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After previous ups and downs, LouCity’s Elijah Wynder is producing quality, consistency | Young Player Spotlight

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/08/24, 4:15PM EDT


21-year-old Academy product has started first four games of season, creating dynamic tandem with Taylor Davila in midfield

Louisville City FC's Elijah Wynder has found a new level of consistency and performance, starting all four of LouCity's victories in the USL Championship so far this campaign. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

The road for former Louisville City FC defender Joshua Wynder was astronomical.

Make your First Team debut as a 16-year-old, move into the United States U-20 National Team’s orbit the following year while earning Young Player of the Year nominations from U.S. Soccer and the USL Championship, compete at the FIFA U-20 World Cup a cycle early, earn your first senior United States National Team call-up, and get transferred for a seven-figure fee to Portuguese powerhouse Benfica less than two years after your pro debut.

For older brother Elijah Wynder, the road has been more circuitous.

There was the season-ending injury before the 2021 season began, the loan stint to USL League One club FC Tucson that went in fits and starts to start 2022, the return to Louisville City because of a plethora of injuries, the breakthrough moment of scoring the game-winning goal in the 2022 USL Championship Eastern Conference Final – which helped him earn the league’s Comeback Player of the Year award as a 19-year-old – and an up-and-down 2023 season that saw his minutes and appearances rise but that ultimately didn’t see him find the consistency the side was looking for.

Joshua Wynder (left) and Elijah Wynder (right) have had different career trajectories, but this season Elijah has come into his own in Louisville City FC's midfield. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

This year, however, things appear to be different.

While there are plenty of new faces in LouCity’s lineup compared to the beginning of 2023, Wynder has been in the starting lineup in each of the side’s opening four games of the season. He’s more than held his own, combining with new arrival – and 2023 All League First Team selection Taylor Davila – as a central midfield duo that has provided balance during LouCity’s run of four wins in four games to start the campaign.

“When you look at Taylor Davila last week and tonight, his ability to control the game with the ball, and then you look at Elijah Wynder and his ability to cover the ground, break things up in transition and obviously get on the end of things in the box, it’s a good combination,” said LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz. “We’ve been really happy with the relationship of the two at the moment. There’s a good balance and a good understanding of working off one another, and my hope is with more time and more experience all of them are going to continue to build that relationship even stronger.”

While Wilson Harris has rightly taken the headlines for LouCity’s start with seven goals in four games, and Ray Serrano has been right behind him with two goals and three assists – showing his own upshift as one of LouCity’s young talents – Wynder is right there as well. He’s won 7 of 9 tackles to lead the team, while his six interceptions and 22 recoveries have helped Louisville maintain pressure on opponents.

He’s also continued to show his nose for goal. His finish against Indy Eleven on Saturday was his sixth goal for the club across the regular season and playoffs as he approaches 50 Championship appearances.

It took a while for him to get here, but the elder Wynder brother could be setting the platform for his career to find another level.

Here are some of the other young standouts that stood out over the past weekend…

- Shawn Smart, Las Vegas Lights FC: The 20-year-old right back scored his first professional goal to lead Las Vegas to victory against San Antonio FC for the first time since 2019 and won 9 of 10 combined duels while making six recoveries and three clearances.

- Ray Serrano, Louisville City FC: The 21-year-old winger made the most of the CBS spotlight, adding another two assists to move into a tie for the league lead alongside reigning Golden Playmaker Jorge Hernandez.

- Ashton Miles, Orange County SC: The 19-year-old center back continued to impress as OCSC took a 2-0 victory on the road at Memphis 901 FC, winning 3 of 3 tackles, 3 of 3 ground duels and 2 of 4 aerial duels.

- Kobe Hernandez-Foster, Birmingham Legion FC: The 21-year-old had a solid impact as Legion rebounded for victory in its home opener, completing 28 of 36 passes and notching two chances created while winning 2 of 3 duels.

- Abdellatif Aboukoura, Loudoun United FC: The 19-year-old midfielder produced a brilliant strike for his second goal of the season, had three shots overall and completed 24 of 30 passes in Birmingham.

- Pape Mar Boye, Phoenix Rising FC – The 20-year-old center back had arguably his best start so far this season, earning a penalty kick in Phoenix’s 3-3 draw in Tulsa and winning 8 of 12 duels while making 12 clearances and winning 2 of 2 tackles.

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