Academy standouts continue to come in the clutch as the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro regular season's sunset looms.
Chicago Fire FC II is a team in desperate need of some comfort in the Eastern Conference playoff race and can thank 17-year-old winger Dylan Borso for a game-winning contribution in a 3-2 win over SKC II on Sunday, which kept them above the playoff line for another week.
The strike was timely in multiple ways.
For starters, the youngster lived up to the moment in his long-awaited professional debut. Prior to Matchday 26, he had only appeared on the bench and went unused for Fire II. He's no stranger to the Chicago Fire setup, though. Having been in the system for over half a decade made his debut a highly anticipated moment for many in the Fire ranks. In terms of playoff implications, it completed a comeback from being down 2-0 early in the first half.
“It’s super special," Borso said after the match. "I’ve been with the club for seven years now, and now, just to finally be able to play at the professional level means a lot and I’m super blessed to have this experience.”
Borso is the first-ever Chicago Fire II representative to claim the Rising Star of the Matchday honor. Here is a closer look at his professional account-opener:
The goal will naturally garner most of the headlines, and rightly so, but Fire II head coach Ludovic Talliender made sure to mention that his youngster had a great showing in the entirety of his 73-minute shift. Borso's goal complimented a 79% passing rate, going three-for-three with shots on target, and recording an interception.
"Dylan's first game, professional debut. He played with what we could expect from a young player: this enthusiasm, this passion, this joy. It was really pleasant to see that he enjoyed his first game, his first professional game. I think he deserved to score, he played a great game.”
It remains to be seen how much the youngster will be a factor in Fire II's playoff push. As it stands, they are above the line but are in a crowd of six contestants still alive in the crowded Eastern Conference.
Fire II returns to action in a nervy Eastern Conference playoff race against a tricky Orlando City B squad that's also vying for a first-ever MLS NEXT Pro Playoff berth. You can catch that game here on MLSNEXTPro.com, and several others on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.