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The Young and the Fearless

Now that the MLS international break is over and the season is back in full swing, let's take a look at each team's best young player.

Lucas Ontivero is among the young players to watch in MLS
Lucas Ontivero is among the young players to watch in MLS
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Rio Olympics are almost upon us ... the soccer competition at the games is going to be very interesting with squads full of U23 players looking to impress (and avoid the Zika virus ...). So, it's perhaps a good moment to look at the outstanding young talent for each MLS team.

The focus is not so much on potential as on the importance these young players already have for their respective team. (selection based on info included on MLS teams' websites).

  • Montreal Impact:  the IMFC have a few players who should provide a solid basis for s strong squad for years to come. Among them, there are two regulars: Cabrera and Ontivero ...For me, Lucas Ontivero gets the nod as he seems to be getting better as the season progresses. For Victor Cabrera, an injury has slowed his progress.
  • Toronto FC: our Ontario neighbours count on a slew of young players, many from their academy as well. But it's the rookie Tsubasa Endoh that has really caught the eye so far this season. The young Japanese has good movement and should benefit from Giovinco's play up front.
  • NYCFC: some good young talent too in the Big Apple ....Harrison, Bravo and Shelton among them. But, as he has done with the Costa Rican national team, Ronald Matarrita is playing well beyond his age.
  • RBNY: the Red Bulls have also a star young full back ... Kemar Lawrence is already a mainstay, both in MLS and for the Reggae Boys.
  • Phildadelphia: the Union could be the envy of many teams across the league. The arrival of Earnie Stewart in their front office changed things. With Herbers and Yaro and this year's front-runner for Rookie of the Year in Keegan Rosenberry, they look set. Rosenberry is already a dependable, all-star level MLS defender.
  • Chicago: the Fire are going through another difficult season ... they have two outstanding young players learning how to persevere through difficult times: Matt Polster continues to develop in midfield but their rooking defender Brandon Vincent is really the gem of their youth corps. He already displays leadership on the pitch that betrays his young age.
  • DC United: Ben Olsen doesn't have the same choices as many of his fellow coaches but he can rely on an Argentine spark plug in midfield to spur his team on. Luciano Acosta has been a good acquisition for them.
  • Orlando: the Lions look great in terms of young talent ... a key defensive midfielder who's the envy of a few teams in MLS (and elsewhere): Higuita  A solid young defender in Redding and even a couple of young DPs. But it's Cyle Larin who's the real eye-catching talent with a nose for goal, size and a desire to keep learning. Adrian Heath has nice problems !
  • Columbus: the Crew know they can count on Will Trapp in midfield to give them consistency and some backbone.
  • New England: the choice here comes down between Agudelo and Fagundez. I prefer Diego Fagundez but it's a close thing. Both are immensely talented and can open up a defense. Fagundez has been doing it in MLS since he was a teenager.
  • Kansas City: SKC's coach has a young defender sought after by top Euro teams in Palmer-Brown. But to me, Connor Hallisey doesn't look out of place in MLS and should prove to be a solid squad player for years to come.
  • Seattle: the Sounders have America's "best new hope" in Jordan Morris ... it's more than hype ... it's the potential of a top US athlete becoming a top footballer.
  • Portland: Alvas Powell was a key player in the Timbers' MLS Cup run last year and continues to shine for his team and national squad.
  • FC Dallas: ,,, the model in MLS for giving youth a chance. Among top talent like Acosta, Gonzalez and Zimmerman, it's the newcomer Carlos Gruezo that shines the brightest. He did a very honest job with the Ecuadorian team at the Copa America and will continue to excel in midfield for the Texan team.
  • Houston: ...goodbye Owen Coyle ...maybe his departure will lead to the reemergence of Erick "Cubo" Torres. The team needs him. He's shown in the past that he can be a game changer.
  • LA: the Galaxy have stars aplenty ... and a slew of effective young players. Among them is the young Ghanaian dynamo Emmanuel Boateng who's shown that he can come off the bench and be a real threat later in games.
  • San Jose: the Earthquakes made a very solid choice in the Super Draft when they selected Fatai Alashe. He's a strong midfielder who'll eventually become the team's captain. Already been called up to the USMNT.
  • Vancouver: the Whitecaps' coach Carl Robinson is not afraid of giving young players time on the pitch. Among his stable of young talent .. Kekuta Manneh stands out ... speed, speed and more speed ... and a willingness to take on defenders one on one ... Add Tim Parker to the mix, and the Whitecaps have one of most solid young rosters in the league.
  • RSL; the Utah team also boasts another solid young defender in Justin Glad. The academy product is versatile and athletic and can play anywhere on the back line.
  • Colorado: the Rapids have added experience with Howard, Jones and Gashi but they can also count on a young player who's already a veteran: Dillon Serna. The Homegrown player should occupy a spot in their midfield for years to come.
I'm sure there are many other young MLS players who have caught the eye of fans. But every list of this type is personal and subjective. Let the debate begin!