With the CONCACAF U-20 Championship just around the corner, and spots for both the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics on the line, we take a weekly look at how the first-team, professional players in the U-20 pool are performing.
In breaking with the named focus of our website, we will focus here on how MLS-based U-20 Nats are performing in their weekly duties. This is largely due to the success of the MLS academy system in creating a large pool of high-quality youngsters within the eligible age group.
In most cases, those U-20 eligible players based overseas, i.e. the players falling under our typical (and named) purview, are either graduated to the senior USMNT like Ricardo Pepi, or are playing in the youth academy systems of their teams.
In MLS there is a very different situation, where a full starting eleven could almost be put together from the players who are suiting up for MLS play on a week-to-week basis, and who have already been called in by U-20 coach Mikey Varas so far this cycle.
Therefore, here we are focusing on those MLS professionals who have garnered the attention of Varas so far since his appointment as the team’s coach, and can be considered in contention for a call-up to this summer’s tournament.
However if we are missing any active MLS players who are showing that they will deserve a place in this summer’s tournament, please let us know in the comments below or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gabriel Slonina, who is also a prime target of Polish National Team coach Czesław Michniewicz, had his worst game of the young MLS season so far in Chicago’s 3-0 road loss to Minnesota United on Saturday. The three goals conceded were more than he had allowed through the first eight games of the season combined.
Also in the Chicago lineup, Brian Gutiérrez played 66 minutes on the left of the team’s midfield, having 33 total touches, completing 20 of 23 passes, setting up two chances for his teammates, and having one shot blocked in the early-going. Sadly, what looked to be a solid performance by the 18 year-old was wasted in the otherwise dismal loss.
Inter Miami’s 2-1 home win over visiting Atlanta United also featured a pair of prominent U-20 players, although they only shared the field for six minutes.
Caleb Wiley started on the left wing for the visitors, completed 19 of 22 passes and set up two attempts for his teammates, before departing after 62 minutes with the game still tied 1-1.
For the hosts, Noah Allen entered the field in the 56th minute on the left side of the team’s midfield. In his roughly 35 minutes, he had more of a defensive impact, only completing 5 of 11 pass attempts while making three successful clearances, recovering the ball three times and winning two of his three duels.
New York Red Bulls continued their surprisingly impressive start to the season, cementing second place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-0 road win over Orlando City.
In that game, NYRB midfielder Daniel Edelman didn’t make it off of the team’s bench, while U-20 star Caden Clark is out until June with a knee injury, which will make his participation in the CONCACAF tournament highly questionable.
On the side of the hosts, 17 year-old holding midfielder Thomas Williams saw his first significant first-team MLS action after coming on the the field for a one-minute debut last weekend. After coming into the game as a halftime substitute, had 26 total touches, completed 19 of 24 passes and won three of his five duels.
San Jose Earthquakes’ 4-3 home win over the Seattle Sounders also featured a pair of U-20 internationals in substitute roles.
Cade Cowell, who has already been capped senior USMNT against Bosnia and Herzegovina in December, entered the game in the 62nd minute with San Jose down 3-1, and saw the team turn their fortunes around to take a remarkable 4-3 win.
While not involved in any of the three goals in the dramatic come-back, he did complete 80% of his ten pass attempts in San Jose’s first win of the season.
On the Seattle side, 16 year-old Obed Vargas entered the game in the 75th minute in the center of the team’s midfield, and was not involved in the controversial injury-time penalty that gave San Jose the win. During his short time on the field, he had 14 touches, completed all 11 of his passes, and earned his third yellow card of the young season.
Finally, Philadelphia’s 1-1 home draw against CF Montreal on Saturday featured three U-20 Nats on the home side. Only Jack McGlynn played any significant role, entering the game in the 66th minute as a substitute on the left side of the midfield, and completing 19 of his 21 pass attempts with the game already knotted at one apiece.
Paxten Aaronson was an 89th-minute sub at the tail end of the game, while Quinn Sullivan was left on the bench.
The draw gave Philadelphia a three-point cushion atop the Eastern Conference ahead of NYRB.