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Five underrated under-22 talents in MLS right now

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Major League Soccer revealed its ’22 Under 22′ list on Tuesday, with some of the league’s very best young talent featured.

Another FC Dallas player took top spot in Jesus Ferreira, following on from former teammate and strike partner Ricardo Pepi achieving the same feat in 2021. Meanwhile, Thiago Almada and Talles Magno completed the top three, with the likes of Gabriel Slonina, Julian Araujo, and Alan Velasco all featuring high up the list.

But even beyond this 22-name list of talent, MLS has plenty more rising stars coming through. Here, we take a look at five underrated U-22s you should keep an eye on, as well as a few honorable mentions:

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He’s suffered from injuries as the campaign has gone on, but Frankie Amaya started 2022 like a house on fire for the New York Red Bulls.

At his best, Amaya – who only turned 21 earlier this month – is a high-energy, tough-tackling midfield engine perfect for the Red Bull system, but with an underrated level of refinement on the ball.

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Amaya has long been on the radar of many USMNT supporters and a fully fit season in 2023 could see him move up the pecking order and attract some watchful European eyes.

Like Amaya, Danny Leyva has suffered injury problems across his short career so far but over the last two MLS seasons, he’s been able to stay consistently fit.

This has resulted in a midfielder who can read play excellently in the No.6 position, can progress the ball as a No.8, and is capable of creating further forward when required.

Leyva is currently weighing up his international future and we don’t think it’ll be long before he’s deciding on his next club, too. The Seattle Sounders have a gem on their hands.

Jhon Duran definitely hasn’t been consistent during his first year in MLS but when he’s at his best, it’s truly terrifying for defenders.

At just 18 years old, Duran has hit five goals in 25 MLS appearances for the Chicago Fire, including three in his last two appearances.

Right now, it feels like Duran’s best moments are coming in fits and starts but give him another off-season and he should be fully adjusted to MLS. Then watch him go.

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Gabriel Pereira has only been in MLS since March, joining a championship-winning NYCFC side, but one that lost head coach Ronny Deila and star striker Taty Castellanos mid-season.

Even so, the Brazilian has still managed seven goals and two primary assists in 24 appearances.

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Pereira was named NYCFC’s player of the month for August after putting in a string of top-class performances and we can’t wait to see how he does in his second MLS season – and this year’s Playoffs for that matter.

It really is wild that Caleb Wiley wasn’t named on the 22 Under 22 list.

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This is a 17-year-old who was thrust into the Atlanta United team due to injuries and played out of position as a winger, but still scored on his debut against Sporting Kansas City.

Since then, he’s moved back into his preferred left-back role and has 24 MLS appearances under his belt so far.

Wiley is raw and very inexperienced. But it’s clear he has as much talent as anybody else in MLS, if not more.

A big 2023 with the Five Stripes could bring huge opportunities for Wiley – already a seven-time United States youth international.

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Honorable mentions: David Ayala, Andres Perea, Tayvon Gray, George Campbell, Ralph Priso, Cameron Duke, Josh Atencio.

Watch the story of Charlotte FC’s journey to MLS in 90min’s The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.





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Player ratings as Die Roten breeze back to winning ways

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Bayern Munich got their domestic season back on track with a dominant 4-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Friday night, ending a run of four Bundesliga games without a win.

Jamal Musiala ran the show as Die Roten dominated their visitors from the off, bursting into a lead after just three minutes. A shell-shocked Leverkusen couldn’t keep the ball away from Bayern, who made good on a fast start with goals from Musiala and Sadio Mane before half-time.

Mane had his second of the night chalked off early into the second half, but it didn’t deter the hosts who played the game almost exclusively in the opposition half as things progressed. Thomas Muller sealed things by adding a fourth from another Lukas Hradecky error late on.

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With the pressure on, it took Bayern just three minutes to make the most out of a positive start, with Sane’s shot deflecting in for 1-0 following Musiala’s low cross.

The early goal clearly settled Bayern and completely rattled an already fragile Leverkusen side, who were merely trying to keep the ball away from goal and get it forward as quickly as possible. Bayern pressed well, though, and won the ball back quickly, which caused the visitors a flurry of problems.

Intelligent movement and well-picked vertical passes saw Bayern double their lead after 17 minutes. Musiala brought down a long ball, knocked it into the path of Muller and received it back beyond the defender, before beating Hradecky at his near post too easily with a low strike.

Bayern’s press was relentless. Leverkusen simply couldn’t retain possession within their own half, and saw the ball coming straight back at them far too often, despite the occasional counter attack whenever Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jeremie Frimpong received the ball.

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Mane had been rather quiet in possession, but came up with the goods some six minutes before half-time to add a third for Bayern. Leverkusen were caught out by the hosts’ press, allowing Musiala to pick out Mane who, unchallenged, found the bottom corner with a deflected effort that left Leverkusen desperate for the whistle.

Julian Nagelsmann’s side didn’t let up after the break and added a fourth 11 minutes after play resumed, following more sustained pressure. Musiala kept the ball alive following a corner and his dribble fell into the path of Mane, who fired in for 4-0. His second goal was chalked off, though, due to a foul committed in the build-up that played him onside.

A rare chance for a counter attack saw Leverkusen spurn their best chance to score all night. Manuel Neuer was out quick to deny Sardar Azmoun just beyond the hour mark.

Hradecky’s evening went from bad to worse as he slipped when trying to play a pass inside his own box after 84 minutes, sending the ball straight to Muller who tapped into an open goal for 4-0 and ensured Bayern shot themselves up to second in the table ahead of the weekend.

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Sadio Mane, Alphonso Davies, Jamal Musiala

Musiala stole the show / Adam Pretty/GettyImages

GK: Manuel Neuer – 6/10 – Alert to deny the visitors on the rare occasions they broke forward. Otherwise quiet.

RB: Benjamin Pavard – 7/10 – Pavard impressed despite not being renowned for his attacking prowess. Didn’t shy away from committing high up the pitch and tracked rare counter attacks well. A balanced display.

CB: Dayot Upamecano – 7/10 – The Frenchman, when at his best, is such an asset to Bayern. His presence in possession was immense and he responded well when occasionally challenged defensively.

CB: Matthijs de Ligt – 6/10 – Left the more risky, progressive actions to his partner. But that’s exactly what Upamecano needs. The pair clearly compliment each other and it was on show here. Swept things up in composed fashion when needed.

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LB: Alphonso Davies – 7/10 – Unable to get himself back on the scoresheet, but gave Leverkusen a headache with his constant forward runs and ability to cause overloads.

DM: Joshua Kimmich – 6/10 – Much more like his usual self. Composed, assertive and clean with his actions. Nothing too flashy, and still needs to find his groove consistently, but better.

DM: Marcel Sabitzer – 7/10 – Unchallenged defensively for the most part, but put in an impressive display on his return to the starting XI. Keen to get on the ball, kept things ticking and would join attacks when possible.

RM: Leroy Sane – 7/10 – Sharp. Rotated smartly with his colleagues and showed off his fine technical ability with an array of delicate touches and passes. Took his goal well early on, but spurned a great chance to grab his brace after an hour.

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AM: Thomas Muller – 7/10 – Strangely, Muller did all the right things, but just lacked that clinical edge. He was often let down by a loose final touch or a scuffed effort at goal. Well-positioned for his goal, which was gifted to him.

LM: Jamal Musiala – 9/10 – Exceptional awareness, a stunning first touch and the confidence and physicality to pull it all together. Musiala is an absolute star in the making. Made the fluid approach in attack tick.

ST: Sadio Mane – 8/10 – Peeled out wide to stretch the play with regularity, but came up with the goods when it mattered. A first goal in five games and a first as a Bayern Munich player at the Allianz Arena.

SUB: Serge Gnabry (65′ for Mane) – 6/10

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SUB: Leon Goretzka (65′ for Sabitzer) – 6/10

SUB: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (74′ for Sane) – N/A

SUB: Ryan Gravenberch (81′ for Gravenberch) – N/A

SUB: Noussair Mazraoui (82′ for Upamecano) – N/A

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Manager: Julian Nagelsmann – 8/10 – After a difficult few weeks where the pressure was on to get a result, Nagelsmann delivered. A slip-up could’ve been easy, but he coached his side well and selected an XI that responded to the challenge.



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Barcelona still owe €50m for Miralem Pjanic & Philippe Coutinho transfers

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Barcelona are thought to still owe as much as €144m on various incoming transfers from years – including €50m on Miralem Pjanic and Philippe Coutinho alone, both of whom have actually left Camp Nou in permanent deals.

Barça made Coutinho one of the most expensive players of all time when they agreed a deal with Liverpool in 2018 worth up to €160m. But things quickly soured for the Brazilian and he spent time on loan at Bayern Munich and Aston Villa, before joining the latter for a minimal fee this year.

Pjanic, meanwhile, was part of a slightly bizarre double deal in the summer of 2020 that saw the Catalans also send Arthur Melo to Juventus.

AS has reported that Barça’s latest economic report, which is to be presented to members next months, will explain that the club has outstanding transfer fees to be paid totalling €144m.

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However, they are also owed just under €130m themselves, with plenty of modern deals arranged with staggered payment structures.

Aside from money still owed for Pjanic (€36m) and Coutinho (€14m), Barça have €46m to pay Ajax for Frenkie de Jong and Sergino Dest. There is another €52m that has to go to Manchester City for Ferran Torres. Yet Barça are yet to be paid €10m for Coutinho by Aston Villa and will also receive €6m for Trincao from Wolves in due course.

Barça’s finances are in much better shape than they were at the peak of the club’s money trouble, but Camp Nou vice president of economics Eduard Romeu confirmed earlier this week that this chapter is still not over and more has to be done.

“We have saved Barça, but we still haven’t resolved it,” Romeu explained. “We don’t have it healthy; it involves a lot of austerity, a lot of rigour and there is a lot of work to do. In the 2024/25 season we will be at the level that corresponds to us.”

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Armando Broja discusses his father’s training methods, inspirations & Albanian pride

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Armando Broja has spoken about the tireless hours his family would commit to ensuring he made it as a footballer in his youth, and what it means to be a young star representing Albania on the world stage.

Broja shot to prominence at Southampton last season, on loan from Chelsea. The forward impressed throughout the campaign and returned to west London having scored nine goals in all competitions and racking up 32 Premier League appearances.

Since returning to his parent club, the Albanian international has penned a new long-term contract with Chelsea and been integrated into the first-team, featuring for Thomas Tuchel before his dismissal as head coach.

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But the future remains bright for Broja, despite the managerial change, with Graham Potter now in the hot seat.

Speaking to The Players’ Tribune, Broja credited his mentality and ability to thrive under pressure to his family, namely his father, who pushed him throughout his childhood.

“He’s always been so desperate to succeed and for his kids to succeed. Growing up, there wasn’t a minute to waste. Time was the most precious thing to him,” the striker said.

“I remember when I was young and just starting off in football, he’d come home from work late and he’d be exhausted. It might be like 10 or 11 at night and he might’ve worked a 15-hour day, but he’d always ask, ‘Armando, have you done your training today?’”

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“Obviously lyin’, I’d be like, ‘Mmm, yes?’” he added: “He’d know the truth, though, and out we’d go to the park and he’d make me run laps. Twenty times around the pitch.”

Broja went further, explaining his father’s detailed eye for his traits and progression: “When I had a growth spurt around 16, he got worried I was gonna lose my speed. Pace had always been one of my biggest strengths. So he took me out to do hill sprints for like an hour at a time.

“I was basically falling down the hill by the end and he’s there standing over me like, ‘Nah, go again. Another one. Defenders gonna catch you.’

“We joke now that my success is 50-50. Half mine, half his and my mum’s. They put in the work you don’t see. In those early years, though, the balance was waaaay more on their side.”

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Broja also discussed his inspirations, explaining that his affinity for Brazilian legend Ronaldo came from his father, after he would show him clips on YouTube.

But alongside R9, Broja namedropped Lorik Cana – the first and only Albanian to play in the Premier League before him.

It was this that fuelled his discussion about flying the flag for his nation and what it meant to represent Albania, who he earned his first senior international cap for in 2020.

“There was a moment when the England under-21s wanted me and, yeah, I thought about it and what I wanted for my future, but honestly … I didn’t have to think too long,” he explained: “I grew up in England, but I’m proud to be Albanian.

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“Every time I travel for international duty and pull on the red and black I feel this incredible pride and excitement.”

The 21-year-old added, explaining how he relishes the opportunity of being able to shoulder responsibility and expectations at a young age for his country, while also expressing his desire to fire them to a World Cup.

“You can step up and be a star. And if you do well, you can become an icon for eternity. When my career is over, I want my name to live on. For Albania. For my dad.”

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