Less than two months into the 2019 MLS season, Frankie
Amaya, the No. 1 pick in the SuperDraft, has returned home.
He came home for FC Cincinnati's MLS match on Saturday at LAFC and made just his second appearance for the expansion team. It had been decided that he'd stay and be loaned out on a short-term basis to the USL Championship’s Orange County SC, not far from his hometown of Santa Ana.
At 18, the youngest player taken in the Super Draft, Amaya has played only 21 minutes in two appearances for FC Cincinnati. His lack of playing time isn't unusual. While more and more teenagers are getting playing time, most are academy products like first-year players Edwin Cerrillo with FC Dallas and Brenden Aaronson at Philadelphia.
Amaya was one of just six rookies out of college to play last weekend. Half of the top 10 picks in the 2019 SuperDraft have yet to play in MLS, leaving their only chance for playing time with loan moves to USL teams, like Amaya is on now.
MLS rookie collegiate products in action (Week 7)
Chicago: Jeremiah Gutjahr, Indiana (Homegrown), 90 minutes
Colorado: Andre Shinyashiki, Denver (SuperDraft), 23 minutes
FC Cincinnati: Frankie Amaya, UCLA (SuperDraft), 7 minutes
D.C. United: Donovan Pines, Maryland (Homegrown), 90 minutes
New England: Tajon Buchanan, Syracuse (SuperDraft), 18 minutes
Orlando City: Kamal Miller, Syracuse (SuperDraft), 90 min
Amaya, who played one season at UCLA after starring for Pateadores in Orange County, is in a unique situation, though. He started for the USA in the 2018 Concacaf Under-20 Championship in its 2-0 win over Mexico but needs playing time if he is to make the final U.S. squad for the 2019 U-20 World Cup, which begins May 23 in Poland.
The 2019 U-20s are the deepest team head coach Tab Ramos has ever had. The team he had in qualifying didn't include the likes of midfielders Richie Ledezma, who was signed by Dutch club PSV in December and has just begun playing for its U-19 team after a long injury layoff, Chris Durkin, who started in D.C. United's 3-2 win at Colorado on Saturday, or even Cerrillo and Aaronson, who are regular starters in their first MLS seasons.
FC Cincinnati technical director Luke Sassano said Amaya's loan move was designed to accelerate his development and get him ready for the U-20 World Cup and for the summer when FC Cincinnati's depth will be tested.
“We’ve been very pleased with how Frankie has not only performed the pitch," said Sassano, "but also how he has adapted to being in a professional environment this season. We believe this move aligns with everyone’s best interests in both the immediate and long-term futures.”
Amaya told the Cincinnati Enquirer after the LAFC game that the loan was the best thing for him.
"I think it's a good moment for me," he said. "It's sad for me to leave FC Cincinnati but I'll be back. It's just a good way for me to get some games in and keep pushing. I feel like it's gonna put me in a better place. I really want to play here but I think it's the best thing for me."