With the MLS regular season nearing its conclusion, its time for another edition of the league’s annual “24 Under 24” honor roll, as voted by a panel of media members that hopefully doesn’t still include Kurt Larson.
Last year, Kwadwo Poku was the lone NYCFC man on the list, checking in at #7.
This year, give it up for fullback Ronald Matarrita, who finds himself in the thick of it at #13.
Mata has put forth a number of splendid showings this year, including multiple appearances on the MLS Team of the Week. The 22-year-old Costa Rica international has distinguished himself as a plus ballhandler and crosser in the wingback mold, and leads all left fullbacks in the league in average match rating (7.2) according to WhoScored.com.
The consensus on Matarrita is that the best is yet to come, particularly in terms of his defensive judgment and anticipation. Here’s what one anonymous technical staffer said to MLSSoccer.com:
"Explosive going forward, energetic, lively. He's got the physical capacity and the volume to back up defensive backs in their own half. He's offensive-minded, has all the quality of a winger but coming from a deeper position. Some improvement that he has to have in his game is the defensive positioning – if you're thinking offensive first, sometimes you can get in trouble on your positioning, recognizing where maybe you should be five, six yards inside in case we lose it in defensive transition."
In the big picture? Ronald Matarrita may play on the left, but watching him just feels so right.