jack McGlynn vs. Atlas:— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) April 5, 2023
21 passes into the final third
5 chances created
7 defensive recoveries
3 duels won out of 6 contested
Mikey Varas must have swooned, and I wonder if Anthony Hudson might have too.#doop #CCLFever #USMNT
Jim Curtin knew that the Philadelphia Union needed to win at home over Atlas to have any chance of advancing. So that is why he chose McGlynn. It’s easy to see Flach getting the start in Guadalajara next week as the Union cling to a narrow lead.
But moving forward, it is easy to see that McGlynn is ready.
Jonathan Tannenwald does a great job talking about McGlynn's effort against Atlas.
Wiley, Stroud, & Harper feature
Atlanta United defeated the Red Bulls 1-0 after a tough 6-1 pounding from Columbus while many players were out on international duty. This was an interesting game because the Red Bulls were actually able to do the hardest job and hold Thiago Almada largely in check, but still lost.
After impressing at left wing, Caleb Wiley has returned to his natural left back position due to the injury to Andrew Gutman and performed well. But he wasn’t as involved offensively as he would like. Gutman will be out a few more weeks and Wiley will remain there. But he will probably return to left wing after that. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a more permanent positional switch over time.
One interesting note is that U.S. national team interim manager Anthony Hudson singled out Wiley as someone very promising to the program and someone who is highly rated in the U.S. program. It sounds like a call-up to the Mexico game is coming but hopefully after that, Atlanta will allow him to participate in the U-20 World Cup.
U.S. U-23 eligible Peter Stroud, 20, made his first professional start and while he wasn’t dynamic offensively, he passed the test and looked promising enough. He should get more of an extended run this summer when the U-20 World Cup sees Dan Edelman leave (Edelman was on the bench in this game) and international duty likely sees Christian Casseres play for Venezuela. It will then be up to Stroud.
Also of note is Cam Harper (U-23 eligible) who has become a mainstay at fullback for the Red Bulls. He has started each of the team’s games at right back but against Atlanta he was shifted to left back in place of the injured John Tolkin. Harper developed as a winger but his conversion to right back seems like it is a little bit more permanent. But if he can show his ability to play both sides of the back four, he might emerge as a candidate to make the Olympic team as a versatile backup to Tolkin and Bryan Reynolds, who I think will be the starters in Paris.
Neal progressing at the Galaxy
Jalen Neal, 19, scored his first goal for the LA Galaxy in a 2-1 loss at home to the Seattle Sounders. On the play he took advantage of a rare Stefan Frei mistake to pull one back.
A ton of luck for Jalen Neal as Frei doesn’t make too many mistakes, but still a great moment for the U.S U-20 central defender to score his first goal at the first team level pic.twitter.com/JKbqCzH5En— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 2, 2023
Full credit to him, the Galaxy is not an easy place to succeed in right now. The organization seems rather dysfunctional, and the team is playing well below the sum of its parts. But Neal was very strong in this game and overall is playing well. He certainly should be one to watch in a starting role at the U-20 World Cup.
The Chicago Fire and DC United played to a 0-0 draw in game that was tough to watch. Jacob Greene is eligible for the U.S. U-20 team but is probably around fourth on the team’s left back depth chart (it is actually one of the team’s best positions) has had a few good outings in a row. The same could be said for Brian Gutierrez on the Chicago Fire who is also making the most of a tough situation on a struggling Chicago team. The attacking midfielder has been a very promising player for Chicago. The same could be said for U.S. U-20 goalkeeper Chris Brady who made three saves in the shutout.
Inter Miami is still struggling to find a replacement for its injured captain, Gregore. U.S. U-23 eligible Bryce Duke got the opportunity in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Cincinnati but wasn’t effective. He was replaced by youngster Ben Cremaschi but it might not be long before Cremaschi is given an extended look.
San Jose defeated Houston 2-1 over the weekend. U.S. U-20 attacker Cade Cowell went 86 minutes in the win and was more dangerous in this game than in the previous few weeks. U.S. U-19 attacker Brooklyn Raines went 54 minutes for Houston. While he had little impact, it was a promising sign as the Dynamo have not yet developed a positive history with playing younger players.