Rising Stars Dazzle in MLS Matchday 6 Performances
MLS Matchday 6 saw numerous young players stepping into the spotlight and showcasing their talents. The top five performers include:
- Aidan Morris (Midfielder, Columbus Crew) – Morris, the Crew’s homegrown central midfielder, continued his impressive run of form. After scoring his first career MLS goal in a 6-1 victory over Atlanta United, he netted a brace in a dominant 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake. His performances earned him the MLS Team of the Matchday title. At just 21 years old, Morris is proving to be an increasingly well-rounded player with a strong desire to improve.
- Jalen Neal (Defender, LA Galaxy) – Although the LA Galaxy suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Seattle Sounders, 19-year-old Neal shone at center back. Completing 90% of his passes and making seven recoveries, two interceptions, and three clearances, Neal showcased his defensive prowess. To cap off his performance, he scored his first career MLS goal, sparking a late rally that nearly secured a draw for his team.
- Talles Magno (Forward, New York City FC) – Magno played a crucial role in securing a 1-1 draw against New England. Positioned as a left winger instead of his usual No. 9 role, Magno completed 85% of his passes and threatened on the dribble. He then scored the equalizing goal, his second of the season, off a Gabriel Pereira corner kick. If Magno can continue to produce consistently, NYCFC’s attack will become even more formidable.
- Jacob Greene (Defender, D.C. United) – Greene, a 20-year-old homegrown player, has started D.C.’s last two matches at left back. Known for his composed and reliable defensive work, Greene notched nine recoveries, seven clearances, and one block in a 0-0 draw against Chicago Fire FC. This performance contributed to United’s first clean sheet of the season, and his progress has been a bright spot for the team.
- Alan Velasco (Forward, FC Dallas) – The North Texans may have been left frustrated after a 1-1 draw with Portland, but Argentine winger Velasco continued to trouble opposing back lines both on and off the ball. He played one key pass, directed two shots on goal, and went 6/7 on dribbles, while contributing five recoveries and winning most of his 13 duels. Velasco is quietly creating interesting and impactful attacking opportunities for his team.
Honorable mentions include Kerwin Vargas (Charlotte FC), who had a significant impact on Matchday 6, covering ground and connecting passes well, ultimately providing a beautiful cross for Kamil Józwiak’s equalizer. Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United) showcased his versatility, excelling both in attack and defense, while 17-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Beavers (Real Salt Lake) made his MLS debut in a challenging match against Columbus. Despite a 4-0 loss, Beavers showed bravery and determination that bodes well for his future.
MVP Attackers and Star Defenders Dominate Matchday 6
The Team of the Matchday presented by Audi for Matchday 6 features two past MVP honorees, two previous MLS Defender of the Year winners, and several rising stars making their mark in the league.
Hany Mukhtar of Nashville SC, the 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP, contributed a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win at Orlando City SC. Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman, the 2020 and 2021 MLS Defender of the Year, played a crucial role in the victory. Columbus Crew attacker Lucas Zelarayán, the 2020 MLS Cup MVP, was instrumental with a goal and an assist in a 4-0 triumph over Real Salt Lake. Young midfielder Aidan Morris, 21, scored his first career brace, furthering his USMNT case.
Philadelphia Union’s Jakob Glesnes, the 2022 MLS Defender of the Year, maintained his stellar form in a 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City. Glesnes and Zimmerman joined FC Cincinnati’s Yerson Mosquera in the lineup after the 21-year-old center back scored a header in a 1-0 win over Inter Miami CF.
Midfielders Mukhtar, Morris, and Zelarayán were joined by Charlotte FC’s Kamil Józwiak, who produced a goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw at Toronto FC. Seattle Sounders FC winger Léo Chú and Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Simon Becher, both young talents, shone in their respective matches. San Jose Earthquakes winger Cristian Espinoza earned a spot after scoring two penalty kicks, while Minnesota United FC’s Dayne St. Clair secured the goalkeeper spot with a three-save shutout.
Through the Audi Goals Drive Progress initiative, Audi commits $1 million per season to advancing MLS academies league-wide and driving progress in the sport. For every goal scored in the regular season, Audi contributes $200 to the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund to support each MLS Club Youth Academy.
MLS Youth Teams Shine in International Tournament, Defeat Premier League Rivals and Secure Top Positions
The New York Red Bulls U-15s and Columbus Crew U-17s secured impressive victories against Chelsea FC and Manchester United, respectively, in a youth international tournament, showcasing the potential of MLS academies. Red Bulls forward Hall scored twice in a 3-0 win, with Paul Sokoloff adding another goal, while Columbus Crew defender Owen Presthus scored a stoppage-time winner in a 1-0 victory against a ten-man Manchester United side.
Other standout performances in the tournament included the Philadelphia Union winning Group 5 by defeating IMG Academy 2-1 with goals from Alex Perez and Daniel Krueger. Strikers FC and St. Louis CITY faced off in Group 8, with Strikers FC securing first place through a Devin Zachry penalty in a 1-0 match.
Houston Dynamo managed a 1-0 win against Minnesota United with a goal from center back Tate Lampman, putting them in a strong position to advance as one of the six best second-place finishers. Sporting KC impressively locked up first place in Group 8 without conceding a goal in the tournament, securing a 0-0 draw with Toronto FC on the final day.
In the U15 category, the Chicago Fire earned a hard-fought 2-1 win against LA Galaxy, with a decisive penalty converted by Emir Herrera. Orlando City and Houston Dynamo FC both secured six points in Group 4, thanks to Orlando’s 2-1 win against Minnesota United FC and Dynamo’s dramatic victory against FC Nordsjælland. Finally, Real Salt Lake picked up a key win against FC Cincinnati, positioning themselves to advance as a top second-place finisher with a 2-1 victory secured by a double from Luca Moisa and Javier Ruelas Figueroa.
NYCFC Loans Thiago Andrade to Athletico Paranaense, Opens U22 Roster Slot
New York City FC has loaned forward Thiago Andrade to Brazilian top-flight team Athletico Paranaense until December 2023, freeing up a U22 Initiative roster slot. The loan deal includes a purchase option that is automatically exercised if Andrade meets certain performance criteria. NYCFC sporting director David Lee said the move offers a great opportunity for the 22-year-old to return home and continue his career development.
Andrade joined NYCFC from Brazilian side Bahia in April 2021 and contributed 10 goals and four assists in 58 regular-season games. He was part of the team’s MLS Cup 2021 and Campeones Cup 2022-winning squads. The loan transfer provides NYCFC with increased roster flexibility before the MLS Primary Transfer Window closes on April 24. Currently, NYCFC sits sixth in the Eastern Conference table, while Athletico Paranaense finished sixth in the 2022 Brazilian Serie A season, qualifying for this year’s Copa Libertadores group stage.
Record-Breaking Becher Crowned MLS Player of Matchday 6
Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Simon Becher made history as he was named MLS Player of Matchday 6 following his outstanding two-goal, one-assist performance in a commanding 5-0 victory over rivals CF Montréal. The 23-year-old set a new record as the fastest player in MLS history to reach four career goals, achieving this milestone in just 87 minutes of play. Becher surpassed the previous record held by Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernández, who reached four goals in 89 minutes in 2022.
A first-round MLS SuperDraft pick in 2022 (16th overall), Becher previously starred for Vancouver Whitecaps 2 last season, scoring eight goals in 22 MLS NEXT Pro appearances. The forward is a product of Saint Louis University, where he scored 21 goals in 47 appearances from 2019-21 before joining Vancouver. Becher is the first alumnus of MLS NEXT Pro to win MLS Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire honors.
The crucial victory for the Whitecaps, who were winless through the first five league matches of their 2023 campaign, propelled them to the No. 9 spot in the Western Conference table. The team now sports a respectable +3 goal differential after the five-goal rout. The Whitecaps will aim to maintain this momentum in their ongoing Concacaf Champions League campaign as they host LAFC for a leg-one quarterfinal matchup at BC Place on Wednesday evening.
Ryder Mills Shines as MLS NEXT Pro Matchday Performer
Although FC Cincinnati 2 didn’t secure their second MLS NEXT Pro victory of the season, they witnessed a promising performance from young academy player Ryder Mills in their 2-1 road loss to Crown Legacy FC. The 18-year-old scored his first MLS NEXT Pro goal in his debut off the bench for Tyrone Marshall’s team.
Entering the game in the 68th minute, Mills quickly made an impact by scoring just three minutes later. He capitalized on a rebound following a saved shot by Jesus Castellano, cutting FCC2’s deficit to 2-1. Despite FCC2’s inability to find an equalizer, Mills’ early success offered a confidence boost for the rest of the season. The talented teenager drew one foul and made one interception in his 22-minute appearance.
Before joining the FC Cincinnati organization in 2019, Mills played in the Columbus Crew’s academy, where he scored 10 goals in 10 appearances during the 2019-20 Developmental Academy season. FCC2 will face Huntsville City FC on April 9 in Matchday 3 action.
Minnesota United defeats St. Louis CITY and Questions for the Future
Minnesota United may have just provided the blueprint needed to defeat St. Louis CITY, following their performance on Matchday 6. By playing comfortably without the ball and forcing St. Louis to possess it, they disrupted the clear-cut chances that usually arise from an effective high press. While it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, it may encourage opponents to make tactical adjustments similar to what Minnesota did.
As for the LA Galaxy, the team is still winless, and fans are protesting the state of the club. Although Chicharito’s return could potentially improve things, the situation remains complicated due to sanctions and the limited roster changes possible in the Secondary Transfer Window.
In Columbus, back-to-back blowout wins have sparked questions about the Crew’s sustainability. Coach Wilfried Nancy’s influence is evident, but with a history of inconsistency and roster concerns, it’s hard to tell if the team’s recent success will continue.
Seattle’s decision to maintain continuity in their attack paid off as Jordan Morris and Leo Chu dominated for the second straight week. The team’s conundrum lies in choosing between sticking with the winning formula or utilizing their talented strikers on the bench.
Finally, Atlanta’s win over New York demonstrated their resilience in handling physical confrontations, unlike previous Atlanta teams that would have likely wilted under pressure. At full strength, they appear to be one of the league’s top contenders.
Generation adidas Cup Day 2: Exciting Matches and Emerging Talent
Day 2 of the Generation adidas Cup showcased the talents of young players and the unique rules that add excitement to the tournament. The Colorado Rapids U-15 team secured a win against Bolivian club Bolivar, after initially leading the match, losing their advantage, and then winning a shootout. The San Jose Earthquakes U-15 squad maintained control of first place in Group 8 by winning a penalty shootout against New York City FC after a 2-2 draw.
In other U-15 results, Orlando City SC drew 1-1 against Danish side FC Nordsjælland, while New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, and CF Monterrey all secured wins for the second straight day. Group 10 is evenly poised, with Columbus Crew and Austin FC facing off, both equal on points.
At the U-17 level, several teams remained unbeaten in group play. New York City FC, Sporting KC, Seattle Sounders FC, and FC Dallas all achieved wins, while Orlando City pulled off a dramatic 3-2 win against New England Revolution after a back-and-forth match. The final day of group play promises crucial games ahead of the knockout round.
LA Galaxy Coach Greg Vanney Frustrated by Missed Handball Call
LA Galaxy head coach and sporting director Greg Vanney expressed his frustration over what he believed was a missed handball in the 94th minute of the team’s 2-1 home defeat to Seattle Sounders FC. The handball incident occurred when midfielder Mark Delgado attempted to cross the ball, which deflected off Sounders left back Nouhou’s elbow. Referee Allen Chapman did not award a penalty, leaving the Galaxy without a potential equalizer deep in stoppage time.
Vanney argued that this is the third game in a row where referees have not correctly identified a handball, calling the situation “obscene” and “ridiculous.” The Galaxy, currently 12th in the Western Conference with three points from five matches, are one of three teams still winless after Matchday 6.
Hany Mukhtar’s MVP Form Helps Revive Nashville SC’s Attack
Nashville SC was experiencing a dry spell in goals, losing back-to-back 1-0 matches before their Matchday 6 clash at Orlando City SC. 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar had yet to score in the 2023 campaign, and the team had consistently struggled to find goals when he didn’t perform. However, Mukhtar’s genius shone through against Orlando, as he contributed a goal and an assist to secure a 2-0 win for Nashville against a fellow Eastern Conference playoff hopeful.
Nashville head coach Gary Smith was delighted with Mukhtar’s performance, praising his inventiveness and intelligence on the field. Mukhtar’s quick restart in the 28th minute led to a goal by teammate Fafà Picault, who converted the opportunity with a chipped finish. Smith called Mukhtar a “genius” and highlighted his ability to see things faster than most players.
Picault’s first goal for Nashville came after joining the team in a trade with Houston Dynamo FC last offseason. He expressed satisfaction with scoring against Orlando, a personal rival, and silencing the crowd. Picault also emphasized the growing chemistry between him and Mukhtar, both on and off the field, and predicted that the partnership would continue to develop over the coming weeks and months.
St. Louis CITY SC Suffers First Loss
St. Louis CITY SC’s dream start to their 2023 MLS expansion campaign hit a bump as they suffered their first-ever defeat at the hands of Minnesota United FC, losing 1-0. With five wins in their first five matches, they had sat atop the league with a +11 goal differential.
After the Matchday 6 clash, CITY SC head coach Bradley Carnell acknowledged the team’s vulnerability, saying, “We’re not superhuman after all.” Minnesota United, one of the three remaining undefeated teams, proved challenging to overcome, scoring the game’s only goal via a Luis Amarilla penalty kick in the 78th minute.
Carnell pointed out that the team struggled to win second balls against Minnesota’s two-striker formation and admitted that the players might have felt weighed down by their own success. However, he emphasized the importance of staying focused and improving as a team every day.
With a crucial battle for first place in the Western Conference coming up against Seattle Sounders FC in Matchday 7, Carnell encouraged the club’s leadership to step up and help the players refocus. He reiterated that St. Louis CITY SC has arrived in the league, and they remain competitive and determined to succeed.