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Araujo, Alvarez and Harriel among Best MLS Youngsters in Week 2


It is no secret that MLS has become a hotbed of emerging youth prospects. From Alphonso Davies to Ricardo Pepi, it seems that every season a new player emerges as the next big thing in North American soccer and there has been no shortage of strong performances from young players to start this season.

In Week One Gabriel Slonina, John Tolkin and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty put forth strong performances to start the season with Week Two being headlined by goal scorers and impressive defensive performances.

Here is a closer look at top performances from young players in Week 2 of MLS:

Efrain Alvarez – L.A. Galaxy

Alvarez has been a heralded youth prospect in the LA Galaxy academy since he signed his first pro contract with the five-time MLS-Cup Champions at age 15. Since embarking on his professional career, he has been subject to an international tug-of-war between Mexico and the U.S. men’s national team, with the 19-year-old playmaker committing to El Tri.

Facing off against Charlotte FC this weekend with 74,468 fans in attendance for their home-opener, Alvarez showcased his talent with a laser strike from outside of the box that nestled into the top right corner and powered the Galaxy to a 1-0 victory. Alvarez entered the match in the 70th minute and took over the playmaker role in the center of the midfield for the Galaxy, and in addition to his goal, he almost had an assist to Samuel Grandsir moments after the breakthrough moment. Overall it was a strong display by the Mexican playmaker who has shown the ability to be a game-changer in MLS if he can maintain consistency.

Julian Araujo – L.A. Galaxy

A teammate of the aforementioned Alvarez with the Galaxy and at the international level with Mexico, Araujo was another top performance in the Galaxy’s win over Charlotte. Araujo has deputized the right-back spot for under Greg Vanney the last two seasons and on Saturday he once again showed why he is one of the best right-backs in MLS.

On the defensive side, Araujo played a key role in nullifying the Charlotte attack that had just five shots on the evening and one true goal-scoring opportunity. Going forward Araujo was also a key contributor, with 10 recoveries of possession and three key passes, he made his presence known on both sides of the ball in victory.

Nathan Harriel – Philadelphia Union

One of the many Philadelphia Union homegrown players that are a part of the first team, Harriel received his first start of the season Saturday in the 2-1 victory over CF Montreal. Incumbent starter and Cameroonian international Olivier Mbazio struggled in the Union’s opening match of the season, leaving the door open for Harriel to stake his claim at the right-back position.

The 20-year-old right-back started the match on a tough note with Montreal’s lone goal of the match deflecting off of him and leaving Andre Blake with no chance to make a save. Sans the unlucky error, Harriel responded and quieted the Montreal attack the rest of the match and helped the Union see out the victory despite being down a man for the final 20 minutes of the match.

Mamadou Fall – LAFC

A surprise star in defense for LAFC last season, Fall has continued his ascent from the Las Vegas Lights to starting the first two games of the season for the Black and Gold under Steve Cherundolo. On Sunday he was arguably the man of the match for LAFC, scoring a stoppage-time goal to salvage a point against the Portland Timbers.

On the defensive side, Fall blocked the initial shot from Portland’s Cristhian Paredes that led to the Yimmi Chara bicycle-kick goal, but the Senegalese-born defender was stout in limiting the Portland attack to .70 expected goals on the evening.

John Tolkin – New York Red Bulls

Tolkin impressed in the first week of the MLS season, starting at left-back in a 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes and he continued his strong start to the year in the Red Bull’s convincing 4-1 win over Toronto FC. Lewis Morgan’s hat trick will get the headlines, but Tolkin was quietly very productive in limiting the Toronto attack and was able to get forward to provide width in the attack at times.

Andrew Gutman was the starter at left-back last season while on loan from Atlanta United, but if the first two games of the season are any indication, Tolkin has the hair and skillset to be the locked-on starter for manager Gerhard Struber.


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