The elite club postseason is upon us. Which means a significant amount for the primary candidates vying for the title of the TopDrawerSoccer.com Player of the Year presented by IMG.
Last year’s inaugural winners, Mallory Pugh and Isaiah Young, are now both in pro systems, and that’s no doubt the goal of each of our award contestants again this year. As a reminder, As a reminder, the award, the most prestigious yearly honorific for amateur youth players with U.S. ties, will honor one top girl and boy player each at the conclusion of the season. Announced each August following a July 31 cutoff, the award takes into account the player’s body of work over the previous season and will be picked by an internal panel of judges.
To be considered, a player must be eligible for a U.S. youth national team, and they must be college eligible and have retained their amateur status at the time the award is bestowed. Players who’ve signed professional contracts or have already begun their college careers are not eligible for consideration.
These two players are certainly making a case. Can they take home the honor in a hugely crowded field? We're about to soon find out.
Real Colorado has an increasingly robust reputation among college recruiters in producing attacking players. That’s not to say there are no mainline defensive prospects in the system, because there are, but the litany of skill players to pass through Real Colorado’s doors is increasingly impressive. Mallory Pugh is the obvious leader here, but names like Janine Beckie and Julie Mackin aren’t to be missed either.
Tess Boade is a worthy successor to that throne, and she’s having an absolute cracker of a season in the interim.
Boade’s 2016-17 season perhaps isn’t as studded with national team appearances as some of her peers – she’s never been on a U-World Cup roster – but her form for Real Colorado before joining up with Duke in the fall is undeniable. Real Colorado U18s enter the ECNL playoffs as one of the nation’s best teams, and Boade has been their most dangerous goal-scorer. In fact, she enters the postseason with three goals in Real Colorado’s last two games, proving she’s on as good of form as anyone as Rockford looms. Boade hasn’t been on the YNT radar for a bit, but just by dint of her club form it would seem she’s putting herself in prime position for TDS Player of the Year consideration later this summer.
Lucas Del Rosario, CASL
Entering this month’s Development Academy Playoffs in Indiana, no U18 team in the country can come close to scratching what CASL’s done on the attacking end of the field this season. CASL is the only team in the country to enter the postseason with triple-digit goals, which led them to a third-place finish in the tight Southeast Division and the ninth-best record in the country. That’s largely down to twin engines Alex Rose and Lucas Del Rosario, and the latter figure is the focus of our attention today.
Del Rosario was once a prime attacking rotation player with the USYNT, and after spending the front half of the 2013-15 U17 cycle with the U15 BNT, he moonlighted with the U17s for part of the latter half. Since spending the spring 2015 semester in residency he’s largely fallen out of favor on the older YNT ladder rungs, but it certainly hasn’t slowed his form this season.
The wispy attacker enters the postseason tied for fifth in the country in goals with 23 from 28 games played. Del Rosario has always been an exceptionally difficult player to track defensively, and he should continue that form just down the road at North Carolina this fall. Where he goes from there is anyone’s guess, but he’s certainly wrapping up his club career with an emphatic bang.