In a season where younger players received significant playing time in Major League Soccer, it was no surprise to see U.S. prospects pop up and score big goals as the playoffs kicked off over the weekend.
Of the teenage trio to grab goals, it was Pepi’s stoppage time equalizer for FC Dallas that proved to be most crucial. Entering Sunday’s playoff game as a second half sub, Pepi beat the Timbers back line to a simple ball over the top, hitting the post before finishing the rebound with FCD down by a goal. In an epic 8-7 penalty shootout, FC Dallas secured the upset after the 1-1 draw.
Busio’s big moment looked like it would put Sporting KC into the next round. After assisting on Ilie Sanchez’s goal early in the second half, Busio scored his own stoppage time goal, putting Sporting KC into a 3-2 lead against the San Jose Earthquakes. However, Chris Wondolowski’s equalizer pushed the game into overtime and eventually penalty kicks, as Sporting won after a wild 3-3 draw in 120 minutes.
While Pepi and Busio have been established as up-and-coming U.S. prospects, Clark has had the biggest rise. Almost a year ago, the attacking midfielder from Minnesota was playing in the Development Academy for Barca Academy out of Arizona.
Fast forward to Saturday’s playoff game between the New York Red Bulls and the Columbus Crew, and Clark was in the starting lineup. His side may have fell by a 3-2 score in the end, but Clark added another memorable finish to put his side up 1-0 early in the game.
According to Opta Stats, Clark became the youngest player to score a goal (17 years, 178 days) in the MLS playoffs since Jozy Altidore who was eight days shy of his 17th birthday when he scored back in October 2006.
In a losing effort, Cole Bassett made it through the 90 minutes as his Colorado Rapids side fell by a 3-0 score at the hands of Minnesota United.