MLS notebook

MLS notes and youth report: Gutierrez, Cremaschi, & Bajraktarevic impress

ASN's Brian Sciaretta opens up his MLS notebook and kicks if off with detailed breakdowns of how USYNT players in the league have done over the past week.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 18, 2024
1:55 PM

WE ADMIT that its hard to focus on league games at a time when the two biggest tournaments outside of the World Cup are taking place but MLS is one of the leagues that keeps going during this period and with games, comes news and updates. As always, it’s worth covering how young Americans are doing in the league – especially with two major youth international tournaments getting underway in a month.

Here are some of my thoughts.




For the most part, it was a good week for young Americans in MLS. In these series of games. There were a lot of players who were returning from U-20 and U-23 camps. In some situations, this led to limited minutes.

This isn’t a complete list but it is a look at some players who caught my eye.


Aidan Morris was recently with the U.S. U-23 team in camp but left for England to seal a deal with Middlesbrough. On Friday, he played the final 19 minutes for Columbus in a 3-2 away win over NYCFC. The terms of this proposed transfer with Boro are not clear as to when it would move forward, but the fact that Morris played in this game suggests that Columbus is negotiating to keep him for awhile longer. Will Morris negotiate for an Olympic release? We will see. As for how Morris performed against NYCFC, he looked tired.

Patrick Schulte also started this match for Columbus, making four saves (including one difficult one) in the win. He’s neck and neck with Gaga Slonina for the starting Olympic job.

Christian McFarlane, 17, made his MLS debut for NYCFC in this game when he played the final 16 minutes. He was very sharp in his first minutes. But McFarlane looks destined to stay with England for at least the next few years at the youth national team level. He has been impressive with England’s U-17 team and will likely stay with them as long as he can.

Esmir Bajraktarevic and Noel Buck have both been impressive for New England in the club’s turnaround. Saturday’s 3-2 win over Vancouver was the third straight win for the Revs. Both Buck and Bajraktarevic scored. Buck’s was a goalazo while Bajraktarevic had a shot aided by a deflection. For Buck, he is finally putting a slow start behind him and is back on a nice trajectory for his future. Internationally, he remains with England for the U-20 cycle (even if he wanted, he couldn’t switch to the USA for the U-20 team). The issue is if he falls out of favor with England, he will probably switch to Wales.


As for Bajraktarevic, he’s pushing for the Olympic team but the U.S. U-20 team  is also an option. But so is Bosnia’s U-21 team as well. He has a lot of love for Bosnia but the U.S. team has given him great opportunities. The question becomes what happens if he doesn’t make the Olympic team? Does he bolt, or fight for a spot on the U.S. U-20 team and the Olympics next cycle? He’s one of the better American teenager prospects in the game right now.

Noah Cobb and Caleb Wiley both went 90 minutes for Atlanta United in a 2-2 draw with Houston. It was a decent shift for both players. Wiley has struggled like most of the players on Atlanta United to take his game to another level. It’s his third season as a starter. He needs a sale or he needs the club to make a decision quickly for a new coach that is strong at working with young players. Cobb, 18, is aiming for a spot on the U.S. U-20 team. He’ll probably make it and it’s great that he’s getting minutes. But he’s been beaten a bunch of times this season by experienced attackers – which is to be expected.

Meanwhile, U.S. U-20 eligible winger Luke Brennan played the final 72 minutes for Atlanta when he replaced the injured Edwin Mosquera. Brennan did not get on the ball a lot, but he showed a lot of skill in his dribbling. He’s certainly worth following with regards to the U.S. U-20/19 team.

One of the top young Americans in the league this past weekend was Brian Gutierrez. He assisted on Chicago’s third goal of a big 4-1 away win over Toronto and had a solid well-rounded game on top of that. Unfortunately for him, he seems out of the picture for the Olympic team. The same is true for Chris Brady who made five saves for Chicago in the win (although could have done better on the Toronto goal).


Matai Akinmboni had a strong 71-minute shift in a three-man backline for DC United despite a 1-0 loss to Charlotte. He continues to be a solid prospect in central defense and should be with the U.S. team for U-20 World Cup qualifiers. The minutes he has gotten this season are encouraging.

Kristian Fletcher played the last 27 minutes for DC. The U.S. U-20 attacker has shown some skill this season but has also drifted out of games – such was the case in this loss to Charlotte (which is a good defensive team.

George Campbell is probably on the outside looking in regarding the Olympic team, but the central defender had a decent game for Montreal on Saturday in a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake. On the other hand, attacking midfielder Bryce Drew struggled.

Diego Luna played 83 minutes for Real Salt Lake and, despite the scoreless draw, was actually very effective in keeping RSL as the more dangerous team – by far.  

Daniel Edelman and John Tolkin both were effective in keeping the Red Bulls on the front foot of a 0-0 draw with Nashville. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, the team was let down by their attackers. But Tolkin is starting to play better than Caleb Wiley down the stretch and should be heading to Paris.

Cam Harper played 84 minutes at right wing for the Red Bulls. It might have been worth giving him a look this U-23 cycle.

Duncan McGuire is another player who might be distracted by a move as he (along with just about every other Orlando City player) was not effective in a 3-1 loss to LAFC.

Benja Cremaschi even without Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez, Inter Miami was able to stroll into Philadelphia, pick up two red cards, and score a late winner in a 2-1 victory. Cremaschi isn’t just a player who is along for the ride on a team full of stars, he is able to help the team win without stars. He was arguably the best player in the win and assisted on the opener.

Meanwhile, it’s a tough season for Philadelphia. Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan were both solid, but lacking just enough to help get a result. The biggest problem is both the need for another No. 9 and athleticism in the midfield. McGlynn is a very good player, but he needs athleticism around him.

An interesting case, however, is Leon Flach who brings in defensive cover and is good on that side of the ball. But his offensive and possession game lacks. Then when the Union elect to play both Flach and Alejandro Bedoya for 90 minutes (like they did against Miami), it’s tough to generate offense. Flach is a player who fits well in some systems, but not every team. That is why he is not on the Olympic team.

Meanwhile, Cole Bassett scored his sixth goal of the season in a 2-0 win over Austin. Bassett might come up short of making the Olympic team, but he’s doing everything possible to make it a hard decision. His production has been excellent. Meanwhile, it was a tough outing for Owen Wolff on Austin. The 2023 U-20 World Cup midfielder hasn’t raised his game much over the past year.

Niko Tsakiris had a good camp with the U.S. U-20 team but might have been tired or out of synch after returning to San Jose as he struggled in an 84-minute shift where the Quakes were defeated 4-2 at home.

Finally, Jalen Neal went 90 minutes for the Galaxy in a 4-2 win over Sporting KC. Neal is still not back to where he was before his long-term injury last year, but he’s getting there. He’s on the edge of the Olympic team but will probably not start as central defense will likely be occupied by two overage players.


Other MLS notes


In interesting news, Aziel Jackson was traded from St. Louis to Columbus on Monday. The move is noteworthy in that this could be the cover Columbus is seeking before Aidan Morris is likely sold to Middlesbrough. Beyond that, Jackson is a player who could flourish under Wilfried Nancy in Columbus. Jackson was age eligible for the Olympic team but never in serious consideration. He was part of the USMNT January camp.


Are the Revolution back after winning their third straight game? It’s too early to say. It’s interesting that young players are playing a big role, but it’s unrealistic to expect that level of consistency out of teenagers to carry a team for such a long period.

One thing is for certain, both Atlanta or Orlando are at risk of falling into the basement in the East if New England keeps it up. Atlanta is in a tough spot, but at least they’re looking for a new coach who can possibly hit a reset. Oscar Pareja’s Orlando team is in real trouble. Both Atlanta and Orlando are among the most disappointing teams this season (along with Dallas in the west).

Games on Wednesday that I am looking forward to watching are Cincinnati hosting Philadelphia. Despite Philly’s struggles, Cincy was build on a foundation of Philadelphia’s model. But Cincy is much better right now.

Inter Miami, without Messi and Suarez, are playing well. But hosting Columbus will be a test on another level. Still, it’s two of the best teams in the conference.

Charlotte has a real chance of climbing into the top three of the East if they defeat woeful Orlando on Wednesday. Charlotte is one of the league’s most improved teams, and it was an improvement I did not see coming.  

NYCFC visiting the LA Galaxy should be the best of the night games. Fourth in the East against third in the West, along with teams from the two biggest U.S. cities should be entertaining.

LAFC has won five in a row and could retake first place in a visit to an Austin team that has lost three in a row and have looked bad in the process.

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