The 2021 MLS Cup is set when the Portland Timbers host New York City FC on Saturday at Providence Park.
This post-season has been anything but expected as underdogs eliminated league giants and underrated players stepped into the spotlight.
Players like Cristhian Paredes and Santiago Rodriguez amazed the audience with their contributions and proved that age is just a number when it comes to the playoffs.
Here are Major League Soccer’s best prodigies competing in the final – ranked.
Gray has become a prominent at 19 years old / Ira L. Black – Corbis / GettyImages
Club: New York City FCAge: 19
Gray has really taken the opportunity during the MLS playoffs 2021 and become an important part of the squad.
The 19-year-old has started all three matches in the post-season together with team leaders. The US youth national team player may have gone under the radar during the regular season, but that is no longer the case. NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila trusted that he would command the back line, which drove the side to the Eastern Conference trophy.
The young figure will continue to be one to see when he reaches his best form and his full potential.
Rodriguez has helped NYCFC flourish / Tim Nwachukwu / GettyImages
Club: New York City FCAge: 21
The young winger Rodriguez may be low-key, but it was his holding work that facilitated the NYCFC’s equalization and final triumph against the Philadelphia Union.
Rodríguez stood as the player needed for Maxi Moralez and Valentin Castellanos to thrive. He scored three goals and one assist in 21 games during the regular season, which led to NYCFC head coach Deila incorporating him into the attack. He became a generous player who worked to support the team’s greats through strategic passes and dynamic movement in the attack.
His name may not be in the spotlight yet, but he can be sure he knows his contribution will lead the NYCFC to their first MLS Cup final ever.
Sands will compete in the final / Ira L. Black – Corbis / GettyImages
Club: New York City FCAge: 21
NYCFC midfielder Sands has been a stable figure for his side during the 2021 MLS playoffs.
His quiet but deadly tactics have inspired the New York team to stay alive this post-season as they battle for the title in the MLS Cup final on Saturday against the Portland Timbers.
He inspired the team to end its trophy drought after lifting Eastern Conference silver, leading to their first ever final appearance. Their journey after the season has not been easy, but Sands constantly showed that a stone in midfield can make the difference.
Moreno stood out during the conference final / Alika Jenner / GettyImages
Club: Portland Timbers Age: 21
Outfielder Moreno has been the surprise star for the Portland Timbers as they compete for the Major League Soccer trophy.
Moreno stunned the crowd during the Western Conference final against Real Salt Lake, and looked dangerous in the attack before scoring the second goal to seal the victory for his team and keep the championship dream alive.
During the 22 Initiative signing, he looked comfortable as he took the spotlight and entered the MLS Cup final with four post-season starts under his belt. He has always been a stable and reliable figure for the Timbers, but Moreno proved his worth during the 2021 playoffs.
Paredes proved its worth during the MLS post-season / Anadolu Agency / GettyImages
Club: Portland Timbers Age: 23
Paredes, who is significantly one of the league’s most underrated midfielders, showed all the ways he can influence a match on Saturday in Timber’s triumph against Real Salt Lake.
He was combative in the attack and went through the field with the ball as if it was glued to his feet. The offensive could not match the rhythm.
The midfielder scored three goals and three assists in 20 games during the regular season, but it has been his work during the post-season that gives him a place on this list. He does not shy away from a challenge and gives head coach Giovanni Savarese the assurance that Paredes will leave his heart on the pitch in the MLS Cup final.
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