Since 2010 Major League Soccer has released their annual "24 Under 24" list, naming the "best young players" in Major League Soccer. This year's edition, for the first time since they joined the league, does not include a single member of the Portland Timbers.
Darlington Nagbe has been the perennial representative for the Timbers on the 24 Under 24 list, coming in at No. 10 in 2011, No. 15 in 2012, and No. 1 in 2013. The only other Timber to make a list? Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who was ranked at No. 16 last year.
This year, however, the Timbers have seen some big contributions from some young players, particularly in their second-half-of-the-season push to get into their current playoff position. With players like Maxi Urruti and Alvas Powell leaving their mark in recent games, folks are up in arms over the lack of any Timbers on the list.
Using MLS's own criteria, let's take a look at the Timbers to figure out who is eligible for the list and just where they stand.
- Technical (skills, dribbling, shooting, first touch, heading, etc.)
- Soccer IQ (positioning, reading game, etc.)
- Physical Attributes (speed, endurance, strength, vertical leap, etc.)
- Personality (marketability, media savvy, quotability, charisma, intangibles, etc.)
- Potential (upside, national team potential, potential future transfer value, etc.)
Players who turn 24 after October 26th, the final day of the regular season, are judged against this list of criteria.
Steven Evans (9/19/1991), George Fochive (3/24/1992), Bryan Gallego (3/10/1993), Taylor Peay (9/5/1991), Alvas Powell (7/18/1994), Schillo Tshuma (9/21/1992), and Maximiliano Urruti (2/22/1991)
Who should qualify, according to the Timbers' roster page?
Jose Adolfo Valencia (12/18/1991), who is still listed as a Timbers player despite suiting up for Rosario Central for the last two months.
Who is just outside of the age limit?
Fanendo Adi (10/10/1990) and Kalif Alhassan (10/15/1990) are both less than a month outside the cutoff date, while Jake Gleeson and Darlington Nagbe are each a year outside.
Let's make our own list
Looking at the players who are eligible for MLS's 24 Under 24, only Powell and Urruti even deserve mention as the only two young Timbers with minutes for the first team. However, we do not have to be bound by that. To that end, here is my "7 Under 24", the top seven Portland Timbers players under the age of 24 at the end of this season.
7. Steven Evans: Scores high on "national team potential" (Cascadia), but since I have not seen him actually play in ages (and it seems nobody else has either as he has only logged 441' on loan with the Sacramento Republic) I have no choice but to give him bottom marks in the technical, physical, soccer IQ, personality sections. Basically, it is my firm belief that anyone I have not observed recently turns into a statue.
6. Schillo Tshuma: Tshuma has just the sort of intangibles that I am looking for: a name that I like to say and a Generation Adidas contract. Plus, I saw him taking off his cleats yesterday, so I know he is alive.
5. Bryan Gallego: Caleb Porter has a high soccer IQ. Porter approved the trade that brought Gallego's homegrown player rights. Therefore, Gallego must have a high soccer IQ, right? I think that is how it works.
4. Taylor Peay: I have seen Taylor Peay play in a game more recently than these other people, which I will count toward his "positioning". His technique may have been a little off at times against Alpha United on Tuesday, but he was otherwise good, so middle of the pack sounds good to me.
3. George Fochive: You may recall that we were getting regular updates on Fochive's time with Sacramento and he often featured in some nice little GIFs of the action. Those were nice. Big points to intangibles for that.
2. Alvas Powell: Fast. Better recently.
1. Maximiliano Urruti: Seriously. Urruti has nine goals and a pair of assists in just over 1100 minutes, or a goal every 123 minutes. That is a crazy strike rate. Dom Dwyer, the league's second leading scorer, has chalked one up every 120 minutes. Robbie Keane, who is Robbie Freaking Keane, has scored one every 152 minutes.
Feel free to make a list of your own and share it in the comments below.