This year’s edition of the USL 20 Under 20 concludes, featuring arguably the top goalkeeping prospect in the United States Youth National Team program, a talented young Argentine now featuring in the Alamo City, and the top spot going to the prospective winner of the USL League One Golden Boot who has already made his full international debut.
The youngest player on the New York Red Bulls’ roster, Mathias Jorgensen has spent the majority of his first season at the club in the USL Championship, where he’s helped maintain the Red Bulls II’s standards of success in the Eastern Conference, reaching double-digit goals, while acclimating to the club’s high-pressure system.
A Danish U-19 international, Jorgensen arrived this offseason from Danish SuperLiga club OB and took little time to fit into the Red Bulls II lineup with three goals in his first three appearances for the side.
Averaging a goal every 148.7 minutes across his 18 appearances, while posting a conversion rate of 21.7 percent, Jorgensen’s movement in the final third has made him a difficult opponent for defenses to contain. His 46 shots place second on the team, and while there’s room to grow in his distribution in the final third and tightening up his finishing, the signs are New York has a talented goalscorer on its hands that could blossom in the top flight sooner rather than later.
For now, Jorgensen looks set to be a key piece as the Red Bulls II aim for their second title in the USL Championship this postseason.
- This feels like it has been a year of learning for Mathias after his move from Denmark, how happy has the club been with the way he’s adapted to his new surroundings?
When changing clubs and countries at 18 years old it has to be a learning experience. Mathias has shown us that he is determined and driven and understands that as a young player it’s about learning and developing. He has certainly done that, but we also know he has the highest aspirations and we are big fans of that mentality.
- The thing that’s struck us is how astute his movement has been to create openings, even though his finishing hasn’t always matched it. Is that positional sense why he’s got the potential he brings?
Probably the main reason we were so aggressive in trying to get Mati was his movement. He has great speed and more importantly he can repeat that speed and maximize it with his ideas and timing. Running behind a defense is a complicated action and Mathias has a great feel for it and it has been a process working out that complexity within our group. It’s been a challenge for him and us to make more connections on those actions. A challenge that has made him and us better.
- What are the club’s expectations for Mathias as we move toward the 2020 season?
Over the course of getting to know Mathias, we have learned that he is what we thought, a young player with strong mentality that has a great weapon in his pace and movement. We understand that he is young, with high potential, and we expect him to be an exciting player next year that continues to develop and add to his game and take the next step toward becoming the high-level player he expects to be.
One of two young Panamanian players brought in on loan by the LA Galaxy II last offseason, Carlos Harvey has impressed for club and country in 2019 while helping Los Dos make a push for their first trip to the USL Championship Playoffs since the 2016 season.
Harvey began the year making his full international debut for Los Canaleros days before his 19th birthday, appearing in an exhibition against the United States, but since then he’s become a versatile two-way player in the Galaxy II midfield. Harvey has won the second-most duels (141 of 263) among players eligible for this year’s 20 Under 20, behind only fellow selection Cristian Parano of San Antonio FC, while recording 113 recoveries and 25 interceptions in 17 appearances.
Harvey has also shown the ability to strike from distance, with both of his goals for Los Dos this season coming from beyond the penalty area.
After playing every minute earlier this summer as he helped Panama reach the knockout stages of the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Harvey’s ability and versatility in fulfilling multiple roles for Los Dos has him poised for big things ahead.
- The Galaxy organization brought Carlos in on loan from Tauro this offseason, what was it that the club liked about his game that made him a player to pursue?
We liked that he was versatile. He had played half his games in central defense and half the games as a No. 6 for the Panama U-20s in the CONCACAF Championships. He’s a good ball-winner and he’s got good physical characteristics to play the No. 6 in a 4-3-3. A great ball-winner and a player than can cover ground and distribute. Those are his characteristics, but he has a presence and a mentality about himself in that position.
- Is there anything that’s surprised you about the way he’s performed this season?
One thing that I’ve noticed he’s done a good job of is just understanding his function and role within our system. That has enabled him to perfect three or four functions and be able to do them well. He’s started to understand where he needs to be on what parts of the field and what zones and at what times, and that’s helping him quite a bit. We’ve seen a transformation from him in that midfield position, because he’s starting to understand his role more. He’s also started to become a little more goal dangerous when we switch up on the attack in zone three.
- The call-ups to Panama’s national team clearly show how he’s regarded back home, what’s going to be the next step in fulfilling that potential?
He needs to become more of a vocal player. He tends to be a quiet player and just show who he is through his performances. But I think him taking leadership and organizing people around him and understanding the roles and functions of the players around him so that he can start coaching on the field is something that he needs to improve. But I feel that he is close to being a first team level player in MLS. The only thing that may hold him back is just his international status. But if I look at defensive midfielders from our team and defensive midfielders around MLS, he definitely has the ability to make the step to the first team.
It’s no small thing, being the heir apparent to a club legend. But as Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando prepares to call time on his outstanding career, Real Monarchs SLC and United States U-20 international David Ochoa may soon be in position to take his place between the sticks at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Approaching the conclusion of his first full season featuring for the Monarchs after making his debut in 2018, the 18-year-old Ochoa has made 51 saves in 15 appearances, including some highlight-reel stops that have made a wider audience aware of the potential he brings.
From his nine-save shutout against El Paso Locomotive FC in his third career start for Real, to a 69.9 save percentage for the Championship Playoffs contender, Ochoa is going to be one to watch this postseason.
Beyond that, Ochoa remains eligible for the next edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2021 after playing in this year’s tournament for Head Coach Tab Ramos’ side.
And by the time 2021 arrives, the California native could have found a whole other level at which to show off his prodigious talent.
- This was David’s first season as a regular starter for the Monarchs, what has impressed you most about the way he’s handled it?
The way David handles himself during matches, the way he communicates with his backline and the confidence he exudes. Watching him this season, you’d think he has been a professional for a few years. The way he reacts to mistakes is also something I’ve never seen in a player at his age, especially for a keeper. Instead of sulking and letting his mistakes affect his play, he learns from them and gets right back in between the sticks believing he’ll make the next save.
- Did you notice a difference after David returned from competing at the FIFA U-20 World Cup earlier this year?
When David returned from Poland, we didn’t really notice much of a difference. That might sound odd, but I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. He came back ready to contribute, play and continue to develop. Some players might come back thinking they are bigger than the team, but he came back just as hungry as he was before the World Cup.
- David seems to have everything that a top goalkeeper needs to succeed, what’s the biggest key to taking the next step in his career?
The biggest key to taking the next step in his career is winning the number one jersey for Real Salt Lake. David needs to finish this season strong, continue to play well and help lead a playoff push for the Monarchs. He needs to take this offseason and prepare to battle for an MLS starting spot.
With a resume that included coming through the famed River Plate Academy in his native Argentina and top-flight experience with San Martin de San Juan, the potential attacking midfielder Cristian Parano brought to San Antonio FC grabbed attention.
And while he took a little time to settle into his new surroundings – Parano’s first league goal didn’t arrive until June 21 against Fresno FC – he has now put up seven goals, five assists and 50 chances created this season. A highlight game that saw him notch two goals and two assists against New Mexico United cemented his candidacy for the Championship’s Player of the Month award for August, but it’s Parano’s ability on the ball that has stood out most.
His 101 dribbles completed lead the Championship on a solid success rate of 60.5 percent, while his passing accuracy rate of 84.1 percent on 30.4 passes per 90 minutes places him fifth among the team’s more experienced regulars.
Alongside the young talent that is coming up through San Antonio FC’s Academy, Parano appears a player that could have a big future ahead of him.
- Cristian has really come into his own since midseason, what did it mean to see his adaptation to a new club and a new city result in serious production on the field?
It’s very good to see his development on and off the field as he has adapted to his first pro contract and his first time away from home. To see him succeed, we all take a lot of pride. He’s been very helpful on the field and able to contribute. It’s very pleasing to see his work ethic every day as he matures as a young professional.
- What part of Cristian’s skillset stands out the most to you in training and in live action?
What stands out with Cristian is his ability to take the ball in tight spaces and beat defenders one versus one. His feet are very quick and he can explode off the dribble, which is exciting to watch for his teammates and the fans.
- Young players are always looking to reach new levels, what do you think the next step in Cristian’s development will need to be?
Like with any young player he needs to keep evolving and figuring out his decision-making process during the game. I wouldn’t want to put a ceiling on Cristian because he has as much potential out of any player that I’ve personally seen as a coach before.
After scoring 12 goals in 13 games after joining the FC Dallas Academy during the 2017-18 USSDA season, there was little doubt that Ronaldo Damus would get the opportunity to take the step up when North Texas SC was launched ahead of the inaugural USL League One season.
What the Haitian international has accomplished since then, though, has made him one of the most exciting players to watch in the USL Championship or League One in 2019, and earned Damus the top spot in this year’s USL 20 Under 20.
Leading the race for the League One Golden Boot with 16 goals in just under 1,400 minutes – an average of a goal every 87 minutes – the 20-year-old has shown a precision in his eye for goal that alongside fellow 20 Under 20 selection Ricardo Pepi made NTSC’s attack the most prolific in the league, and its regular season title-winner.
Having already made his debut for the Haitian National Team before he turned 18 in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Costa Rica in 2016, the potential upside that Damus brings was never in question. In fact, now the only question that remains is how far he can go at the domestic and international level.
- There was clearly some pedigree the club saw in bringing Ronaldo to North Texas. Have you been surprised at how quickly he’s come into his own at the club?
Ronaldo had a good starting point with the club having played in the academy the year prior. He was expected to transition well, which he did, and that is a credit to him.
- Ronaldo has just recently turned 20 years old, after his stellar season with NTSC, what are you hoping 2020 holds for him?
Ronaldo has had a strong season, leading the league in goals and continuing his scoring rate from his previous year in the academy. He’s been called into his Olympic team and Senior National Team for Haiti and is performing well by all accounts and has registered goals for Haiti in competition. All of this is extremely positive and signals a bright 2020. Our hope is simply that he continues his great progress by continuing to do what has made him successful.
- How high do you think Ronaldo’s ceiling sits in the professional ranks?
Ronaldo is still a young striker but has proven that he is up for the challenge by scoring in all the divisions and categories that he’s played in. Players that perform and that are driven to improve and succeed, like he has demonstrated, set their own ceilings.