MLS completed their 24 Under 24 list of the league’s best young players on Thursday and though a Canadian topped the pile, there was no representation from Toronto FC.
The Reds do not possess a genuine blue-chip prospect like Jordan Morris, Jack Harrison or Cyle Larin in their ranks but have a few members of the squad who may have been checking for their name as the rankings were gradually unveiled.
While Jay Chapman and Tsubasa Endoh commanded some attention as two of the players on the outside looking in, there was no mention of the youngster who has arguably made the biggest contribution to Toronto’s success this season: Marky Delgado.
Now, it’s difficult for any single person to assess this list as a whole - hence MLS calling in a number of media members as well as their own editorial staff - but we can use statistics to get a picture of how Delgado compares to those regarded as the league’s top prospects.
Here’s where Delgado would rank in a few categories if inserted onto the list as its 25th member:
- fourteenth in minutes played
- sixth in passes attempted
- third in chances created
- joint-eleventh in goals plus assists
- joint-fourth in tackles
- thirteenth in interceptions
- seventh-youngest in age
This is, of course, very simplistic; some of the players on the list are defenders and goalkeepers and so not likely to rank highly in attacking categories, while others, such as Harrison, have had fewer minutes in which to make an impact. Nevertheless, it seems like evidence enough that Delgado should at least have been in the conversation.
Delgado occasionally gets a bad rap and has had his ups and downs this season; he was not great as recently as last weekend, for example, against the New York Red Bulls and for many the expectation has been that Armando Cooper will take over on the right side of the midfield diamond.
But the Chivas USA academy product is versatile, hardworking and gradually making more of an impact at both ends of the pitch. Now in his fourth season of significance in MLS, it is easy to forget that Delgado only turned 21 in May. There are very few players of that age without some inconsistencies to iron out but Delgado is already a starter on a very competitive team, and if he can take another step forward in 2017 he will start to turn a few more heads around the league.
The development of players like Delgado is also vital for the franchise. The Reds are finally a good team; the next step is to create a conveyor belt of talent to ensure that success is sustainable. In that regard, TFC has taken strides in integrating academy players this season but their ability to identify cheap, useful young talent like Delgado from elsewhere is equally as important.