Jonathan Lewis, New York City FC
It is safe to say that Jonathan Lewis has been one of the biggest breakout players in Major League Soccer this season.
While it took him until the middle of July to make his way into Patrick Vieira’s rotation in any consistent fashion, Lewis has certainly taken advantage of his recent opportunities. Typically coming in as an impact substitute or a high-energy starter, Jonathan Lewis has bagged two goals and one assist in just 339 minutes of total playing time this season.
Physically and technically, Lewis is a very solid player. He has good speed, quality ball control, a quick shot, and a solid cross. Add Jonathan Lewis to the long list of skilled players ready to make an impact in the playoffs for NYCFC.
Jeremy Ebobisse, Portland Timbers
In terms of playing time, Ebobisse has almost exactly mirrored Jonathan Lewis. He started the season splitting time between the US U-20 team and Caleb Porter’s bench. Over the last couple of months, however, an injury to star striker Fanendo Adi has opened up a spot for Jeremy Ebobisse in the regular rotation.
Now, instead of having to hunt for minutes behind Adi and Darren Mattocks in Porter’s single striker 4-2-3-1 system, Ebo simply has to rotate with Mattocks.
Ebobisse has the pace to lead the line for Portland and enough soccer IQ to make intelligent runs in behind the defense, making him a perfect fit up top. If Adi continues to miss time, look for Jeremy Ebobisse to make up the slack for the Timbers, and then some.
Anton Walkes, Atlanta United
Admittedly, this is a debatable pick. Walkes has looked fantastic in some games this season and downright shaky in others. In fact, just recently in Atlanta United’s match against Orlando City at home, Walkes was responsible for two goals by not marking his man tight enough.
“So, remind me again why he made this list?” Well, it is important to remember that Anton Walkes is a center-back playing right-back. On loan from Tottenham, Walkes was used almost exclusively as a center-back during his time playing in England.
However, since coming to the US and transitioning to right-back under Tata Martino, Atlanta has gone on a tear. As of this writing, they are unbeaten in 11 of their last 12 games; there is no doubt that Walkes has made a positive impact on the Five Stripes. Anton Walkes has all the physical tools to succeed at RB: great physicality, pace, and ball skills. If ATL can keep a hold of him for next season, fans will be giddy.
Jack Harrison, New York City FC
Another Englishman, Jack Harrison is the worst kept secret in MLS. Harrison moved from England to America at 14, and has become one of the most dangerous wingers in Major League Soccer.
He was the number one overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, and has clearly lived up to expectations.
This season, Harrison has started 28 games, scoring nine goals and providing six assists. Let’s face it: as talented as the New York City FC roster is, their squad would not be the same without Jack Harrison.
With blistering pace down the flank, solid technical ability, and a great shot, Harrison is a model winger. The fact that NYCFC has been able to keep Jack Harrison away from the giants of Europe for this long is truly an amazing feat. We all can’t help feeling, however, that the 20-year-old’s days in baby blue are numbered.
Justen Glad, Real Salt Lake
Excusing his oddly spelled first name, Justen Glad has a lot of things going for him right now. Earlier this season, he featured for Tab Ramos’ American squad at the U-20 World Cup, splitting time at right-back and center-back. More recently, Glad has started the last 14 games for his club, Real Salt Lake, providing a glimpse into the RSL backline of the future.
At 6’1”, Justen Glad is not the most physically imposing center-back, but his top-notch pace and excellent positioning allow him to shut down opposing forwards with ease.
Looking forward, MLS, Real Salt Lake, and United States’ fans alike should be following Justen Glad’s development with eager anticipation.