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Players That Impressed May 17, 2023

Players That Impressed: MLS NEXT Flex Tournament – Maryland 2023

This weekend saw 256 of the top U15-U19 MLS NEXT teams travel to the Maryland SoccerPlex for the MLS NEXT Flex Tournament.

SoccerWire is currently seeking Players That Impressed nominations from the competition. Coaches, parents and athletes are invited to submit nominations for up to two (2) players per team, highlighting standout performances from the event.

[Submit Your ‘Players That Impressed’]

Here are some of the top performers from the MLS NEXT Flex event, sorted by graduation year.

2026

Christopher Salazar | Forward
FC Dallas Academy (TX)

Set the tone for Dallas on the weekend by knocking home an early goal in their 2-0 win over LA United Futbol Academy. Has a real nose for goal, but can also make the innocuous passes inside the box for his teammates to capitalize on.

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Miguel Alvarado | Defender
Colorado Rapids Academy (CO)

Held three strong attacking sides in Phoenix Rising FC, FC Boston Bolts, and Sockers FC to a combined three goals over the weekend. The United States Youth National Team member showed off his technical skills in the wingback position, making decisive runs on the counterattack to help change the field of play. He also scored the first goal in their 2-0 opener over Phoenix.

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Peter Venegas | Forward
Colorado Rapids Academy (CO)

Welcome to the Rapids, Peter Venegas! The club’s newest striker, who joined the side earlier this month, scored the second goal in the Rapids 2-0 win over Phoenix. A product of the Chula Vista FC program, Venegas appears to slot in well with the speedy side and can find space in between defenders to exploit.

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Kelvin Luis Brito | Forward
Seattle Sounders FC Academy (WA)

Set the tone for the Sounders in their 5-3 victory over Barca Residency Academy with a hat trick of goals. While his goals were superb (a low shot, a header, and a volley), his setup in their second was equally impressive. Taking on multiple defenders while driving towards the corner of the box, he slotted a right-footed pass to Jayson Castillo who delivered the service in for Bayson Bark.

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Will Ostrander | Midfielder
San Jose Earthquakes Academy (CA)

Dominated the midfield in all three matches and was constantly using moving the ball North and South to open up backlines for his teammates. Notched a perfectly-timed pass into the far post for Chance Cowell to give the ‘Quakes a goal against D.C. United.

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Brian Nascimento | Defender
Real Jersey FC (NJ)

The center back had a great weekend at Flex, only allowing 1 goal in during all 3 games. He finished the weekend with 1 assist, 1 goal in the run of play, and a successful penalty kick. He impressed against a renowned FC Dallas Academy squad with his ability to shut down the quick and talented strikers of Dallas, while also scoring a goal of his own early in the second half.

2025

Luke Munson | Defender
FC Dallas Academy (TX)

The Hoops earned two big shutouts against LA United Futbol Academy (2-0) and Michigan Wolves (1-0) thanks in part to the defensive work by Munson. The center back’s timing on his clearancs were always perfect and he could always find in the right pass to the outside to open up play. Moreover, his leadership work in a tough 1-1 draw against Real Jersey FC really stood out, pushing the side to the 5-4 win in penalties against a very strong opponent.

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Ezekiel Padilla | Forward
Sacramento Republic FC Academy (CA)

Scored the match-winner in Sacramento’s opening win over the Philadelphia Union (1-0) in U17 Group I play. The talisman forward can make dangerous runs off of the ball and open up space for his teammates to get their own chances in (in particular Jackson Martin, Ethan Kelly, and Anagd Singh). The Republic will lean on Padilla to replicate last season’s Quarterfinal run in the MLSNext Cup Playoffs.

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Geoffrey Max Davis | Defender
Oakwood Soccer Club (CT)

Anchored a strong defensive Oakwood side to two big results over Total Futbol Club (1-0) and TSF Academy-NJ (2-0), earning their spot in the MLSNext Cup playoffs. Davis possesses a strong motor and makes very sound decisions as to when to make a clear or drive the ball up the field. In multiple one-on-one situations, he seemed calm and cool under pressure delivering professional tackles and timely clears.

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Jayson Bentum | Defender
Real Jersey FC (NJ)

Real JFC’s newest addition to an already formidable central defensive backline, Bentum was simply a revelation at Flex. He helped lead the team to a pair of clean sheets (both 1-0 wins) over LA United Futbol and Michigan Wolves. He exhibited strong communication, ball distribution out of the back and was dominant in aerial duals. He also made multiple goal-saving tackles and blocked shots.

2024

Olger Escobar | Forward
New England Revolution Academy (MA)

Scored a key brace in New England’s 2-1 opening day win over FC DELCO and was a key cog in booking the Revolution’s spot in this year’s MLS Next Cup Playoffs. On the ball, the Guatemalan Youth National Team member can hammer shots from both long distance and short range and can take on multiple defenders at a time. Off of the ball, he is constantly looking for an advantage and can make strong diagonal runs towards goal.

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Zach Kovner | Goalkeeper
Baltimore Armour (MD)

Earned two clean sheets over the weekend against Southern Soccer Academy (2-0) and RSL Arizona (1-0) to go alongside a solid effort against Colorado Rapids (5-1) on Friday to push Armour to the top of their group. Kovner is a true leader and is always working with his backline to ensure that every attacker is accounted for. He is also unafraid to get involved and can take on attackers in open space while minimizing exposure.

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Xavier Tanyi | Midfielder/Forward
Bethesda SC Academy (MD

Hammered home the match-winner in penalties for Bethesda in their 4-3 battle in U17 action against FC Dallas. The club’s captain was instrumental in the attacking midfield in creating chances for his teammates all throughout the weekend, pulling the side to three consecutive wins and a spot in the MLSNext Cup Playoffs.

2023 

Matthew Dreas | Midfielder
FC Cincinnati Academy (OH)

Came up with a huge goal in their MLSNext FLEX Finale against Kendall Soccer Club, finding space in the 80th minute to bury the game-winner. The University of Akron commit is a threat on both sides of the field, creating chances for his teammates with passes at a variety of speeds and lockdown defensive work. Held a potent Kendall side at bay in the final minutes by forcing them to chase passes across the pitch.

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Luke Van Heukelum | Forward
Sockers FC Chicago (IL)

The University of Maryland commit scored 7 goals in 3 games, including all 4 goals in a 4-0 opening win against BW Gottschee.

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Aleksander Markovski | Forward
Vardar (MI)

Racked up 4 goals and an assist during the event. Markovski, who will play for Western Michigan University next season, netted a brace against Toronto FC in a match that was broadcasted live on Apple TV.

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Lucas Jones | Goalkeeper
San Francisco Glens (CA)

Solid technical abilities which allow him to play like a third center back, making pinpoint passes while controlling possession. Jones’ communication and presence grounds this team and demonstrates leadership beyond his years. He came up huge in a PK shootout against Beachside SC, blocking two straight shots to vault SF Glens to victory.

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