One of the most exciting parts of following MLS these days is watching the development of the best young players in the league. More and more, significant European teams are trusting the talent that comes out of MLS. Young, promising players from everywhere (particularly Latin America) see MLS as a great opportunity to develop and showcase skills.
While they’re here, we get to watch them as the centerpiece of their teams, playing alongside extremely talented players in their prime. The Diego Rossi-Carlos Vela partnership has been a joy. Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez were dominant in their time together. Tyler Adams and Alphonso Davies were stud youngsters in New York and Vancouver before they became major Champions League contributors.
Let’s take a look at the next batch who will likely move on to bigger and better things at some point.
Diego Rossi, LAFC
Rossi leads the regular season Golden Boot race, with six goals in five games, and was extraordinary as LAFC relied on him without Vela in the MLS is Back tournament. He excels as a scoring winger, creating chances while cutting off the left wing and causing problems at the back-post. A European transfer has always been in the cards for Rossi, and I imagine after this season LAFC will be receiving enticing offers.
Mauro Manotas, Houston Dynamo
While not at the quality of Rossi, Manotas has long been rumored as a transfer candidate. He broke out a few years with double-digit goals, and has continued producing fairly consistently (though he only has one goal in five starts this year). His hold-up play and passing have gradually improved, and he’s added finishing elements to his game that allow him to get on the end of more poachable chances.
Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas
We missed the chance to see Pomykal at MLS’s Orlando tournament thanks to FCD’s coronavirus issues, but Pomykal has the tools in his toolbag to reach a high level. He has good feet and fantastic vision as a central midfielder. Coach Luchi Gonzalez still doesn’t seem ready to use Pomykal as the FCD’s best player, though, speaking to Pomykal’s need for further development. He ended up as a sub in the last half of last season, playing off the bench in the playoffs against Seattle, and started this year in that role as well.
He needs playing time to fulfill his potential. The US national team will be watching closely, as, I presume, will be bigger clubs.
Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas
Sticking around Dallas, Cannon’s departure seems imminent. He apparently told FCD’s supporters’ group goodbye after the team’s most recent game against Nashville, supporting rumors that a number of European teams are in the market for him. Cannon is a USMNT-caliber right back who developed as a Homegrown player. He will fit right in a higher-level league.
Eduard Atuesta, LAFC
Like Rossi, LA will likely face a decision on this younger stud at some point in the near future. Now 23, Atuesta made the league’s best XI last year as a skilled central midfielder and clever ball-mover. He plays good defense and can pass at a high level. Given how close he is to his prime, he is a candidate to step right into a lineup somewhere. Ajax were recently rumored to be interested.
Mark McKenzie, Philadelphia Union
Union coach Jim Curtain recently about McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson: “(they) are both ready to go to Europe.” McKenzie, as a breakout center back who has excelled this season, seems like the best candidate right now. (I look forward to Aaronson’s improvement the rest of the regular season.) McKenzie, along with Aaronson, made the MLS is Back best XI.