Much like the entire category, the Talent Radar Team of the Season feature has been limited to Europe’s big leagues, with players being monitored in our Team of the Week and Player Rankings feature. We’ve decided to broaden our horizons in the recent past and Griffin O’Neill provides us with the inaugural MLS Young Players Team of the Season.
You can read this for all details on Talent Radar, who is eligible under it and what else we publish within this feature.
Jesse Gonzalez // FC Dallas // Mexico // 21 // Goalkeeper: While the goalkeeper position is possibly the weakest in terms of young talent, Mexican Gonzalez has still been impressive. His two penalty saves in the Conference semi-finals against Seattle last year are indubitably the highlight of his young career. Sadly, he hasn’t been able to carry that form over into 2016. He was benched in favor of veteran Chris Seitz after just three games. He went on to make six total appearances, with a 57% save percentage in those games. While his short-term prospects do look bleak, Gonzalez still has a bright future having already made 27 total senior appearances and being capped at the U-20 level for Mexico.
Alvas Powell // Portland Timbers // Jamaica // 22 // Right-Back: Jamaican right-back Powell has become a mainstay in the team after being signed from USL side Sacramento Republic. He became a permanent starter in the Timber’s 2015 MLS Cup winning side. Coming off of that strong campaign, he didn’t look back. He appeared 23 times, only missing out because of a wrist injury in April and national team duty for Jamaica. He is effective both defensively and going forward, averaging 3.2 tackles a game, along with .7 key passes a game. Overall, Powell was one of the few bright spots in a Portland team that greatly underwhelmed in the year after their title triumph.
Tommy Redding // Orlando FC // USA // 19 // Center Back: Redding is currently part of a new generation that is taking the sunshine state by storm. After making his debut against Philadelphia during Orlando’s inaugural season last year, he was able to nail down a starting position early this season. He started all but eight of Lions’ games this year, and despite injury problems he was still a consistent figure in the starting lineup all year. He has the model of a European defender, preferring to bring the ball out of the back and incite attacks instead of just hoofing it clear. His twenty seven passes-per-game, with an 85% accuracy, mean that he has the tools to become one of the MLS’ top ball-playing defenders in the future.
Justen Glad // Real Salt Lake // USA // 19 // Center Back: After making only a few appearances in 2015, it didn’t look like Californian Glad would become the answer to Salt Lake’s problems at the back, but to almost everyone’s surprise, Glad became Real’s first choice center back next to Aaron Maund. Glad’s emergence into the limelight also helped propel Salt Lake into the 2016 MLS Playoffs after finishing second-to-last the year before. The 19-year-old’s impressive maturity on the field is extraordinary for a player of his age. This maturity is shown by his impressive ability to read the game and put out fires before they start, and with nothing hindering his development, Glad has all the tools to develop into a high quality player and is in the perfect environment to do so.
Jimmy Medranda // Sporting KC // Colombia // 22 // Left Back: Colombian left back and right winger Medranda made his debut way back in 2013 against Columbus, and after a few years of substitute appearances, Medranda was able to make his way into the starting eleven at the beginning of this year. His impressive tackling ability (3.6 per game) means that he is the ideal option for a defensive fullback, while his offensive contribution (.9 key passes and 31.3 passes per game) makes him an impressive attacking fullback or backup option on the right wing. The only thing that is holding Medranda back is his suspect positioning. While he does have the work rate to make up for most positional mistakes, he constantly runs the risk of being caught out of position.
Jack Harrison // NYCFC // England // 20 // Right Winger: After coming through the Manchester United youth academy, Harrison decided to attend Wake Forest University in America at age 18. He was selected first overall by the Chicago Fire in the MLS SuperDraft but was immediately traded to NYCFC for future draft picks. After a long layoff with a hip injury, Harrison finally made his debut in a 7-0 thrashing by the Red Bulls. After that game, Harrison never missed a game for NYC. He was one of City’s most dynamic players. He managed four goals and seven assists in 21 appearances and was consistently one of NYCFC’s most creative players. His 1.5 key passes per game were crucial in City’s run to the top three of the Eastern conference, and he would’ve been in the conversation for Rookie of the Year if he hadn’t been injured for the first 13 games of the season.
Cristian Higuita // Orlando City // Colombia // 22 // Central Midfielder: Another member of Orlando City’s youthful new generation, the Colombian destroyer has become an important cog in an Orlando City team that has become one of the most exciting young teams in the league. Higuita only missed games this season through injury or suspension. This is doubly impressive because of the grueling travel schedule that plagues all MLS teams. In Orlando’s midfield, Higuita has become the fire to Ballon D’Or winner Kaka’s ice. His ability to break up play with 2.1 interceptions and 3.4 tackles per game allows the Lions’ creative attacking players the freedom to roam higher up the field without worrying about their defensive responsibilities as much. Higuita is also able to launch attacks with his impressive passing ability and is always willing to try his luck from distance.
Carlos Gruezo // FC Dallas // Ecuador // 21 // Central Midfielder: After being bought from the Stuttgart bench in January of last year, Ecuadorian Gruezo instantly became a key fulcrum in a high-flying Dallas team. Gruezo sheltered the Dallas defense through the season, and he had to because of the verve with which the Texans attacked. The central midfielder’s ability to stop attacks at any cost helped Dallas repel counterattacks in almost every game. The only thing that is holding Gruezo back is his lack of discipline. He got nine yellow cards in only 27 games last year, and while he didn’t get any reds, he tended to get these cards early in the game, which held him back from going into tackles full force.
Talent Radar 100 to Watch in 2017
Luciano Acosta // DC United // Argentina // 22 // Left Winger: After being on loan from Boca Juniors last season, it was crucial for DC to sign Acosta on a permanent deal. His versatility in the middle of the park has made him a vital asset for the Capital team. His eight assists proved vital in propelling DC into the playoffs. He played in the center forward, attacking midfield, center midfield, and right wing role for the Eagles, and excelled in all of them. While Acosta was adept at creating goals, he needs to work on scoring them himself. He scored only three goals in 31 appearances last season. While this is troubling, Acosta’s dynamism and creativity in attacking areas easily make up for his lack of goals.
Jordan Morris // Seattle Sounders // USA // 22 // Striker: After scoring on his USMNT debut against Mexico in 2014, Morris led Stanford to a National Championship. After rejecting an offer from Werder Bremen, Morris was signed by Seattle for his first professional contract. Morris didn’t disappoint, either. He broke the MLS rookie record by scoring five game-winning goals for the Sounders and scoring 14 goals overall. Morris also captured the 2016 Rookie of the Year award. Moreover, Morris led Seattle to their first ever MLS Cup, leading the line in the team’s final 12 games of the regular season. While Morris does need to work on his weak foot, his potential to succeed Clint Dempsey as the USA’s prime striking option is unquestionable.
Cyle Larin // Orlando City // Canada // 21 // Striker: After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2015, Larin made sure that he didn’t have a sophomore slump. He scored 14 goals, starting all games that he was available for, and impressed up top in every game. Larin’s greatest asset is his finishing. He is supremely clinical and has all the tools to succeed at any level of the game. While it will be difficult to improve every year, Larin has the potential to become one of the best strikers in the MLS, and is already one of Canada’s best players at the age of 21.
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