Through 10 MLS NEXT Pro Matchdays, we have seen several MLS Academy players make a mark in what is commonly their very first taste of professional soccer.
And 16-year-old New York City FC academy goalkeeper Alexander Yagudayev was critical in his first professional starts in MLS NEXT Pro Matchday 10 action, earning the MLS Next Rising Star of the Matchday honor.
His heroics between the pipes helped NYCFC II win both of their matches in a crowded two-game matchday slate and land them in sixth place in the ultra-competitive Eastern Conference when all was said and done.
On May 25, in his first-ever professional appearance, he posted a whopping five saves on Toronto FC II, one of which was a penalty in regulation. That save turned out to be the match-winner.
"Alex stepped up and made a massive save." NYCFC II head coach Matt Pilkington said. "I think that ignited the group and the fight within them, and they stuck together and worked really hard to grind out a result and defend.”
So, what do you do with that if you're Pilkington?
The answer turned out to be putting Yagudayev back in action just three days later. The youngster excelled once again, this time posting four saves in a 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati 2. A defensive lapse from the NYCFC II led to a golden opportunity for FCC2 to pull one back in the end, and it spoiled what was otherwise shaping up to be a first-ever clean sheet for Yagudayev.
He'll keep fighting for that as the season goes on. His efforts helped NYCFC II close out the month of May on a two-game winning streak, and they return to action on Sunday when they visit expansion side Huntsville City FC. That match and several others will be streamed on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.