Translating success from the youth ranks to professional level is a daunting task. In North American developmental circles, the mechanisms are slowly but surely being put in place to make it a more manageable one for top prospects.
One of those mechanisms is the Generation adidas Cup, an opportunity for MLS Academies to put each other to the test. A number of emerging talents were on display in Frisco over the course of last week, all looking towards another Development Academy season to begin this fall.
Plenty had a chance to shine, and here are some MLS Academy products that did so:
F Kevin De La Torre, Chivas USA
The US U-17 Residency member was one of the stars of the week, scoring nine goals despite missing time with an injury. Not only does De La Torre have speed to burn, he knows how to finish when in and around the goal.
G Richard Sanchez, FC Dallas
The most visible prospect at the whole competition after backstopping the Mexican U-17s to the World Cup last month, Sanchez showed his professional bona fides. An imposing figure at the back, he conceded twice in the championship game but positioned himself well and altered a number of shots that missed the target.
MF Sebastion Velasquez, LA Galaxy
To see Velasquez have success at the Generation adidas Cup came as no surprise after he scored 10 goals in the Development Academy season. He showed a good touch, vision and movement off the ball to stand out on an extremely talented LA team.
D Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas
An outside back for the US at the World Cup, Acosta showed versatility by playing as a central midfielder in the championship game. Has great pace, and will only continue to improve playing in FCD’s youth setup.
F Patrick Foss, D.C. United
Playing slightly out of position in D.C. United’s 4-3-3 system – Foss could be better off paired up top with a target forward – the DC product has good speed, finishing and a hunger on the field. With a couple more years to develop, he could turn into a dangerous attacking figure at the next level.
MF Justin Dhillon, LA Galaxy
One of a pair of twin brothers on the Galaxy’s U-16 championship team, Justin scored 22 goals in the Development Academy season, and has an eye-catching blend of size, pace and technical ability. He set up the second, championship-clinching goal for LA.
F Kellen Gulley, Chicago Fire
An imposing physical specimen, Gulley already has the physique to bang bodies with MLS defenders. The rest of his game still needs some refining, but he’s headed in the right direction to become a target forward at the next level.
MF Zach Pfeffer, Philadelphia Union
Already a full professional with the Union, Pfeffer has yet to make his league debut. He made the trip to Frisco and continued to show why he was signed last year, using his passing vision and ability to drive Philadelphia’s attack. He added a brace on the final day for good measure, and will only continue to get better.
Honorable Mentions: F Nate Opperman (Sporting KC), D Matthew Tilley (LA Galaxy), MF Nigel Robinson (DC United), MF Omari Morris (Toronto FC), F Lorenzo Salazar (Houston Dynamo)