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LAFC’s Blessing, Horta, Atuesta named to 2018 MLS “22 Under 22” list

Expansion team makes big impact in bottom half of annual list.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Minnesota United FC Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer released the bottom half of their annual “22 Under 22” list, ranking the top young players in the league. This year, the list was tightened and restricted, being cut down from the previous “24 Under 24” parameters of years past (Full disclosure: I was a voter this year, as I have been the past several years).

On Wednesday, the initial names on the 2018 list was released, and Los Angeles Football Club had three players from Nos. 11-22.

Latif Blessing ranked highest of the trio, at No. 11. The 21-year-old has five goals and six assists in 28 league appearances to date for LAFC, splitting his time between starting and serving as an impact sub. In his two seasons in MLS, Blessing has played in 53 MLS regular season games, one playoff game, and won the 2017 U.S. Open Cup with Sporting Kansas City.

Coming in at No. 13 was LAFC midfielder Andre Horta. The Portuguese Designated Player has come in with high expectations, and has played eight MLS regular season games so far, starting three of those. Admittedly, Horta hasn’t exactly hit the ground running in MLS after joining in the summer, but potential is part of the criteria for ranking young players, and the 21-year-old is expected to get a handle on MLS in the future and become the dominant presence LAFC is looking for.

And at No. 16, a third 21-year-old in midfielder Eduard Atuesta. The Colombian has played 23 league games to date for LAFC, starting 15, and scoring a goal and two assists from the nominally holding midfield role. While Atuesta arguably benefitted from the season-ending injury to Mark-Anthony Kaye and Horta struggling to adjust to MLS, he’s also played well on his own merits and has taken to his new digs right away.

The final 10 slots of the “22 Under 22” will be announced on Thursday. Expect one more LAFC player to be in that group.

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