MLS Youth Report
MLS Youth Report: Halliday stands tall, Neal makes debut, and more
March 08, 2023
THE WEEKEND FOR young American players in the second round of matches in MLS was decent. There wasn’t any milestone performances but the wave of USYNT eligible players earning minutes is steady at this time of the season. Typically, youth numbers tend to improve over the season but the 2023 season has a been a strong beginning.
Here is a look at what particularly caught my eye:
U-20 players who stood out
Noel Buck: After a bigtime effort in New England’s 1-0 season opening win over Charlotte, Buck didn’t quite have the impact in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Houston. But he certainly looks as if he belongs in the starting XI for a Revs team that looks much better than in 2022. He’s also one of the 2005-born group that is eligible for the next U-20 cycle.
Michael Halliday: The Orlando right back has looked very much improved in 2023. He’s started both of Orlando’s first two games – which were cleansheets. Then on Tuesday in the first leg of its CONCACAF Champions League opener, he started and went 90 minutes in a fantastic defensive effort in Orlando’s 0-0 draw with Tigres in Monterrey. For the U.S. U-20 team, Halliday struggled a bit in 2022 but he seems like he has taken some bigger steps in his game and has put himself in a great position to return to the team ahead of the World Cup in May.
Owen Wolff: The young American midfielder has had two good outings to start his season. In Saturday’s 1-0 win over Montreal, Wolff, 18, was 31/36 in central midfield and helped Austin control the game. He also took a beating and drew six fouls. He subbed into the club’s embarrassing 3-0 Champions League loss to Haiti’s Violette AC on Tuesday but the club started mostly reserve and backup players and the effort was completely disjointed. He is certainly making a case to be on the U.S. U-20 World Cup team.
Caleb Wiley: While Wiley is playing left wing as opposed to his preferred left back position, he is still doing enough to showcase his talent. He started Atlanta’s first two games of the season and on Saturday he went 60 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Toronto. He looked more comfortable than he did in the season opener against San Jose and is still one of the best teenage prospects in the league.
Darren Yapi: While Yapi is yet to score for Colorado, he is getting closer and he is dangerous. On Saturday in a 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City, he had a goal called back on VAR for a foul but it was extremely close. But he looks like a sharp No. 9 for his age and he could make a late push for the U.S. U-20 team.
Other U-20 updates
Jalen Neal: The LA Galaxy central defender made his long awaited MLS debut when he played the final 25 minutes of a 3-1 loss to FC Dallas. He came on after the final goal of the game and his time was uneventful.
Diego Luna: played the final 18 minutes for Real Salt Lake in a 2-0 loss to Seattle. He was tidy enough and completed 14/15 of his passes. But Seattle was playing out the string and Luna couldn’t create anything significant to help get RSL back into the game.
Brian Gutierrez: started and played 64 minutes for Chicago in a 1-1 draw with NYCFC. Overall, it was a quiet game from the homegrown.
Jackson Hopkins: played the final 28 minutes of DC United’s 2-0 loss to Columbus. DC United was overmatched in this game and was unable to muster a comeback.
Cade Cowell: started played 78 minutes for San Jose in a 2-1 and Vancouver. He had four shots and was dangerous but couldn’t capitalize. It’s easy to see him getting sharper as the season progresses. He is getting himself into dangerous positions but needs to finish.
Jack McGlynn: The Union midfielder played the final 27 minutes of Philadelphia’s 2-0 loss to Inter Miami and started and played 79 minutes in the 0-0 draw at Alianza on Tuesday night. McGlynn didn’t make much of an impact in either game, but the starters made it tough on Philly in Miami and then El Salvador was a tough place to play.
Quinn Sullivan: Similar to McGlynn, Sullivan played the final 27 minutes for the Union in the 2-0 loss to Miami and then started and then played 63 minutes of the 0-0 draw at Alianza. He was effective in the press against Alianza but struggled with the conditions.
Miguel Perez: Played the final two minutes for St. Louis in its 3-1 win over Charlotte in its first ever home game. Perez, 17, is one of the younger players in MLS right now.
U.S. U-23 players who stood out
Aidan Morris: The Columbus Crew defensive midfielder put up excellent numbers in Saturday’s 2-0 win over DC United. He completed 34/38 of his passes including 3/4 long balls and three balls into the attacking third. He was successful in 5/8 of his tackles and 11/22 of his ground duels. After a tough game against Philadelphia in the opener, this was a solid rebound performance.
John Tolkin: The New York Red Bull left back has been his usual steady self, covering ground, breaking up plays, putting up decent passing numbers. In the club’s 0-0 draw with Nashville on Saturday, Tolkin was decent, but he had the best chance of the game but fired a close range shot right to Joe Willis.
Cam Harper: The California native has been converted to right back to start the season and has started over Kyle Duncan to surprisingly good reviews. He continued to show promise in the 0-0 draw with Nashville, playing the high energy style Gerhard Struber wants.
Nathian Harriel: The Philadelphia Union right back doesn’t play as much as he wants as the backup to Oliver Mbaizo but whenever he does play, he typically is solid. In the 0-0 away draw against Alianza in El Salvador, he was very good defensively in locking down the right side. Six interceptions, 7/10 ground duels, 3/3 aerials, 10 ball recoveries. Eventually, he needs to move to a place where he can start every game because he is good enough.
Cole Bassett: The Colorado Rapids midfielder was perhaps the best player in the game on Saturday in the 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City. He completed 28/30 of his passes, he had three shots (two on target), he created five chances, and he won 5/6 of his duels. It was a complete effort from the homegrown who is trying to revive his career after a tough year in Holland. But this was a nice performances and a step in that direction.
Other U-23 updates
Leon Flach: the Philadelphia Union mainstay in defensive midfield was steady but not dynamic on the ball in his 63 minutes in the 2-0 loss to Miami. He’s always good defensively and he helped the Union close out the 0-0 draw with Alianza but his offensive skills are slowly improving.
Bryce Duke: Played the final 30 minutes for Inter Miami in the big 2-0 win over Philadelphia. He was tidy on the ball, completing 15/17 of his passes and making few mistakes to close out the win.
Ted Ku DiPietro: the DC United forward didn’t get the start on Saturday at Columbus after his big performance off the bench in the opening day win. He played the final 28 minutes and had just one shot, which was blocked.
Indiana Vassilev: The former Aston Villa midfielder played the final 17 minutes for St. Louis City in the 3-1 win over Charlotte. He had just six touches in a quiet outing but he helped see out the big win.
Josh Atencio: Played the final 10 minutes for Seattle in its 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake. His time was uneventful – which isn’t a bad thing for a defensive midfielder trying to close out a win.
Sebastian Berhalter: Beharhalter subbed into Saturday’s 2-1 loss to San Jose and helped to try to muster a comeback in his 14 minutes. Overall, he was sharp and helped get Vancouver on the front foot in the final minutes – but it wasn’t enough.
Cameron Duke: the midfielder played the final two minutes for Sporting Kansas City in its 0-0 draw with the Rapids.