With the CONCACAF U-20 Championship now a mere six weeks away, and spots in both the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics up for grabs, here’s our weekly look at how the MLS-based players in the U-20 pool are performing.
With one exception at the tail end of this article, we are focusing here on first-team players on current MLS rosters, who have been called into the recent U-20 camps by head coach Mikey Varas.
As always, if we are missing any players who are showing that they will deserve a place in the initial call-up list in a few weeks, please let us know in the comments below or drop us an email at email@example.com.
In a game having major implications on both the U-20 and senior national teams, Atlanta United destroyed visiting Chicago Fire by a 4-1 margin, with six players who are also donning the Stars and Stripes in uniform for the two teams.
Chicago keeper Gabriel Slonina had his third rough outing in a row, allowing four goals from the run of play, although also making three saves in the game. To his credit, none of the goals were due to blatant errors, although he could have done better on the third, a one-on-one against Ronaldo Cisneros that saw the young keeper only halfheartedly commit on his final decision.
Brian Gutiérrez also started on the left side of Chicago’s attack, however was pulled at the half in favor of recent returnee from Scotland, Chris Mueller. This came after an ineffective opening phase that saw the U-20 player only make 12 touches, complete four of seven pass attempts, miss his lone shot, have no successful dribbles in two attempts, and lose all five of his duels against opposing players.
Also for Chicago, midfielder Javier Casas returned to the bench for the first time since mid-April, but was not called into action.
On the Atlanta side, the win will be a painful one due to injuries to two national team players. In addition to a suspected major Achilles injury by USMNT starting central back Miles Robinson, U-20 player Caleb Wiley was forced to leave the field only 14 minutes after entering as a 67th minute substitute, following what was later described by the coach as a rolled ankle.
During his brief time, Wiley was promising on the left side of the the defense, completing all five of his pass attempts.
Montreal also beat Orlando by a 4-1 scoreline, with Orlando’s Thomas Williams playing the full game for the losing side in the center of the defense. While he was generally an efficient passer (40/44), was accurate on half of his four long-balls, made a pair of clearances and also made one interception, he was weak in man-coverage, being beaten three times on the dribble and only winning two of his eight duels.
More importantly, he was beaten on two of Montreal’s four goals, while picking up his first yellow card of the season in the final moments of the game.
Outside defender Michael Halliday was also on the bench for Orlando, however is still awaiting his first appearance of the season.
In San Jose, the Earthquakes beat Colorado Rapids by a 1-0 score, with Cade Cowell starting and playing 77 minutes on the left wing for the hosts. He had a productive game, attempting two shots, one of which hit the woodwork just before the half, completing eight of 11 passing attempts, and being successful on three of his five dribble attempts.
Seattle Sounders followed up their historical midweek victory in the CONCACAF Champions League final with a tepid 2-0 loss on the road to FC Dallas, another game with several players for the senior and U-20 national teams taking part.
For Seattle, their 16 year-old midfield phenom Obed Vargas played the full game in the center of the park, completing 76% of his 38 passes, creating one chance, hitting two of three long ball attempts, winning five of seven duels, and picking up his fourth yellow card of the season just before the half.
In Los Angeles, LAFC and Philadelphia Union drew 2-2, in a game pitting the top teams in the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively. For the Union, only one of their three U-20 players in uniform took the field.
Jack McGlynn played the final 13 minutes as the team’s central defensive midfielder, and was uninvolved in LAFC’s equalizer five minutes after he took the field. Otherwise, Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan were in uniform for the visitors, but didn’t make it off of the team’s bench.
In Charlotte, midfielder Noah Allen was in uniform for Inter Miami in their loss to their hosts, but was not called into action.
Similarly, Daniel Edelman was on the New York Red Bull bench for their 1-1 draw at home against Portland, but didn’t take the field. NYRB’s Caden Clark is still recovering from a knee injury and did not suit up.
Similar to last week’s edition, the most remarkable performance from a player in Mikey Varas’ U-20 pool this weekend came one division below MLS, as Diego Luna once again ripped through USL competition. This time around, he scored a goal and assisted on another in El Paso Locomotive’s 4-0 win over LA Galaxy II, while setting up another six chances for his teammates, and generally having a man-of-the-match performance.
On the other side, LA Galaxy’s Jalen Neal, who joined the recent U-20 camp in Argentina, played the full game as center back, generally having a strong performance in the heavy loss.