Sam Adekugbe (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Adekugbe, 20, has made just six regular-season appearances for the Whitecaps since signing a homegrown contract with the club in August 2013 but his first run-out of the 2015 campaign on the weekend hinted to a breakout season at left-back.
Handed the start for the 1-0 win at the Chicago Fire, the Canada Under-20 international’s performance earned him a spot on the MLS Team of the Week and moved head coach Carl Robinson to sing his praises.
“It was a very good performance from Sam, which I knew it would be," the former Wolves midfielder told MLSsoccer.com. "I want to have hard decisions, and if I have hard decisions it means I've got players in form. Sam grabbed his chance with both hands, so I've got a good decision to make there. He's done himself a lot of favours."
Adekugbe in fact got a taste of English football in December when he joined Liverpool for a week-long training stint alongside teammate Christian Dean, impressing the coaching staff enough to see his spell extended to a fortnight.
While at Melwood, he got the chance to feature for the Under-21s in a 2-0 win over Birmingham, picking up an assist and winning a spot-kick in the match, and seemed to make a seamless transition into the Premier League environment.
“I’ve tried to keep my head,” he told the Province at the time. “I think [Dean and I] have been able to slide in pretty well.
“It’s a really good environment. Four or five of the players have already made their debuts for the club. There’s a lot more competition with the youth because there’s players here from Germany and Spain, and lots of players fighting at each position.
“Everyone has a different presence about them but it’s all the same stuff — one touch, two touch, move the ball quickly.”
Born in London and raised in Manchester until the age of nine, before immigrating to Canada, Adekugbe is still to showcase his full potential on the MLS stage but it’s not hard to envisage him having a DeAndre Yedlin-like breakout over the coming months, given that he now seems to have earned the trust of his manager.
He would be a long-term project but one who it’s more than worth keeping a close watch on.
Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas)
The fastest thing MLS has to offer, some Villa fans will remember Castillo from their preseason tour of Texas when he showed his European credentials up against Paul Lambert’s side.
The Colombian winger, 22, has been terrorising defenders with his pace and skill since arriving in Dallas from Deportivo Cali in 2011 and he finished up last season with a league-leading 237 dribbles attempted [almost twice as much as his nearest rival] and 127 dribbles completed, as well as 10 goals.
Mexican giants Club América have been reported as potential suitors in recent months, per MLSsoccer.com, but the promising speedster could end up thriving in an even more established league with the right coaching.
A goal in the weekend’s 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City should prove just the start of another stellar campaign but, if he carries on from where he left off in 2014, then the former Under-20 international might not finish it with FCD.
Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids)
O’Neill trained with Sheffield Wednesday during the MLS offseason but, having done the same in 2013 with then-Premier League strugglers Fulham, there’s no doubt that he could develop into a top-tier defender.
Aged 21, the emerging centre-back has been called up to the USA’s past two winter training camps, although he is still to earn his first senior cap and, having been born in Ireland, could still represent Martin O’Neill’s men.
Also capable of filling in at right-back or at defensive midfielder, where he first started his career, his EU passport means he would have a more straightforward time than the average American prospect moving to Europe and that’s where he will be heading soon if he continues to progress towards fulfilling his clear potential.