With MLS keeping 20 teams busy during a midweek round of games, we’ll keep ourselves busy by taking a look at how the contingent of U-20 USMNT players performed in the build-up to the fast approaching CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
As always, if we are missing any key MLS-based players who are making a strong case that they deserve a spot in the initial call-up list from U-20 head coach Mikey Varas in a few weeks, please let us know in the comments below or drop us an email at email@example.com.
Perhaps the most notable highlight of Wednesday night’s action involved a player who didn’t even take the field, however his return to his MLS team’s active roster will be a major boost to Varas as he makes his plan for leading the team to hopefully qualify for both the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Here, we are talking about none other than New York Red Bull attacker Caden Clark, who has been out since March with an injury. While he remained on NYRB’s bench for their 3-3 home draw against Chicago Fire, alongside fellow U-20 teammate Daniel Edelman, his seeming return to full health 30 days before the USA plays their first group-stage game in Tegucigalpa is a positive sign.
In the high-scoring draw, two of Chicago’s junior USMNT players started, albeit with mixed levels of success.
Wing attacker Brian Gutiérrez played 65 minutes on the left side, assisting on the Fire’s opening goal by former Yank Abroad Chris Mueller to temporarily bring his team even at 1-1. Apart from the slick give-and-go assist, Gutiérrez took one free-kick attempt that was off-target, completed 15 of 20 passes amidst 37 touches, and one two-thirds of his nine duels against opposing Red Bulls players.
18 year-old starting keeper Gabriel Slonina had a less noteworthy evening to continue his growing slump, failing to stop a decently-taken penalty for NYRB’s early opener, committing a huge blunder on what should have been a schoolbook-save on their second, then was caught off his line for their third and final goal in injury time.
Slonina has now allowed 14 goals over his last five games, many of them self-inflicted wounds.
Another fleet of U-20 USMNT players were in uniform for Philadelphia Union’s scoreless draw at home against Inter Miami.
Philly had four such players in uniform, with three of them – Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn – coming off of the bench in the second half.
Aaronson had the longest outing, taking over the left central midfield role just past the hour mark. He did attempt one shot five minutes before full time, and otherwise completed nine of 11 passes, beat opposing defenders on a pair of dribble attempts, and drew two fouls.
Sullivan played the final 20 minutes at forward, setting up Kai Wagner for an injury-time attempt with an accurate cross, and otherwise completing 11 of his 14 attempted passes. McGlynn entered the game in the 81st minute at central defensive midfield, and was an active presence in his limited time, with 23 touches, 18 of 21 passing, plus one interception and another recovery to keep Miami from posing any late danger.
Philly defender Brandon Craig appeared on the bench for the third time this season, and Miami midfielder Noah Allen also returned to their bench after a short absence.
The only other prominent U-20 player to see action on the night was San Jose Earthquakes attacker Cade Cowell, who played 69 minutes on the left wing for his team, notching his third assist of the season in their 3-2 home win over the Portland Timbers.
Cowell, San Jose’s Master of the Mullet, was an active presence, being involved in the buildup to their opening goal, and then serving up the second to Jamiro Monteiro after a powerful run from his team’s own backfield. Overall, he took three shots, all set up by senior USMNT hopeful Jeremy Ebobisse, served up another pair of chances for teammates, accurately hit both of his attempted crosses, and completed 16 of 18 passes.
Los Angeles Galaxy defender Jalen Neal had his second appearance this season on the team’s bench for their 1-1 road draw at Minnesota United, while Seattle Sounders midfielder Obed Vargas was left out of the active roster for their trip to Houston for a 1-0 win, after having played major roles in all three of the team’s previous games.
Sporting KC’s defender Kayden Pierre was on his team’s bench for their 2-1 home win over Colorado, and, Antonio Carrera was the backup keeper for Dallas’ 2-1 victory over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.
Atlanta United (Caleb Wiley) and Orlando City (Thomas Williams, Michael Halliday) were not active in the midweek round of games.