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Four young USL Championship players to watch in the U.S. Open Cup this week

By Staff, 04/18/22, 7:44PM EDT


The Open Cup could bring big opportunity for this quartet of U-22 players

Orange County SC's Kobi Henry found the net in the Second Round of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and is one of the players to watch as OCSC visits Los Angeles FC on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

The USL Championship has become a launching point for young talent for many years now, with top young talents making the move to European clubs after making a name for themselves in the league in recent seasons.

With the return of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this season, however, there’s now an additional platform for players across the league to make an impact in the national consciousness. As young players in other countries know, there’s nothing like a cup run to cement your legacy for a club.

As the Third Round kicks off on Tuesday night, here are four players aged 21 years old and younger to watch this round and moving forward at USL Championship clubs.

 Kobi Henry, Orange County SC

Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

Henry has been part of the current United States U-20 Men’s National Team cycle since it began last November, most recently being part of the group’s 10-day trip to Argentina. That promise saw the 17-year-old called up to the senior United States Men’s National team last December for its international exhibition against Bosnia and Herzegovina, while also attracting eyes from overseas clubs.

Due to the trip to South America, Henry has made four appearances so far this season and has logged 13 clearances and five interceptions while winning 83.3 percent of his tackles. He also scored a great left-footed finish in OCSC’s Second Round victory against the LA Force, showing off his technical ability. As Orange County visits Los Angeles FC on Wednesday night, it will be worth keeping an eye on the talented center back option. 

  Jake LaCava, Tampa Bay Rowdies

Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

On loan to the Rowdies from the New York Red Bulls this season, LaCava has already found the net in the Open Cup this season as he came on and scored in Tampa Bay’s 5-0 win against The Villages SC in the Second Round earlier this month. That added to the 21-year-old’s early impact for the Rowdies, where he’s carved out a niche in a strong veteran attacking corps in the early season.

LaCava has recorded three goals and one assist in seven league appearances this season while also registering seven shots on goal and winning a penalty kick in the club’s 3-1 win against FC Tulsa this season. With 14 goals in three seasons overall in the league, LaCava could get a chance to shine in the I-4 Derby against Orlando City SC on Wednesday night in one of this week’s must-see games.

  Lamar Walker, Miami FC

Photo courtesy Orovio Photography / Miami FC

Already a senior international for Jamaica, Lamar Walker has made 16 appearances for the Reggae Boyz, including seven in the recently concluded final stage of 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying. The 21-year-old notched six goals a season ago in his first season for Miami FC, and his ability to drive possession with the ball at his feet has made him a valuable young talent for the club’s veteran squad.

Walker has been used solely as a substitute so far by new Miami Head Coach Anthony Pulis in his four appearances this season, but this past weekend he recorded his first assist of the new seasons and has completed four dribbles and has also won 6 of 7 tackles in midfield. As Miami FC plays host to Inter Miami FC on Tuesday night, Walker could be the impact substitute the Championship side needs whether it’s aiming to chase or close out the game late on.

  Joshua Wynder, Louisville City FC

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

Louisville City FC has already handed league action this season to four teenagers, including one of its new arrivals in Ray Serrano, but the player who has turned most heads of the group is also the youngest. At 16 years old, professional signing Joshua Wynder has fit in seamlessly at the center of the LouCity defense alongside his more experienced teammates to help deliver the two-time USL Championship title winners to their best start to a season in club history.

Wynder has started in six of seven games this campaign and has recorded 11 interceptions, 12 clearances and five blocked shots while winning 7 of 11 aerial duels. Earning those minutes on a veteran-laden squad that expects to compete on all fronts every season, Wynder could soon be a player earning consideration for the U.S. youth national team program as he continues to build an impressive professional resume.

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