As the domestic season winds down in the US and Canada with the third Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC MLS Cup Final in four years, it’s time to look back at how the season unfolded. For Americans in MLS and some in USL, judging expectations versus what transpired led to some mixed results. I went back and looked at players I thought would make an impact on the year and how they actually did and here are the results:
Justen Glad - The 22 year-old showed that he still has some room to grow this season. RSL had a bit of a tumultuous year with the firing of Mike Petke, but did make the playoffs. Glad missed the first six games of the year and RSL managed just one win and one draw without him, in fact 14 of the team’s 16 wins this season came with Glad in the lineup. In the pre-season coverage, I noted that: “Since becoming a starting center back for the team in 2016 RSL has allowed 46, 55, and 58 goals. Some of that is due to Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando getting on in years, but some of it is also due to having a young center back anchoring the defense. If RSL is going to improve upon that record, Glad will need to step forward to help make it happen,” and with 41 goals allowed in 2019, he stepped up and helped RSL finish 3rd in the West.
Juan Pablo Torres and James Sands - Well, Sands did step up in 2019 - though it was as a centerback rather than his other position in defensive midfield. The 19 year-old was a key member of the NYCFC side that finished first in the East, though his season was cut short thanks to a broken collarbone in August. Still, establishing himself as a starter on the best defensive team in the East is promising and Sands should continue to develop into a valuable contributor for the Pigeons.
Keaton Parks - The midfielder had a solid first year in MLS with 14 starts and 22 appearances for NYCFC. He emerged as a starter in June and occupied a key role playing deeper in the midfield in New York. Parks’ future in the league is up in the air though, he joined from Benfica on loan through the 2019 season and his move to the states was not made permanent.
Paxton Pomykal - The FC Dallas midfielder won the starting attacking midfield role, at times playing centrally or on the wing, to start the year and never looked back when he was healthy. However, the final stretch of the season saw some ups and downs as he signed a new long-term contract with FCD but also suffered through some injuries and was left to being a bench option as Dallas finished 2019. Still, he earned a callup with the USMNT and finished the year with two goals, five assists in 1876 minutes played.
George Bello - Yikes, Bello was injured early in the year and never established himself as the starting left back for Atlanta United in 2019. He did make 11 starts for ATLUTD2 in USL and notched a goal with the team. The defender managed to get back to fitness to make the U-17 World Cup roster and started two games in the tournament.
Gianluca Busio - 2019 was not an impressive year for Sporting Kansas City. Injuries took a massive toll on the team and SKC finished second from last in the West. Busio was a bright spot at times though. The attacker scored a goal and contributed three assists in 10 starts and 22 appearances for his club. He also joined the U-17s in Brazil and scored the lone goal of the tournament for the team.
Issac Angking - After getting a look in preseason Angking did not appear for the New England Revolution in 2019 and was loaned to the Charlotte Independence at the end of the summer. He did not feature in USL either and the homegrown will look to find more playing time in 2020.
Andrew Carleton - 2019 was another lean year for Carleton. He was omitted from the U-20 World Cup team, faced criticism from a manager known for developing youth talent when Frank de Boer noted that he needed to “grow up as a man,” and then missed a flight to Toronto because he forgot his passport. The attacker ended the year playing just 64 minutes for FdB 1,228 minutes with five goals for ATLUTD2.
Julian Araujo - The left back ended the year with 10 starts and 891 minutes with the LA Galaxy. Turning 18 in August, his time in MLS was somewhat sporadic as starts seemed to come based more on what Guillermo Barros Schelotto was seeing in practice rather than an established starter taking the position. Still, a US eligible left back getting professional experience is a good sign and something to build on in 2020.
Wan Kuzain - The central midfielder spent all of 2019 with the Swope Park Rangers logging 1,959 minutes. 2020 will give him another shot to make the MLS roster in Kansas City.
Manny Perez, Andrew Gutman, and Chris Goslin - Three names I mentioned had mixed results in 2019. Perez played 1,087 minutes in North Carolina with four assists and 11 key passes in 21 appearances and 12 starts in USL. Gutman signed on loan with FC Cincinnati at the start of August and made five starts for the worst team in the league. While Chris Goslin had 79 minutes played in USL, though a solid offseason might give him some opportunities as Atlanta United seems set to make some big moves ahead of 2020.