The evening is mild, the pitch is pristine and the visiting forward sees only daylight between him and the goal. He is wrong. Behind him, quiet and quick, comes center defender Erik Palmer-Brown. The kid shoulders the evasive striker, slowing him down. His foot connects with the ball. Then comes the slide tackle that dislodges it definitively — and returns possession to the American all-star team.
That whole episode, in Denver last month, took 11 seconds; Palmer-Brown works fast.
Not just on the field, where he’s an unabashed closer, but off it, too: He’s all of 18 years old, a phenom with a faux-hawk fade, fresh off his high school graduation. (Not that he attended the ceremony: Palmer-Brown was on a plane to New Zealand with the national squad for the Under-20 World Cup.) At 16 he became the youngest player in the history of his Major League Soccer club, Sporting KC, and then, last year, the youngest defender to start a match in league history. There has been much chatter that Juventus, the Italian powerhouse team, will snap him up in a big-dollar deal, but there are those who speculate that Palmer-Brown could become the next face of American soccer, one whose achievements could bring more racial diversity to the MLS lineup.
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