Gutierrez, McGuire, Bender, & Luna highlight a big day young Americans in MLS
June 22, 2023
WEDNESDAY NIGHT saw a nearly full slate of games in MLS and it was a terrific night for young American players. Throughout the league, there were cases of American players scoring goals, making key assists, or good defensive plays to help their teams.
MLS has sold a lot of young players in recent years and the key to being a selling league is to quickly replenish the talent with younger players who are just as good, if not better.
The current group of young players in the league is solid. Some of the players come from a tough generation that saw COVID cancel their U-20 cycle and lose most of a season. But, for the most part, they’re rebounding nicely.
This round of games highlighted that the players are having big impact in games and are impacting results – as opposed to merely playing.
Let’s do a rundown.
Young American players stand out
If defining young players as being eligible for U.S. youth teams starting with the 2024 U.S. U-23 team and below. This includes players who were in the pool for the U-20 World Cup last month and players who are eligible for the next U-20 team in 2025.
Let’s look at why this was a big night.
Chicago’s Brian Gutierrez had a big night on Wednesday in an impressive 2-1 away win over Portland. He is in the middle of a breakout season and is becoming one of the league’s top prospects. He certainly was missed by the U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup where Chicago denied his release.
Gutierrez assisted on both of Chicago’s goals and had big numbers all around.
Brian Gutierrez: raw # for Chicago in a 2-1 away win over Portland— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 22, 2023
1/3 long balls
8/13 ground duels
- very good game from Guti. He was missed at the U-20 WC
His second assist found Kei Kamara in the box for a header. Kamara is nearly 19 years older than Gutierrez.
But Gutierrez is a player who can and should attract transfer interest sooner than later. He has a lot of tools and a good vision.
The rookie forward from Omaha has shows that Orlando continues to benefit from the MLS Draft. It’s an outdated model that some teams do not value much anymore. But when Orlando drafts Daryl Dike and now Duncan McGuire inside of a few years, that’s getting some value.
Like many young domestic attackers in MLS, McGuire is competing against a designated player in Ercan Kara, who is in his prime at 27. Kara has been doing well lately, but McGuire has been off to torrid start to his pro career (he recently won the Hermann Trophy with Creighton as the best college player).
Last night, he got the start for Orlando against Philadelphia with Kara on the bench. McGuire scored the opening goal on a very nice individual effort. He nearly got a touch on Orlando’s second goal of a 2-2 draw.
This now gives him six goals in around 500 minutes for the season. It’s still a small sample size, but he’s producing and should be a likely candidate for the U.S. U-23 team next year.
In Philadelphia’s 2-2 draw with Orlando, recent U.S. U-20 World Cup midfielder Jack McGlynn scored Philadelphia’s first goal. It was probably an attempted cross and Orlando goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar was late to react because he was guarding the header, but McGlynn had an overall good game.
McGlynn went the distance, had 62 touches, was 46/51 in passing, 7/8 in long balls, and had seven passes into the final third. As he continues to get physically stronger, he should continue to rise.
The Charlotte attacking midfielder came into the league strong last year, but faded a bit in the second half of the season. This season, he started off slowly and wasn’t always in the lineup. Now, he’s playing well again.
Against the New York Red Bulls in New Jersey, Bender scored two early goals in a 2-2 draw. Both goals were very nice, his first included an amazing quality touch.
A beautiful ball from Kahlina to Bender ???? pic.twitter.com/SiWLysh0vc— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) June 22, 2023
The second was a well-placed ball into the top corner.
Corner flags beware of Ben Bender. pic.twitter.com/dKqJEkGDC7— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) June 22, 2023
Bender hasn’t always been consistent, but when he’s on his game he is dangerous. We will see if this now keeps him on a strong run for a long time. If that happens, he could go to Paris – although competition remains very difficult in the attacking midfield positions with Paxten Aaronson, Bryce Duke, and Brian Gutierrez also looking for spots.
Diego Luna has returned from the U-20 World Cup in good form for Real Salt Lake. Luna perhaps had the best game of his young MLS career on Wednesday when he led RSL to a big 3-1 away win over St. Louis.
Luna’s numbers were strong:
- 83 minutes
- 39 touches
- 25/28 passing
- 2/3 long balls
- 3/4 dribbles
- 4/7 ground duels won
- 3 shots, all on target
- 1 goal
the perfect set up for a chefs kiss finish pic.twitter.com/ZRHCfiaCzt— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) June 22, 2023
U.S. U-23 eligible attacking midfielder Bryce Duke has been good since arriving in Montreal earlier in the season from Inter Miami. On Wednesday, he had a MOTM performance in a 1-0 win over a good Nashville team, scoring the only goal of the game.
- 89 minutes
- 53 touches
- 26/33 passing
- 6 passes into the final third
- 2/3 tackles
- 5/9 ground duels won
- 3 chances created
- 1 goal
While Wolff did not make the final U-20 World Cup team last month, he was part of the qualifying team in 2022. But now in Atlanta, he’s on a terrific run. In a 2-2 draw with New York City FC, Wolff scored his fourth goal of the season, all have come in the last seven games (in 229 minutes).
THIS KID IS ON FIRE ???? pic.twitter.com/m1nm1LTzuH— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) June 21, 2023
With Miles Robinson away with the U.S. national team, Atlanta United turned to Noah Cobb – a 17 year old homegrown making his second appearance. In Atlanta’s 2-2 draw with NYCFC, Cobb showed promise.
- 90 minutes
- 80 touches
- 68/74 passing
- 4/7 long balls
- 4 clearances
- 2/3 ground duels won
The U-23 eligible winger/right back has finally become a regular starter for the New York Red Bulls. And while that team struggles for offense at times, Harper is a bright spot. On Wednesday, he had a good game overall and scored an equalizing goal as the Red Bulls fought back from a 2-0 deficit for a 2-2 draw. Harper’s goal completed the comeback.
Other MLS youth notes
Recent U.S. U-20 World Cup midfielder Owen Wolff went 90 minutes for Austin in a 3-0 win over FC Dallas in a good performance.
Despite the 1-0 loss on the road to LAFC, Seattle defensive midfielder Obed Vargas, 17, was solid. Cody Baker, 19, is an Olympic eligible right back and he went 63 for Seattle in the loss.
In the Red Bulls 2-2 draw with Charlotte, Olympic-eligible midfielder Peter Stroud gave way at halftime with his team down 2-0 while Dan Edelman came on at the break and was part of the comeback.
Chris Brady made some big saves for Chicago in the 2-1 win over Portland away.
Caleb Wiley was quiet for Atlanta in his 63 minutes in the 2-2 draw with NYCFC.
Niko Tsakiris had a tough game for San Jose and was pulled at the half of a 4-1 loss away to Houston.
Olympic eligible Justin Haak (playing central defense) and Tayvon Gray (playing at right back) also went 90 minutes for NYCFC in the draw.
Also, congratulations to Stiven Jimenz – who is 15 years old. He made his debut in the dying minutes of FC Cincinnati’s 3-0 win over Toronto FC. Gerardo ‘Dado’ Valenzuela, 18, also come on for Cincy.
FYI, Stiven Jimenez is 15 years old. https://t.co/gEL2jhDQFZ— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 22, 2023