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Americans at home: Checking in on the kids in MLS down the stretch - Part 1

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Looking at some 21ish year olds and under that might be relevant for the USMNT

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a minute since we checked in on MLS and all of the exciting things Gyasi Zardes is doing in the league. Of course, the real excitement in the league is the emergence of young players contributing to their senior teams. As the season winds down, we’ll look at some of the young players who have made strides this year and might be pushing for youth or senior USMNT callups or get a look from teams abroad.

Before we look at how the kids are doing, let’s check in on a legend. Here’s Landon Donovan’s LA Galaxy statue.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at LA Galaxy Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Statue making must be very difficult, as it seems like Landon’s face isn’t that well captured. But I did notice that a lot of attention was paid to his veins.

Now to the yooots... Some of them and mostly looking at FC Dallas and Philly today.

You might ask: Did you say “yoots?” Yes I did your honor. For our purposes is yoot is about 21ish years old, Miles Robinson is included because he’s good and on the USMNT and should be in Europe soon... unless he gets stuck in Aaron Long purgatory.

Ricardo Pepi

He has 13 goals and two assists in 1,902 minutes. That’s very good. He’s 18 years-old. That’s great, it’s just what the USMNT needs if he can keep it up. He might be slightly over-performing his xG as it stands at 8.8 for whatever that’s worth. And after scoring five in four games in late August and early September, he’s just got one goal in the last five, but Dallas has also been absolutely awful over that stretch and fired their manager.

Paxton Pomykal

The midfielder is bouncing back from missing most of 2020 and has been featuring for Dallas more as a left midfielder/winger this year. He’s got just one goal and assist and in 2021 his biggest contribution has been... what would typically be seen on the defensive side of things. Again, this is because Dallas is bad.

I’m not sure what Dallas being bad says about five youngsters on this list, but here we are.

He’s getting 21.25 pressures a game, 2.23 tackles, 1.38 interceptions, 1.23 blocks, .92 clearences, and is winning 1.23 aerials a game. All of those stats put him above the 77th percentile for wide midfielders, except for blocks which is at 57%, but again it’s not what you hope to see out of an attacker. His best attacking stat is 6.6 progressive carries a game, good for 75%. His shot creating actions number stands at 2.46/game, only rating him at 27%.

Justin Che

The defender is sitting at just under 1000 minutes at this point in 2021 with 11 starts and two assists. He’s excelling as a right back for the team. In that role Che is getting 3.21 interceptions, 3.02 tackles, and 17.42 pressures a match. Those numbers are good for at least 84th percentile in the position. In the attack he has 1.26 dribbles a game and has an xA of .14 a match, putting him in the 78th percentile and 81st respectively.

Jesus Ferreira

At 20 years-old Ferreira is starting to put things together. He’s played as a no. 10 for the most part and a striker or on each wing this this year. He’s put in eight goals and has nine assists in 1,854 minutes for FCD. Ferreira is giving 3.59 shot creating actions a game, 68th percentile, and is at .25 xA/90, 84th percentile. He also makes 4.56 progressive passes a game which has him at the 77th percentile. A 10g/10a season would be a great goal for him to reach this year.

Edwin Cerillo

Cerillo is a pretty low-key name when it comes to American center midfielders, but he is 21 as of Sunday and shows promise in the position. With 12 starts and 18 appearances this year, he has amassed 1,046 total minutes in 2021. His strengths seem to be as a holding midfielder where he attempts 58.12 passes/game, completing 89.6% a game. This puts him among the 81st and 88th percentile of players, respectively.

Quinn Sullivan

The 17 year old midfielder has 405 minutes played and two goals and two assists in that time. That is fantastic and shows his potential to grow in the league and through his career. Philly has leaned more on youth this year than even in the past and is being rewarded for it.

Leon Flach

If you want to talk about an exciting defensive midfielder, it’s Leon Flach. He’s established himself as a starter in one of the more dynamic and exciting teams in MLS that’s become known for being really difficult to breakdown defensively. Flach gets forward for a more defensive minded midfielder as shown by his 2.72 progressive passes received per game, putting him in the 67th percentile of all midfielders and 2.52 touches in the penalty area, 81st percentile, per game.

Defensively, he gets 25.65 pressures a game and 2.93 tackles, and 1.59 interceptions a match, good for the 83rd, 80th, and 62nd percentiles respectively. Finally, his 2.26 blocks a game put him in the 98th percentile. That’s in 25 starts and 2,147 minutes this year.

Paxten Aaronson

There’s another Paxten and another Aaronson in American soccer, this time it’s the same guy. He’s only played 269 minutes in 8 appearances, scoring one goal, so he hasn’t exactly turned heads with his numbers or forced his way into the starting XI. Still, getting minutes is important and at 18 he has time to grow as a player.

Julian Araujo

I know, he’s going to play for El Tri. He’s here because typically this would be met with some degree of concern from USMNT fans. They might even loudly demand answers on social media. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case for two reasons. One: Joe Scally... and other rising talents in the USMNT right back depth chart have made this less concerning. Two: Gregg Berhalter has been putting in the effort to attract dual nationals to the American program. He’s getting rebuffed a bit, but at the end of the day it seems like Berhalter has been doing his end of the bargain and the players at least know they’re wanted when they make their choice.