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Young Players: Who stood out in Matchday 4? | MLSSoccer.com

Young Players: Who stood out in Matchday 4? | MLSSoccer.com

Road-tripping heroics, two-goal comebacks, delirious home openers, undefeated starts and rain-soaked redemption: The third weekend of the 2024 MLS season provided proving grounds aplenty for young players.

As we do every week from now until Decision Day, we’re chronicling the very best among them. As always you can have your say – look for a Twitter post like this and tell us what you saw from players aged 21 and under in the latest batch of matches.

Monday, Monday, Monday. #YPPOTW time.

Who were the top under-22 performers in MLS over the weekend? Hit me with your nominations, please

— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) March 11, 2024

Did you show up to Chase Stadium, or tune in to MLS Season Pass, hoping to catch a glimpse of the GOAT on Sunday afternoon? If so, we’re certain – CERTAIN – you walked away from Montréal’s 3-2 win over Inter Miami giving thanks for the showcase of talented youngsters you witnessed rather than ruing Tata Martino’s decision to rest Leo Messi and taper down his superstar friends’ minutes amid a congested stretch of the Herons’ calendar.

While YPPOTW eligibles Noah Allen, Toto Avilés, Diego Gómez, David Ruiz and Jules-Anthony Vilsaint all took the pitch in Fort Lauderdale, it was the lanky Álvarez who shined brightest, nodding home a corner-kick header for the game’s opening goal – his first in MLS – and anchoring CFM’s resistance to a ferocious late push from the hosts. Forced to play their first six games of the season on the road, the undefeated Quebecois are embracing it and now sit joint-top of the overall table on a points-per-game basis.

Born in New York to Colombian and Mexican parents, the 20-year-old left-footed center back has already been called into youth national teams of both the aforementioned countries and is one to watch under coach Laurent Courtois. Here he logged 56 touches, 44/53 passing completion (83%), nine of which were into the final third, and in scoring his goal, shook off the early disappointment when he failed to direct a similar chance from an early corner on target.

As loyal YPPOTW reader Mitchell Blomseth noted on Twitter, the Red Bulls’ all-action homegrown might just be this year’s Aidan Morris, whose engine-room work for the eventual MLS Cup-winning Columbus Crew made him such a routine presence on these pages that it was easy to lose sight of how key he was at such a young age. And Edelman making a similar breakthrough would be great news for club, country and player alike.

The center mid did his usual box-to-box terrier act on Saturday with 42 touches, 29/36 passes completed with one chance created, 12 recoveries, eight defensive actions, 4/5 ground duels won and two fouls drawn, helping RBNY win their home opener 2-1 over FC Dallas at a thoroughly soaked Red Bull Arena.

Dropping your established starting goalkeeper to the bench for a rivalry match in order to give an 18-year-old his first MLS start since last summer? That’s the sort of bold, developmentally-minded decision-making the YPPOTW board of directors usually applauds, but boy, was Pablo Mastroeni ever putting Beavers on the spot in Utah on Saturday.

Mastroeni says the #RSL mission statement of “winning together through development” was the reason Beavers started tonight.

Said you can’t give keepers 15-20 minutes here or this was a chance to give him an opportunity. Had “nothing to do with Zac”

— Caleb Turner (@calebturner23) March 10, 2024

Given the nod in place of Zac MacMath as Colorado visited for a Rocky Mountain Cup clash, the Real Salt Lake academy product looked ready for the moment, perhaps more so than some of his older colleagues.

Beavers made four saves, completed 24/29 passes and patrolled his penalty area well, conceding a goal via a penalty kick and a late dagger from Cole Bassett that owed more to sloppy defending than anything the guy in the gloves did or didn’t do.

“It had nothing to do with Zac’s performances, because he’s been great,” said Mastroeni afterwards. “Our mission statement is winning together through development … and unlike a lot of the other young players that we have, you can’t drip-feed 15 minutes or 20 minutes for a goalkeeper, so you have to give them games. And Gav tonight made two big saves that I can remember that kept us in the game.”

TFC surely plan on Richie Laryea being one of their key contributors on the flanks this year, but the Canada international’s injury/fitness challenges have opened the door for Franklin to make an impact. The 20-year-old academy product has appeared in all three of the Reds’ matches thus far and earned his first start on Saturday, helping them defeat Charlotte in their BMO Field home opener.

With 33 touches, 15/19 passes completed, three shots, 1/1 on tackles, four defensive actions and two recoveries, Franklin was unspectacular yet steady – and that’s often all Toronto will need from him and his younger teammates, considering what fireworks their talented Italian internationals Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi are capable of producing on a moment’s notice.

Credit to Franklin & Co. for providing a sturdy foundation that can make bangers like Insigne’s rocket stand up: TFC are, incredibly, the only team in MLS yet to concede a single goal in league play.

Greek God of Goals Giorgos Giakoumakis stole the headlines at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with his devastating hat-trick outing vs. New England. But don’t sleep on the steady shift put in by his 19-year-old teammate out on the left flank as Atlanta United romped to a 4-1 win.

Amid 47 touches, Wiley completed 29 of 33 pass attempts, 10 defensive actions and four recoveries, and by and large got away with his four fouls committed as the Five Stripes blunted the substantial threat posed by Carles Gil and his Revs teammates until the victory was already assured.

Wiley remains one of the league’s most exciting prospects and we’re hoping everyone gets to see him show out at the Olympics come summer.

Jackson Hopkins: D.C. United’s 19-year-old homegrown put in work over his 77 minutes on the field to help the Black-and-Red dig out a point from their visit to Cincinnati, passing at 82% and throwing himself into plenty of defensive work along the left channel.

Caden Clark: Minnesota United’s ‘Prodigal Son’ started his second straight game for the undefeated Loons, and gave us another encouraging set of data points to suggest he’s climbing back towards the levels of talent and industry that made him one of the top prospects in the United States not so long ago.

Julián Aude: Culpable for a miscue on one of the goals that threw the LA Galaxy in a 2-0 hole at Nashville on Sunday, the young Argentine left back redeemed himself with a calm, clinical cutback assist to Dejan Joveljic for the Gs’ dramatic late equalizer as they stormed back to snatch a 2-2 draw.

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