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The Pitch: MLS Newcomers Making Waves at the Midpoint

June 28, 2022 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

There's less than a week remaining for MLS players, fans, and media to vote for the league's shining stars, who are looking to earn their way onto the MLS All-Star roster for the 2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. Voting will close on Friday, July 1 11:59 p.m. PT.

All fans can vote on or via the MLS App, and every fan has the opportunity to submit one ballot each day through the end of the voting process.

Of the 26 MLS players to be selected for the All-Star Game, the breakdown is as follows:

12 players will be determined by a vote of MLS players, fans, and media. Each of the three voting groups will represent one-third of the combined vote.

12 players will be selected by MLS All-Star head coach Adrian Heath of the host team Minnesota United FC.

Two players will be selected by MLS Commissioner Don Garber. Players, fans, and media will cast their votes for 11 players in a 4-1-2-3 formation: one goalkeeper, one right back, two center backs, one left back, one defensive midfielder, two attacking midfielders and three forwards/wingers. The top players in each position from the combined vote will be named All-Stars. The 12th player selected will be the one who received the next-highest total of overall votes.

The 2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target will feature the MLS All-Stars taking on a team of All-Stars from Mexico's top soccer league, LIGA MX, at 8 p.m. ET on August 10 at Allianz Field, home of Minnesota United FC.

The All-Star Game is the culminating event of MLS All-Star Week, which also features the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 8 p.m. ET at Allianz Field and the MLS All-Star Concert presented by Target, headlined by five-time Grammy award nominated multiplatinum superstar Khalid, on Monday, Aug. 8 at The Commons in Downtown Minneapolis.

MLS Newcomers Making Waves at the Midpoint

Pictured: Orlando City SC midfielder Facundo Torres (left) and forward Ercan Kara (right) celebrating a goal. Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck (IMAGN / USA Today Sports)

The 2022 MLS regular season has introduced another crop of first-year players proving to be elite-level difference makers for their clubs. With world class talents in Gareth Bale (Los Angeles Football Club), Lorenzo Insigne (Toronto FC), and Héctor Herrera (Houston Dynamo FC) set to join this group of players when the Secondary Transfer Window opens on July 2, these global icons will join an already strong group of standout performers leading the way as favored MLS All-Star selections and MLS Newcomer of the Year candidates.

Forwards: A host of first-year MLS forwards are firmly in contention for the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi. Toronto FC's Jesús Jiménez leads all MLS newcomers in goals scored with seven on the season, and D.C. United's Taxiarchis "Taxi" Fountas continues to justify their urgency to sign him with six goals and three assists in just nine matches in 2022. Sebastián Ferreira and Ercan Kara have been revelations for Houston Dynamo FC and Orlando City SC, respectively, each scoring six goals and being a focal point of each club's offense.

Midfielders: The midfield contingent ranges from explosive wingers, creative facilitators, and disruptive forces among the 2022 newcomers. In the Eastern Conference, Xherdan Shaqiri (Chicago Fire FC) leads all MLS newcomers in assists with six and paces his club in goal contributions with nine, while 22-year-old Facundo Torres (Orlando City SC) has generated five assists and one goal this season. New York Red Bulls' midfielder Luquinhas has helped the team become more prolific in attack with five goals and two assists of his own. Meanwhile in the Western Conference, Minnesota United FC's Kervin Arriaga ranks within the top 25 in duels won, aerial duels won, ball recoveries, and possession won among MLS players who have played at least 1,000 minutes.

Defenders: No competitive side would be complete without an ironclad defense, and a handful of new defenders and goalkeepers have improved their sides this season. Maarten Paes (FC Dallas) and Kristijan Kahlina (Charlotte FC) have kept four and five clean sheets, respectively, providing their sides with a safe pair of hands in goal throughout 2022. Thiago Martins (New York City FC) has stepped into the starting lineup and shown his defensive quality by helping his side keep five clean sheets in 11 starts.

Stars Under Age 22 Lighting It Up in MLS Play

As MLS hits the halfway point of the 2022 regular season, the league's players under age 22 have impressed all over the pitch. On the attack, FC Dallas' Jesús Ferreira continues to lead in the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi standings with nine goals on the campaign, while another 21-year-old attacker in Inter Miami CF's Leonardo Campana sits just two goals behind him.

The Eastern Conference is loaded with burgeoning young talent among the likes of New York City's Talles Magno, Atlanta United's Thiago Almada, and Charlotte FC's Ben Bender, who all have at least six goal contributions this year.

In addition to attackers, the youth movement also features U-22 defenders and goalkeepers, solidifying defenses throughout the league. At just 18 years old, Chicago Fire FC goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina is the youngest player in the league to play every single minute for his club and has 31 saves on the season. Supporters' Shield leaders LAFC have relied on 19-year-old Mamadou Fall in the heart of defense as he has played the second-most minutes (1,091) by a defender for the club this season, and young outside backs are the new norm across MLS, including the LA Galaxy's Julián Araujo , the New York Red Bulls' John Tolkin, and the Philadelphia Union's Nathan Harriel.

Toronto FC's youngsters are making a big difference up North, as over the weekend, Ralph Priso became the fourth different teenager (Deandre Kerr, Jayden Nelson, and Kosi Thompson) to score for the club this season. No other team in MLS has had more than one teenager score in 2022. Toronto's teens are just one of many U-22 storylines that continue to take shape at the midpoint of the 2022 season.

First-Year Coaches Lead Western Conference Clash

The 2022 MLS regular season kicked off with five new faces stepping into the role of head coach for the first time in their coaching careers. Among them are LAFC's Steve Cherundolo and FC Dallas' Nico Estévez, who have each taken their respective clubs from missing the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs to above the playoff line as genuine MLS Cup contenders in just six months.

Cherundolo has led a young core of reliable LAFC starters, including a pair of FIFA World Cup hopefuls in Ecuadorians José Cifuentes, who has three goals and three assists this season, and Diego Palacios, who has added three assists and a goal. The additions of veterans in 2018 MLS Cup-winner Franco Escobar and U.S. Men's National Team midfielder Kellyn Acosta have also added depth to their positions, while Cristian "Chicho" Arango and Carlos Vela have also continued to find the back of the net. New additions Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale will only provide more quality for Cherundolo to tap into once the Secondary Transfer Window opens.

Estévez has also seen an uptick in form from key FC Dallas players. Jesús Ferreira is tied for the lead in the race for the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi with nine goals on the season, which is his highest single season scoring total since debuting in 2017. Intraleague acquisitions Paul Arriola and Marco Farfan have boosted the club on both ends, with Arriola scoring eight goals and Farfan playing nearly every minute of the season so far at left back. Academy products still featuring heavily under Estévez include Paxton Pomykal, who has started all 16 regular season games this season, while Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo continue to earn minutes in midfield.

Both new coaches will meet for the first time on Wednesday (10:30 p.m., FS1 / FOX Deportes) as FC Dallas travel to LAFC in what could be an early look at the Western Conference Final.

Red Hot Revolution in Form and Flourishing

Just as people began to question the New England Revolution, the 2021 Supporters' Shield winners have blitzed the league in their return to top form. The Revs are the hottest team in MLS, going unbeaten in their last nine games and climbing all the way to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings - just three points off second-placed NYCFC. New England returns to Gillette Stadium on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE on ESPN+) as they host FC Cincinnati.

Leading the Revs during their strong run are 2021 MLS All-Stars Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil. After returning from injury, Bou has scored or assisted in four of his last five games while Gil is tied for the league lead with eight assists and has engineered a potent attack. Despite the transfers of Adam Buksa to RC Lens and goalkeeper Matt Turner to Arsenal, the club's young talent is making for a smooth transition thanks to the additions of 22-year-old goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic and 20-year-old midfielder Dylan Borrero . The duo has impressed, as Petrovic has yet to lose in his first four starts (two wins, two draws) while Borrero has produced a goal and an assist in his first three MLS starts.

The man navigating injuries and transfers, while also cultivating young talent, is none other than National Soccer Hall of Famer Bruce Arena, who is on the cusp of MLS history, sitting just four wins shy of becoming the first coach to total 250 regular season victories. Will the Revolution stretch their unbeaten run to double-digits and get Arena closer to his landmark coaching milestone?

Sporting Kansas City's Peter Vermes Hits 500 Matches Against

Hometown Club

When Sporting Kansas City host the New York Red Bulls on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE on ESPN+), head coach Peter Vermes will make history, reaching his 500th match for the club across all competitions, and he will do it against his former club. A New Jersey native and member of the 1996 New York/New Jersey MetroStars, Vermes becomes the fourth coach in MLS history to reach this milestone, joining Sigi Schmid, Bruce Arena and Dominic Kinnear.

Below are highlights from his incredible coaching and playing career:

Vermes has coached more than half of Sporting Kansas City's regular season matches (421 of 838) and matches in all competitions (499 of 989). His 421 regular season games coached and 176 wins are both the fourth-most in MLS history.

A 2013 National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, Vermes has won four major trophies with Sporting Kansas City - the 2012, 2015 and 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups and the 2013 MLS Cup championship.

Among all 18 major global soccer leagues, Vermes' 14 years in charge of Kansas City currently ranks second, only behind 2. Bundesliga side FC Heidenheim's Frank Schmidt (Sept. 17, 2007 - present).

Vermes had a 14-year professional playing career spending time in Hungary, Spain, and the United States.

In MLS, Vermes spent 1996 with the MetroStars, 1997-99 with the Colorado Rapids and 2000-02 with the Kansas City Wizards. In 2000, he won MLS Defender of the Year honors and helped lead the Wizards to the 2000 MLS Cup. He is the only player in league history to win an MLS Cup with the same team as both a coach and player.

The defender made 66 appearances and scored 11 goals for the U.S. Men's National Team, including at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The country's qualification to the 1990 World Cup was its first in 40 years.

St Louis CITY2 Showed Off Its Pride This Weekend

MLS NEXT Pro's St Louis CITY2 literally wore its Pride on its sleeve on Saturday. From players wearing branded t-shirts, to signage around the stadium and more, CITY2's support of the LGBTQIA+ community was on full display at the club's first-ever Pride Night.

The team entered Ralph Korte Stadium wearing an exclusive Pride t-shirt designed by STLMade artist Adam Koon and made by print shop Little Tiny Monster. The shirt was available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to official Major League Soccer partner You Can Play Project . Fans were able to see Pride banners and signs throughout the Stadium, as well as pick up free Pride-themed stickers to show their own support. St Louis CITY2 also posted a list of resources on its website to highlight local LGBTQIA+ creators, leaders, and businesses.

On the pitch, CITY2 captain Josh Yaro wore a Pride-themed arm band while leading his team to a 2-0 win over the Real Monarchs. CITY2 (30 points, 9-2-2) is currently tied with North Texas SC (30 points, 9-2-2) for the top spot in the Western Conference. The club is unbeaten in its last seven matches (5-0-2) and has outscored its opponents 17-5 during that run. CITY2 will look to extend its streak on Saturday when Colorado Rapids 2 (12 points, 3-8-2) comes to town (8:00 p.m. ET,

CITY2's Pride support didn't end with the final whistle on Saturday night. Members of the organization and their families joined many other St. Louisans at PrideFest on Sunday in a sign of solidarity.

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