MLS Focus: Young Designated Players poised to succeed

Even though Ezequiel Barco, the most expensive acquisition in MLS history, has yet to play a game, Young Designated Players have made a big impact at the start of the 2018 season.

The Young DP designation was introduced in 2012 as a way for teams to sign young players and take a smaller cap hit ($200,000 for players ages 21-23 and $150,000 for players who are 20 and younger).

The new designation allowed clubs to enter the international transfer market and manage the cap hit -- the transfer fees are applied to a player's budget charge.

Until recent years, MLS teams abhorred paying transfer fees because of the risks involved, so few signed Young DPs, who were almost impossible to acquire without a transfer fee.

Several factors have contributed to making MLS a better fit for young South American DPs:

-- They are drawn to MLS because of its growing reputation in South America. Veterans like 2017 MVP Diego Valeri have done well for a decade or more, but the success of younger players like Atlanta United's Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez has made others pay attention.

-- MLS's established network of South Americans across the league gives young players support systems.

-- Most critically, MLS's best teams have developed a clear system of play that allows these young stars to integrate into -- indeed, thrive at -- their new teams.

Not surprisingly, the top three teams in this week's MLS Power Rankings are among the best coached teams in the league and all have first-year Young DPs.

Uruguayan Diego Rossi, who turned 20 a day after he made his MLS debut, has played two games and registered three goals and three assists for expansion LAFC.

“Diego is such a good player to have on the field, to work with,” said LAFC coach Bob Bradley after the 5-1 win at Real Salt Lake in which Rossi was involved in all five goals. “He’s deceptive. He’s fast. Today again he was coming from different positions, getting in on the attack."

Diego Rossi. Photo courtesy of LAFC.

Paraguayan Jesus Medina, who says he came to MLS on Almiron's recommendation, has one goal and two assists in three starts for NYCFC, which has started the season with a 3-0-0 record for the first time in its history.

The only game in which he did not have a goal or an assist was in the 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy when he exited after 68 minutes, but NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira loves his attitude.
“I love the way he worked for the team and how he created space for the players,” Vieira said afterwards. “He’s got the quality to make the assist or the pass before the assist. He understands the game really well.  What I love about him as well -- he wasn’t happy to come off.”

Jesus Medina. Photo by Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Argentine Milton Valenzuela, 19, filled one of only three open positions on 2017 Eastern Conference runner-up Columbus but a position that had been a problem area for a couple of seasons -- left back.

Valenzuela, who followed in a long line of Argentines in Columbus that includes teammates Federico Higuain and Gaston Sauro, had an assist on the opening goal of the MLS season in the 2-0 win at Toronto FC and has been an excellent two-way player for the Crew, which is unbeaten and has yet to give up a goal on the road.

The Crew depends on its outside backs to contribute to its attack, but head coach Gregg Berhalter has been impressed with Valenzuela's work on defense, his poise in one-on-one situations and his concentration.

"To me," Berhalter said after the TFC win, "he plays older than 19 years old.”
New in 2018: Young Designated Players:
18 Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United FC, Argentina)
19 Josue Colman (Orlando City, Paraguay)
19 *Milton Valenzuela (Columbus Crew SC, Argentina)
20 Diego Rossi (Los Angeles FC, Uruguay)
20 Jesus Medina (New York City FC, Paraguay)
23 Santiago Mosquera (FC Dallas, Colombia)
23 Alejandro Romero Gamarra (NY Red Bulls, Argentina)
*On loan

1 comment about "MLS Focus: Young Designated Players poised to succeed".
  1. beautiful game, March 21, 2018 at 11:39 a.m.

    What Bradley meant to say about Diego Rossi is that the Uruguayan brings Soccer IQ skills to the table and can execute.

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