22UNDER22 PRESENTED BY BODYARMOR RELEASED
The 22under22 presented by BODYARMOR is out today. It's a comprehensive list of who's next in MLS and therefore who's next in the entire world and includes the top 22 players in 22 under the age of 22 - as voted on by an expert panel consisting of MLSsoccer.com analysts, MLS Player Department staff and external media members. This year's class, which has an average age of 19.86, includes four players 18 years old or younger and 14 who come from an MLS NEXT academy. One key item to note: to be considered, players had to remain 21 or younger before the end of the 2022 MLS regular season, which will be on Oct. 9 on Decision Day. Simply put, players under consideration must be born on/after Oct. 10, 2000. Check out the full list here.
The 22under22 list is a great list and it's a great way to showcase the ever-growing amount of young talent in the league. But what about the guys who have been around a while and still haven't overstayed their welcome? Don't they deserve appreciation too? So, in honor of the best of the oldest of us, here's the 5over35 presented by The Daily Kickoff. As of yesterday (Happy birthday, Darwin Quintero!), there are 32 MLS players above 35 who have played minutes in MLS this season. Compare that to the 130 players under 22 and you can see why our list is a little more exclusive. It's also based far more on production this season than potential and talent. We've seen these players' ceilings already. We just want to appreciate the fact that they haven't hit the floor.5. Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders - 36 years, 153 days oldStefan Frei has started 25 games for Seattle this season. And even at 36 years old, his penchant for making saves in moments where no one would reasonably be expected to even get a hand on the ball remains his best attribute. In general though, he's still pretty good. Frei ranks 11th among starting goalkeepers in MLS this year in goals allowed versus expected goals faced. Essentially, he's stopping more chances than the average keeper. It should be noted that his numbers actually put him ahead of 22under22 standout Gaga Slonina. So. Who really has the better list here? I'm just asking questions.4. Dax McCarty, Nashville SC - 35 years, 142 days oldDax McCarty has, once again, spent the season playing an instrumental part in a team's success. It's the norm at this point in MLS. Since being drafted out of UNC in 2006, he's won the West with FC Dallas, won two Supporters' Shields with the Red Bulls and has just generally been an excellent midfielder. Nashville is on the verge of earning a home playoff spot and a possible run to something even bigger once they get there, and that's in part thanks to McCarty. He's played in 27 games and 1652 minutes this season for Nashville while putting up typically solid defensive and passing numbers. Per FBRef, he's in the 76th percentile among midfielders in progressive passing distance, the 80th percentile in expected assists per 90, the 83rd percentile in dribblers tackled and the 78th percentile in the percentage of dribblers who attempt to bypass him but are tackled anyway. Not only has his on-field performance been solid, he's been a key piece to Nashville's locker room as well. Ever since a press conference a few weeks ago where McCarty challenged Nashville's commitment, the Coyotes have been one of the best teams in the league. When he speaks, people listen. And isn't that all you want in old age?3. Diego Chara, Portland Timbers - 36 years, 168 days oldDo I really need to explain Diego Chara to anyone at this point? He's Diego Chara. He does Diego Chara things. And as the 11th-oldest player in MLS this season, he's still played 2,345 minutes over 26 starts while doing those Diego Chara things. To illustrate that a little further… Per FBref, Chara is in the 92nd percentile among midfielders in tackles in the defensive third, the 94 percentile in pressures in the defensive third, the 93rd percentile in blocks, the 81st percentile in clearances, and the 78th percentile in tackles plus interceptions. See? Diego Chara things.2. Kei Kamara, CF Montréal - 38 years, 19 days oldWhat a year for Kei Kamara. From a standard box score perspective, Kamara is having the best year of any player over 35. In 1469 minutes for an outstanding CF Montréal team, Kamara has eight goals and seven assists on the season. That's good enough for fourth in the league this season in goal contributions per 90 minutes, right behind Brenner, Gonzalo Higuain and Hany Mukhtar. That's very, very good company for anyone. And shocking company for a 38-year-old MLS journeyman.1. Alejandro Bedoya, Philadelphia Union - 35 years, 144 days oldAlejandro Bedoya has played more minutes than every eligible player for this list other than Michael Bradley. The difference between Bedoya and Bradley though is that Bedoya has played a critical role on a team that's been breaking MLS records on their way to a possible Supporters' Shield win. Bedoya is a key part of the Union's relentless diamond midfield and part of the reason why the Union are the best defensive team in the league. That's not to say he hasn't contributed in attack though. Bedoya is in the 94th percentile among midfielders in goals scored and in the 93rd percentile in expected goals and expected assists among midfielders. He has six goals and six assists on the season. Those are career highs in both categories. If you're out here putting up career highs at 35, then you have to make the list. If those career highs are part of the reason you're leading your team to a Shield win, you have to make the top of the list.
AND OTHER THINGS
- Chicago Fire FC sign Gutiérrez to contract extension: Chicago Fire FC have signed homegrown midfielder Brian Gutiérrez to a new four-year contract, the club announced Monday. The 19-year-old is now under contract through the 2026 season with a club option for 2027. Gutiérrez, who became the Fire's 16th homegrown signing in March 2020, has one goal and six assists across 54 regular-season appearances (24 starts) in three seasons.
- Charlotte FC's Swiderski named Week 32 Continental Player of the Week: Charlotte FC have their first-ever MLS Player of the Week presented by Continental Tire. Karol Swiderski brings home the honor following Week 32 of the 2022 season. The Polish international scored twice in the second half during the expansion club's 3-2 comeback victory Saturday evening at Chicago Fire FC, including a 96th-minute go-ahead tally that sealed three points from the Eastern Conference matchup.
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