BEAVERTON, Ore. – On Tuesday, MLSsoccer.com announced its annual 24 Under 24, a list of the best young players under 24 years-of-age playing in MLS as voted on by a collection of writers and soccer expert analysts. The Portland Timbers featured two players on the list: forward Lucas Melano at No. 19 and defender Alvas Powell at No. 22.
This season, Powell leads or is near the top of the league in several significant statistical categories. With 240 duels won, Powell leads all MLS players, a list that also includes Columbus Crew SC forward Kei Kamara, New York Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga—who ranked No. 5 on the 24 Under 24 list—and Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty. Powell also ranks fourth in MLS in dribbles completed, one spot behind Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Kekuta Manneh (No. 2 on 24 Under 24) and second in tackles, behind Vancouver's Matias Laba (No. 12 on the MLS list).
The forward Melano only arrived in Portland from Argentine Primera División club Lanús in July, but his speed on the wing and skill on the ball has already turned some heads.
For his part, Melano says that the 24 Under 24 recognition is a great honor.
“To be put on this list makes me very happy and it gives you motivation to continue fighting and getting better,” he said. “And also to continue to strive to get collective victories and collective awards with the team.”
So far, the 22 year-old has notched a goal and an assist in five starts with the team. But Melano is quick to point out that he knows he is capable of much more in this league and he says he's ready to prove it.
“I've only played a few games [in this league], but I want to demonstrate more,” he said. “I know I can show my talent here. I know I need to get used to the league and understand the rhythm [of play] a little bit more and catch the rhythm of the game.”
Some MLSsoccer.com editors already agree. In an article predicting top players for the 24 Under 24 list for 2016, many have Melano atop their lists.
While Melano and Powell were recognized on this year’s MLSsoccer.com list, they form part of a strong core of young players that has also been quickly gelled this season. At one time or another during the 2015 campaign, two other players under age 24 have started MLS matches for Portland: midfielders Dairon Asprilla, 23, and George Fochive, 23. Moreover, defenders Taylor Peay and Jeanderson as well as forwards Maximiliano Urruti and Fanendo Adi—all 24 years-old—have combined to play over 3,800 minutes this season.
With both Melano and Powell looking to expand their growth, the future for the Timbers in several key positions looks strong.