MLS Youth Report

Morris, Torres, Ebobisse top another busy week for American youth in MLS

On the heels of Caden Clark's dramatic performances, this past weekend saw the youth movement in the league continue. In addition to solid performances from known players like Jeremy Ebobisse and Mark Mckenzie, new players emerged. Aidan Morris is showing to be a promising defensive midfielder and Christan Torres became the first 2004-born goal scorer in the league. ASN's Justin Sousa breaks it all down
BY Justin Sousa Posted
October 19, 2020
6:05 AM
WHILE THERE WAS plenty of on-field action to recap over this last week, the most important and exciting bit of news came off the field earlier this week when Brenden Aaronson’s move to RB Salzburg was made official. Aaronson will join the Austrian club and united with American head coach Jesse Marsch in January with the Philadelphia Union receiving $6 million in transfer fees. Should Aaronson meet certain incentives built into his contract, the Union could receive up to $9 million total for their 19-year-old prospect.

On the field though, Aaronson was back in midweek action alongside fellow homegrowns Mark McKenzie and Anthony Fontana in a 2-2 draw against DC United. Fontana scored his fifth goal of the season while McKenzie scored the first goal of his professional career when he fired a late equalizer into the top corner of the net from 25 yards out.

Kevin Paredes and Donovan Pines started on the other side for DC with Pines also scoring his first professional goal from a corner kick. Griffin Yow came off the bench that night, and Moses Nyeman started in DC’s 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati on Sunday. For Cincinnati, Brandon Vazquez started in the midweek win over the Columbus Crew and scored in the weekend loss to DC United. Frankie Amaya returned to the starting lineup in for FC Cincinnati on Sunday as well.

Aboubacar Keita started two consecutive matches for the first time since the Crew’s last two games of the MLS is Back tournament. He played about an hour against FC Cincinnati and went the full 90 in strong display against NYCFC.

Aidan Morris made his second start for the Crew against NYCFC on Sunday and put out another dominant performance both physically and technically in midfield. NYCFC announced that James Sands would miss the remainder of the season due to a fracture in his right foot through their lineup graphic before the game against Orlando in midweek. Keaton Parks started and scored that night in Orlando and started again in NYCFC’s 3-1 loss to the Crew over the weekend. Daryl Dike and Joseph DeZart started both of Orlando’s games against the New York clubs last week with both results ending in 1-1 draws. Jordan Bender made his Orlando debut as a 90’ substitute.

The New York Red Bulls also walked away with two 1-1 draws this past week with Caden Clark providing the equalizer against Toronto FC on Wednesday with a well-struck shot from outside the box. He also played about an hour against Orlando on Sunday, but his goal-scoring streak ended at two games that night. Kyle Duncan had a pair of good performances as well while Omir Fernandez saw time off the bench in both matches. Ayo Akinola started for Toronto FC in their draw against the Red Bulls. Miles Robinson and George Bello started for Atlanta United in their Eastern Conference clash with Toronto FC and had their clean sheet taken from them by an 89’ winner from Pablo Piatti.

Midfielder Masterclasses

Nyeman and Morris were clear standouts in each of their clubs’ wins over the weekend once again affirming the immense depth in center midfield the United States has among their youth player pool.

Morris faced a much more technically savvy opponent in NYCFC on Sunday night in comparison to the Montreal side he started against last week, but their passing fluidity and possession-based style of play did not phase the 18-year-old. He looked incredibly comfortable handling himself in the physical side of the midfield battle and continued to be an excellent facilitator of the ball when the Crew were in possession.

No player completed more tackles (4) than Morris and he made eight ball recoveries in his first full 90 minutes for the Crew.

Against a more robust side, 16-year-old Nyeman held his own against fellow young compatriot Frankie Amaya and a stubborn FC Cincinnati defensive unit. He completed the most dribbles (4) of any player on the field while also making 11 ball recoveries and committing three fouls. Though his defensive responsibilities were increased as the bottom pivot of DC’s midfield, Nyeman still helped his side progress up the field with his passing and movement on the ball.

Though Morris faces the challenge of displacing Darlington Nagbe and Artur from the Crew’s midfield, Nyeman’s path the becoming a DC midfielder should become clearer and clearer with performances like the one he had on Sunday. Despite his clear size disadvantage, he thinks quicker than his opponents and contests in scrappy plays without hesitation.

Dynamic Dallas Duo

FC Dallas seem to pump out a new set of homegrown talents every year given the success they’ve had within their academy recently. The usual suspects of Paxton Pomykal (due to injury), Jesus Ferreira, Brendan Servania, Ricardo Pepi and Edwin Cerrillo are yet to truly break into the starting lineup yet. Yet, Tanner Tessmann and Bryan Reynolds have carried the academy flag well in recent weeks as they continue to grow in their roles as outright starters in Dallas’ midfield and defense, respectively.

Reynolds was groomed to take Reggie Cannon’s spot at right back well before he left for Portugal, and the 19-year-old has taken to his increased responsibility near seamlessly. There were question marks around the defensive side of his game upon his introduction to the starting lineup, yet he has dispeled any critiques with every passing week. In a hotly contested 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City, Reynolds showed his quality going forward in providing the assist to Ryan Hollingshead’s game-winner from a cross.

Meanwhile in midfield, the once Clemson-football-bound Tessmann showcased his passing range yet again in this crucial midweek win. He provided two shot assists from his 55 attempted passes and completed six of his seven long balls – a facet of his game that is becoming more and more a staple than the occasional sight.

His defensive quality also allowed Bryan Acosta and Andres Ricaurte specially to focus their energy on breaking down Kansas City’s defense. With a team-best seven ball recoveries, Tessmann also continues to defy his size in being a mobile midfielder that can chase after and dispossess opposition players

LAFC Homegrowns Flourishing

It was a historic week within the LAFC organization and probably an even bigger week personally for their two budding homegrown stars Christian Torres and Erik Dueñas.

Torres started his first game in an LAFC jersey in their midweek loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, playing 45 minutes and looking decent in a full half of action. He started the weekend clash with the Portland Timbers on the bench, but his 15-minute cameo was crucial to LAFC securing a point from the match.

Well-struck shots with their supposed weaker foot seems to be a running theme for young Americans and the goals they scored this week. Torres hopped on the trend with this strike to level the score for LAFC two minutes into added time against the Timbers.

Dueñas played the entire second half against the Whitecaps and came off the bench against Portland for the final 15 minutes. With many of LAFC’s South American prospects undergoing mandated quarantine procedures, both Dueñas and Bryce Duke have been given the opportunities to show Bob Bradley what they can contribute to the side going forward in 2020 and potentially into 2021.

Duke started in the 1-1 draw with Portland, playing 75 minutes and making the most of his time on the ball in a match that saw the likes of Eryk Williamson, Diego Chara and Diego Valeri dominate the midfield battle for the majority of the match.

Safe Hands

Well the USMNT fans continue to wage war on one another over whether Matt Turner should start in net over Zack Steffen for the national team, two young men are starting to find their feet between the sticks in Southern California.

JT Marcinkowski has kept back-to-back clean sheets in his last two games and three total in his last four games for the San Jose Earthquakes. While an improved defensive structure has helped plug the leaks in Matias Almeyda’s side, there is no doubt Marcinkowski has been an upgrade over the incredibly error-prone Daniel Vega. He looks more confident when he needs to make saves and backs in his commanding presence with moments of individual brilliance needed to keep his side in a game.

Unfortunately, Jonathan Klinsmann’s introduction into MLS saw four goals end up in his net against Marcinkowski’s Earthquakes. However, Klinsmann’s baptism of fire still showed he competency to make saves confidently and provide a safe pair of gloves when his team needed him to come up big. The 4-0 loss was a calamitous night on the team, and the 23-year-old backed his ability with a sound performance against Vancouver on Sunday.

He made four saves on the night, instilling a belief in their goalkeeper that the Galaxy – like the Earthquakes – may have been missing for most of this season. David Bingham’s a renown goalkeeper across MLS, but his tendency to make simple mistakes is on par or at least around that of Vega for the Earthquakes.

With Turner blowing the starting national team goalkeeper conversation wide open, there may yet be a chance for one of these two young guns to displace both Turner and Steffen in the long run.

Maher Debuts for Nashville

In a rare multi-goal game for the Nashville SC, Jack Maher – the second overall pick from the 2020 MLS SuperDraft – started his first game for Nashville in their 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo in midweek.

On the right side of the team’s three-man back line, Maher looked tenacious and ready to make an impression on his teammates in coaches. At times, the overcommitment to want to make the defensive play drew him out of position, but he did well to deal with one of the most dynamic front threes across MLS.

His numbers from that game:

  • 85 minutes played
  • 24 touches
  • 10/13 passes
  • 4 clearances
  • 3 ball recoveries
  • 3/5 long balls

As the cliché goes, the less a defender is noticed the better the job they are doing. Maher stuck to the basics of defending well and while he couldn’t prevent Houston from getting one past Joe Willis, he showed he could be a reliable back up for when Walker Zimmerman or David Romney are unavailable in the future.

Most Minutes Played by Under-23 Americans

  • Jackson Yueill – 1350 minutes
  • Mauricio Pineda – 1334 minutes
  • Keaton Parks – 1318 minutes
  • Kyle Duncan – 1292 minutes
  • Mark McKenzie – 1260 minutes
  • Aaron Herrera – 1255 minutes
  • Henry Kessler – 1215 minutes
  • Brenden Aaronson – 1212 minutes
  • James Sands – 1159 minutes
  • Frankie Amaya – 1142 minutes

Most Goal Involvements by Under-23 Americans

  • Jeremy Ebobisse – 5 goals, 2 assists
  • Brenden Aaronson – 4 goals, 2 assists
  • Djordje Mihailovic – 2 goals, 4 assists
  • Benji Michel – 4 goals, 2 assists
  • Daryl Dike – 4 goals, 1 assist
  • Eryk Williamson – 2 goals, 3 assists
  • Anthony Fontana – 5 goals
  • Brooks Lennon – 2 goals, 2 assists
  • Gianluca Busio – 1 goal, 3 assists

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