In an exciting week of CONCACAF Champions League matches, Seattle Sounders FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy were able to best their opponents and advance to the semifinal round of the tournament. Having two teams represent MLS this far into the tournament is a great achievement for the league and has never been done since the competition was reformatted in 2008.
Both the Galaxy and Sounders couldn't have made it this far if it weren't for key contributions from some of the team's youngsters. Seattle had the help of newly signed Homegrown player DeAndre Yedlin, while LA's own Homegrown products, Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean played huge roles for the Galaxy.
Yedlin and the Sounders had to overcome and 1-0 loss to Tigres UANL from the first leg of the quarterfinals in order to advance.
The second leg did not start well for Seattle even though they were playing in the safe confines of CenturyLink Field. Tigres added to their aggregate lead in the 23rd minute with a goal from Elias Hernandez, but just before halftime, Tigres' Manuel Viniegra received his second yellow card of the match and was sent off.
Seattle pulled off the miraculous comeback and scored three goals in the second half, while keeping Tigres off the scoresheet to advance 3-2 on aggregate. In the process of doing so, history was made as the Sounders became the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican team from the CCL.
The first of Seattle's goals was from 19-year-old right-back DeAndre Yedlin. The University of Akron product signed with Seattle in January of 2013 and became the first Homegrown signing in the club's history.
Yedlin scored from a volley that deflected off a defender to beat the goalkeeper. It was his first professional goal and was most definitely a sort of redemption for him.
In the first half, DeAndre was easily pushed off the ball near the corner of the Sounders' defensive third, which led to Tigres' only goal of the game.
What's surprising about the young defender is that he was thrown into MLS and CONCACAF games and has held his own. In fact, he's already turning heads with only two games under his belt, and it's not because of his eccentric hairstyle.
For the Galaxy, 19-year-old forward Jose Villarreal had already garnered attention last season with limited playing time, even winning the Galaxy's Goal of the Year award.
In the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship just a few weeks ago, Villarreal played a crucial role in helping the US advance to the finals against Mexico. He scored three goals in four games and was named to the tournament's Best XI.
Villarreal scored the second goal in a 4-1 victory over Costa Rican club Herediano and did so in incredible fashion. He led a counterattack with Robbie Keane, had the confidence to brush off Keane's calls for the ball, pirouetted to lose his defenders and struck the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
With the match all but decided at 3-1, 18-year-old forward Jack McBean came on as a substitute and scored from a quick restart after a free kick was given to the Galaxy.
McBean was left somewhat unmarked, but his goal showed off his clinical finishing and technical ability. The goal was his fourth of this year's CCL, which is good for second most in the tournament.
LA went on to advance to the semifinals thanks to a 4-1 aggregate lead.
Yedlin, Villarreal, and McBean are all young talents that are examples of the success of MLS' Homegrown system. It's hard not to think that they will become the stars of the league in a few years, but looking ahead just a few months, all three have a good chance of being called up for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey if they continue to perform well.
And who knows? We may very well be looking at the future of the US men's national team.
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