Analysis

Pressure's on: 8 young players ready to shine in the MLS Cup Playoffs

The national stage provides opportunities for players to make statements under pressure. These eight could take their careers to the next level with postseason heroics.

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Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls

At just 18, Tyler Adams will be crucial to the playoff hopes of the New York Red Bulls. The club’s homegrown gem, Adams has grown in front of the eyes of New York fans this season. He’s evolving from steady midfield cog to playmaking wingback, playing so well that some are considering his future as Deandre Yedlin’s backup on the U.S. men's national team.

As the postseason approaches, Adams is hitting his hottest streak yet, netting his first two MLS goals and adding three assists down the stretch of the regular season. If Adams impresses on his biggest stage yet, a full national team call should be all but guaranteed.

Latif Blessing, Sporting Kansas City

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With a U.S. Open Cup game-winning goal under his belt and plenty of chances in a Sporting Kansas City front line looking for answers, Latif Blessing has a prime opportunity to break out this postseason.

The 20-year-old Ghanaian has had to make the most of his playing time this season, but he’s largely answered the call in big moments. Blessing had to wait until May for his first MLS start under Peter Vermes, but he grabbed that chance firmly, scoring two goals. He also scored to win the Open Cup before leaving the match early with an injury.

Healthy again, Blessing still may not be guaranteed a starting spot in the playoffs, but the SKC spark plug doesn’t need a full 90 minutes to make an impact. If he gets an opportunity, he may prove to Vermes that he can be trusted.

Marky Delgado, Toronto FC

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t sound quite right, but Marky Delgado is still just 22 years old. The Chivas USA youth-academy product has been around since 2012, when he made his professional debut at age 17. But for the first time, it seems the midfielder will serve as an important cog in a playoff team – one favored to contend for an MLS Cup title.

Delgado has gotten plenty of work under Greg Vanney, starting 19 matches in 2015 and 23 in 2016. But in that time, Delgado has played just 22 total minutes in the postseason. This year, however, Delgado has become a mainstay in the Toronto FC lineup. He has started every MLS match for the club since July 1 and has exceeded his previous career high in assists.

In a lineup with stars like Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, Delgado is making a statement. That statement will grow louder if he can do it in a playoff setting.

Alberth Elis, Houston Dynamo

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After an impressive debut season in MLS and a year spent solidifying his place as a regular for Honduras, Alberth Elis is a certified MLS star. His performance so far has made it easy to forget that the Honduran attacker is still only 21 and will be appearing in his first postseason.

Elis is still fighting to establish himself as the lead attacker in the midst of Houston’s riches up front, and if his postseason efforts can match his first season in MLS, Elis could prove a dangerous MLS attacker for years to come.

NEXT: A reigning champion takes on an even bigger role