MLS 2019: Top 5 young stars from this season
The United States of America, historically, has not exactly been a football (or soccer) haven. They have had some excellent exports in the past, in the forms of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, but the US men's national team, or the USMNT, for short, has never quite clicked as a major footballing force.
It is something the country's footballing federation is looking to change, with the likes of Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Weston McKennie at Schalke, Timothy Weah at Lille, Matt Miazga at Reading and Josh Sargent at Werder Bremen all plying their trade on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Europe, with a view to enabling these players to improve their game, by playing in higher quality divisions, which will in turn benefit the national team.
The success of the women's team in the United States has also captured the attention of the American public, and it is these stars who are inspiring the next generation of youngsters, both male and female, to take up the game of football.
Along with a host of home-grown talents, MLS clubs, just like their cousins in the NBA and MLB, are extremely adept at scouting players from foreign shores, most prominently South America, to help them achieve their goals, and helping the player himself further his career and get himself on the radar of bigger clubs.
It would also serve the men's national team well if they were to naturalize their foreign imports, thus making them eligible to represent the United States at various international tournaments.
In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the best young talent lighting up Major League Soccer, the potential torchbearers of a new generation of footballing talent.
Honourable mentions go to the following:
Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United, age 20)
Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union, age 21)
Cristhian Paredes (Portland Timbers, age 21)
Brandon Servania (FC Dallas, age 20)
Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City, age 17)
*All stats and figures taken from whoscored.com and transfermarktcom
#5 Cristian Casseres Jr.
Age: 19 Club: New York Red Bulls Market Value: €400,000
Cristian Casseres Jr. landed up on American shores when New York Red Bulls purchased him from his first senior club, Deportiva La Guaira, for an undisclosed fee in February of 2018. He was loaned out to the Red Bulls' affiliate side, New York Red Bulls II before being handed his first team debut by head coach Chris Armas in August 2018, starting in a 1-0 win over Houston Dynamo.
As the son of former Venezuelan international Cristian Casseres, the Caracas-born Casseres Jr. has been marked out as a special talent for many years. He made his La Guaira debut at the age of 16, and made 15 appearances for them, scoring one goal, all before his 18th birthday. He played as a striker at youth level for Atletico Venezuela, but was converted into a defensive midfielder after joining La Guaira.
In the 2019 MLS season, which ended with an extra time play-off defeat to the Philadelphia Union, Casseres Jr. played a total of 1921 minutes, across 24 appearances, 61% of the total available minutes. Only six other players, and one other under the age of 25, managed more minutes than him last campaign.
In what has now become a staple of the Red Bull clubs' style of play, New York also play at a relentlessly high tempo, using sharp, direct passes and getting the ball out wide to stretch opposition defences. However, they are also vulnerable on the counter due to the number of players they commit forward, and this is where the 19-year-old Casseres Jr. comes in.
Playing most often as the defensively minded half of a midfield double pivot alongside German Marc Rzatkowski, Casseres Jr does often venture forward, and his 1.1 shots per game, one key pass per game, three goals and three assists across last season are testament to that facet of his game. However, it is out of possession where he is in his element.
Casseres Jr ranks third in the Red Bulls' squad for total tackles made over the entire season, with 63, and fourth in their squad for tackles per 90 minutes, with 2.6. He also ranks second for interceptions among midfielders in the squad, with 1.4 per 90 minutes.
The youngster is extremely combative in the middle of the park, and is a master of the dark arts. he has committed the most fouls of anyone in the Red Bulls' squad, with 52, and has been booked five times, which means he has been shown a card once every 10.4 fouls.
For comparison, Fernandinho, widely considered one of the best at getting away with counter-attacking, tactical fouls, has been booked once every eight fouls and 5.85 fouls over the last two seasons respectively. Interestingly, Casseres Jr. has also been fouled the most in the squad, 61 times last season.
Casseres Jr. averages a pass accuracy of only 72%, but is not bad for a team which only completes 68.2% of their passes, due to their proclivity to go long and direct. In short, he would be a fantastic signing for any team looking to add some bite, and energy, to their midfield.