Major League Soccer released their final "24 Under 24" list yesterday and no Union player made the cut. Zach Pfeffer, Eric Ayuk, Brian Sylvestre, Richie Marquez, Fernando Aristeguieta were all named to the short list, but each failed to make the final cut.
If you stop and look at the list, it's tough to point out someone that one of the Philadelphia Union players could displace. Erik Palmer-Brown is short on MLS experience but more than makes up for it with potential, and Matt Polster has been one of the few bright spots on a very bad Chicago Fire team. When the voting criteria is taken into consideration, (Technical, IQ, Physical Attributes, Personality and Potential) it's not easy to point out a Union player that checks all of those boxes.
Another reason as to why no Union players were included on the list can be boiled down to lack of consistency. Ayuk and Sylvestre have looked solid and even good at certain points of the year, but injury has hampered Sylvestre's season and Ayuk's minutes have dried up as Sebastien Le Toux has returned to form. Aristeguieta could have been considered an early season lock to make the list, however he has been unable to remain healthy and has seemingly fallen out of favor with head coach Jim Curtin. Pfeffer has mostly stayed healthy, but he has had a catastrophic fall from grace since being named the opening day starter in midfield. Not only has Pfeffer found minutes hard to come by with the Union, but his national team prospects seem to have all but disappeared after being left of the roster for the U-20 World Cup. Marquez is the only Union player that could stake a claim to a spot on this list. But like many of his teammates, he has been a part of the Union's center back carousel and has only recently found constant minutes and consistent form.
Despite the fact that no Union players made the list, there are still some positives to draw from this experience. The amount of players on this year's list (five) is an improvement over last season's inclusion of just three players. This shows that the Union are doing something right when it comes to player development or talent recognition, and that is something to look forward to. This list should also serve as motivation for the players who were left off of the final list, especially someone like Pfeffer who has gone from a well-regarded youth player to an after-thought on a bad team. Marquez and Ayuk can point to moments like these as proof that trialists and low draft picks can be effective and look to increase their roles in the team moving forward.