5 MLS Teenage Stars of the Future
The All-Star festivities in MLS have begun with the inaugural Homegrown Game on Monday. The game was significant as several future stars were on display, and some of them are teenagers.
Many youngsters in MLS have tremendous potential to rise to the top of the league, and some who were deserving did not get called up to play in the big game.
In this slideshow, five players who are 19 years old or under are featured as potential game-changers in MLS in the future. Most of them have been prominently featured with their clubs already. Here are the ones to watch.
Sam Adekugbe, Defender (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Adekugbe is just 18 years old, but the fullback has been steadily maturing since signing a professional contract after two years in the Whitecaps Residency program.
He's started just two games, one apiece in 2013 and 2014, but has been a force in each match on the left flank.
In Adekugbe's only start in 2014 thus far against Toronto FC, the young Canadian had to fill in for the suspended Jordan Harvey. The 18-year-old looked composed, positioned himself well and was able to prevent Jonathan Osorio and Mark Bloom from making any dangerous runs from the left.
Adekugbe misses out on the list due to his inexperience, but his two performances have given Whitecaps fans a glimpse of his potential. He could become a stalwart at left back for both club and country very soon.
Matt Miazga, Defender (New York Red Bulls)
Miazga is another homegrown talent who has taken part in matches with the senior squad. The 19-year-old has made seven appearances with the Red Bulls this season—six of them starts.
The center back looked particularly strong against the New England Revolution this past June. It was Miazga's second start and just his third professional game.
Miazga is slowly starting to come into his own. With a few more games at this rate, he'll be in the top five.
5. Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas)
The 19-year-old fullback has been steadily growing since signing a homegrown contract in 2012. However, an injury derailed Acosta's 2014 season.
He has started just five games but has been impressive in each match on the right side of defense as a modern-day fullback. In 2013, Acosta was rotated, but he's been given more trust by manager Oscar Pareja.
Acosta was the first FC Dallas homegrown player to surpass 1,000 minutes played, per the club's official website. He's also earned call-ups to the U.S. under-17 through under-20 teams, where he's gained some valuable experience.
Watch out for Acosta in the future, as he's a fast, exciting and versatile player who will be a main fixture in the Dallas lineup for many years to come.
4. Marco Delgado (Chivas USA)
Chivas USA have some exciting, young players in the squad. Golden Boot candidate Erick Torres is one of them. Midfielder Marco Delgado is another who's quickly rising.
Delgado, 19, plays in the center of midfield. He was signed as a homegrown player in 2012 but didn't feature until last year. The teenager earned 13 starts and 16 appearances in total in 2013.
This season, Delgado has almost surpassed that number, so far earning 15. He's been deployed in several positions, playing on both flanks in his regular midfield role or as a No. 10.
None of his traits jump out, but Delgado is a consistently balanced player. He contributes defensively and is effective in the final third.
If there is one area where Delgado has to improve, it's his passing. He completes just less than 71 percent of his passes but only attempts about 22, per WhoScored.com.
This could be attributed to his inaccuracy, and that's something head coach Wilmer Cabrera has to work on with his young midfielder.
3. Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City)
Erik Palmer-Brown is just 17 years old, but he's already attracted interest from abroad. Juventus reportedly had a $1 million bid rejected by Sporting Kansas City for the defender, per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated.
This indicates that the young American has huge potential. Palmer-Brown has already played with the senior team due to the injuries in defense earlier this season.
He struggled in his debut, picking up two bookings in Kansas City's 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire on May 18.
The defender bounced back and delivered two strong performances against DC United and the Houston Dynamo. Palmer-Brown completed four tackles and blocked two shots in the 1-0 loss versus DC, per WhoScored.com.
He demonstrated how strong his passing game is in the 2-0 win against Houston. Only Lawrence Olum (31) attempted more passes than the youngster's 27, according to WhoScored.com.
Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler have at least a decade on Palmer-Brown. It's possible that the latter might not be a starter at center back for a while, so he may end up going abroad. If he stays, he'll be a key player for his club and possibly the U.S. men's national soccer team.
2. Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Kekuta Manneh broke onto the scene in 2013 as a first-round pick in the MLS SuperDraft. He became a league-wide sensation when he bagged a hat-trick against the Seattle Sounders late last season.
Manneh finished 2013 with six goals in 20 appearances but made just six starts. Under Carl Robinson this season, he's participated in 18 games, starting in nine of them. However, the 19-year-old attacker has three goals compared to the six he had last year.
Nonetheless, Manneh has tons of raw potential. He's extremely quick, has a rocket of a shot and boasts a fantastic release that very few have in MLS. The Gambian can play out wide, in behind the striker or up front.
The positive for U.S. fans is that Manneh has a green card, so he's eligible to play for the USMNT. He's open to every opportunity, so he might don the red, white and blue in the future.
1. Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution)
Diego Fagundez may not be having as good of a 2014 as his 2013, but there's no doubt that he's a rising star and will be a top player in MLS if he stays long term.
He broke out in 2013 with 13 goals and seven assists in 31 appearances, per MLSSoccer.com. He started in 28 of the 31 matches, which, for an 18-year-old, was an incredible feat.
From 2011 to 2012, he had just 26 appearances (11 starts), four goals and three assists. The boost in playing time obviously did wonders for his confidence, which led to the scoring surge.
Fagundez hasn't lived up to expectations in 2014, but considering his age, it isn't a surprise. In fact, it was expected that he'd slump this season. Still, in 22 matches, the Uruguayan has four goals and three assists.
That was still good enough for a call-up to the Uruguay under-20 squad. U.S. fans might not be pleased that his mother country is keeping tabs on Fagundez, because he could be one of the best in Major League Soccer very soon.