Every so often, a topic comes up that inspires some debate among the writers here at Eighty Six Forever, enough so that we feel we need a roundtable to effectively express what our talented roster of writers are thinking.
Well, you can certainly add the 'Top 24 Under 24' rankings MLSSoccer put out a few weeks ago to that list, as pretty much everyone had an opinion on which players should have made the cut and which should have been left off. So, we decided to pose three questions to Alistair, Bryce, Rituro, James and Jorge about their thoughts on the list.
If you want to add your two cents, don't forget to leave a comment.
Are You Satisfied With the Whitecaps That Made It Onto the Final 24 Under 24 List?
Rituro: Yes, I am satisfied. Getting three 'Caps on the list is a fine achievement in a league where Vancouver is consistently ignored in favour of FC Dallas in the youth development narrative. At #12, Matias Laba is rightfully getting his due as a midfield boss to be feared. The Kekuta Manneh hype train continues unabated, though even I am surprised he got all the way up to #2. Octavio Rivero is the odd one out; yes, he has a ton of potential and room to grow. Averaging out his performances - hot start, cold finish - does he really deserve a spot over Cristian "Know My Height And Fear Me" Techera? Or Russell "The Energetic Never-Say-Die Terrier" Teibert?
Alistair Ogden: I'd say so. Kekuta Manneh at #2 really shows what a breakout year he's had. Matias Laba at #12 might seem too low to some, but personally I like the fact that he's so underrated. In fact, his being underrated is probably what's keeping him from being scooped up by a European club, so the less other teams pick up on his brilliance, the better. Octavio Rivero could have topped the list if he'd kept up his early season scoring rate, but #18 is probably fair at this point in the season. Perhaps next year will be his true breakout.
Bryce: In the original list of 75, nine Whitecaps players were included. That was fairly impressive on its own. With 20 teams in the league, to have three players listed on the '24 Under 24' should be lauded. At the same time, without being too arrogant, I am not surprised. The Whitecaps have the youngest team in the league and were at or near the top of the standings for the last two-thirds of the season. That says that the young players are making their mark. The only surprise, related to the Whitecaps, is that Cristian Techera was not on the list. I do not think that he should have been, but I am still surprised he is not as MLS had publishing several pieces on him in recent memory. I suspect he was left off because a) he was too new, and b) there were already three Whitecaps players on the list.
Are you satisfied with the "24 Under 24" list overall?
Jorge Mendoza: When you overlook the fact that this list was put together by MLSsoccer.com staff, who, clearly have a propagandistic agenda with the objective of pumping the tires of certain players and/or teams, I think that this group of players is a fair representation of the top talent playing in this league in this particular age bracket.
Alistair Ogden: To me, this list is the equivalent of the weekly MLS power rankings, but in terms of young players rather than teams. The fact that Darren Mattocks was #1 a few years ago speaks to its invalidity. That being said, Fabian Castillo is as worthy as any young player to be recognized at #1. He's been an absolute menace to fullbacks around the league this year. Sebastian Lletget is a fantastic talent as well, and one of the reasons why Stephan Ishizaki's departure wasn't as devastating for the Galaxy as it could have been. Kwadwo Poku is another player who looks exceptionally promising, and should be starting games for NYCFC.
James Bufton: Not particularly, however that doesn't mean that I am disappointed with this year's edition. Most have realized that the purpose of this exercise is to invoke debate and draw clicks to the site - not to necessarily highlight the many young talents playing in the league right now. I would be intrigued to gauge the results if the only individuals with a say were employed by clubs.
If you could make two changes to the list, what would they be and why?
Jorge Mendoza: In addition to the aforementioned changes in the actual ranking of the players (Poku is number 7? Really?!) I think that Cristian Techera should be included on the list. The Uruguayan brings a different dimension that is seldom seen in this league. His adaptation to MLS has been incredibly quick and he has arguably been the best Whitecap in the second half of this season.
Rituro: One, swap Techera in for Rivero. Yes, you can argue small body of work but that didn't stop Kwadwo Poku from hitting #7 or the afore-mentioned Lletget at #3, did it? Similarly, Techera deserves at least Rivero's spot, if not a further adjustment higher up the list. El Bicho brings speed, service and finishing to the right flank - as if the 'Caps weren't already dangerous enough with Manneh on the left - and is drawing more and more attention from opposing defenders. Now if we would just stop [expletive] diving... As for my second change, I'd more Cyle Larin up to #7 and bump everyone else down. You can't honestly tell me that the newly minted rookie scoring champion and, as been described by some American pundits, lethal finisher that Orlando City SC was waiting for doesn't deserve a higher spot in the Top 10. That he's even in the Top 10 shouldn't be a question, yet there he is teetering on the brink with Erick "Cubo" Torres nipping at his heels. What Larin brings to his club (and, disastrous miss notwithstanding, his country) is done so under intense pressure and great adversity on an expansion side. Yet there Larin is, with 14 G (0.77 G/90) - good enough for 8th in the league. Give the man his due.
James Bufton: I would move Laba from his insulting #12 spot to the top position without a moment's hesitation. I can appreciate that Fabian Castillo's game is more attractive to mlssoccer.com's audience and voters though. For the second modification I would exchange a player of Tommy Thompson's calibre for El Bicho. Hopefully those afforded the relevant jurisdiction can actually tune in to some Caps matches by 2016.
Bryce: I am disappointed with a few choices because they either fit the ‘not been here long enough' category that fits Techera, and/or I think there were better choices, even on one's own team. First off, Lucas Melano. Might be a great player. Maybe has the pedigree. But, did anyone who voted for this list have anything to go on besides the same YouTube highlight packages the rest of us probably had, or the media spin from Portland to justify his signing? Doubt it. So, a bit disappointed with his inclusion.
Erik Palmer-Brown is 18, but it seems that MLS has anointed him as some superstar. Yes, I acknowledge that ‘they' have done something similar with Manneh. Yes, ‘potential' is included on this list, but so are tons of other factors. He has not really provided much evidence in the other categories WITHIN MLS. At least with Manneh, in previous season, he had proven something at the MLS level. Palmer-Brown? He has played 3 games this year. Really, you are putting him on this list? Not saying that he won't be on it in the future, but there are other players that probably deserve it more, currently, and would be a better inclusion from MLS from a marketing perspective. Without repeating myself too much, I would put Tommy Thompson in the same category as Erik Palmer-Brown. He is the little darling of MLS and US soccer. Those are the reasons for their inclusion, in my opinion.
As for my two replacements, I would replace Tommy Thompson with his own teammate Fatai Alashe, and Erik Palmer-Brown with Jose Villarreal. We talk about Laba being ignored, well I feel that Villarreal probably fits into that same category. The only difference is that Villarreal plays for one of ‘the' clubs in MLS and he STILL does not get any recognition.