Marlon Vargas enjoyed a breakout professional campaign with a team-leading 12 goals and six assists while leading the Tacoma Defiance to their best-ever finish. As a result, he has been named to the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Best XI, it was announced on Friday. The honor was determined by a vote of the league’s head coaches and chief soccer officers, as well as league-wide broadcasters and content producers.
“This year I thought it was gonna be a big year for me, because it’s my last year in my contract,” Vargas told Sounder at Heart. “I think I had a point to prove.”
Vargas first joined the Sounders Academy in 2016 and signed his first professional contract at 17 years old in 2018 with what was then called Sounders 2. During his first four professional seasons, he compiled 65 appearances with four goals and seven assists. Fresh off his first call-up to the El Salvador national team, he took a massive step forward in Year 5 to turn in an MVP-caliber season.
“We are so proud of Marlon for earning this award,” said Defiance Head Coach Wade Webber. “He was part of successful teams in our academy and is truly ‘one of us.’ He has had a statistically excellent year in terms of his contributions to our attack, but his willingness to work for the team when we don’t have the ball is even more impressive. He has been a force multiplier for us this season. We couldn’t be happier for him and are eager to see what his future holds.”
It’s the only time since S2’s Denso Ulysse was named second-team Best XI in 2018 that a player from the organization has earned a lower-division honor such as this.
“His loyalty to the club and his relentless desire to improve since he was in the academy is now being recognized on a professional level,” Sounders FC Vice President of Player Development Henry Brauner said. “This is his first Best XI as a professional, but it certainly won’t be his last.”
Aziel Jackson, who played for Crossfire as a youth, also made the Best XI.
2022 MLS NEXT PRO BEST XI
GOALKEEPER: Patrick Schulte (Columbus Crew 2)
DEFENDERS: Mo Farsi (Columbus Crew 2), Kyle Hiebert (St Louis CITY2), Talen Maples (Houston Dynamo 2)
MIDFIELDERS: Pedro Dolabella (Rochester New York FC), Aziel Jackson (MNUFC2), Isaiah Parente (Columbus Crew 2), Marlon Vargas (Tacoma Defiance)
FORWARDS: Bernard Kamungo (North Texas SC), Jack Lynn (Orlando City B), Jacen Russell-Rowe (Columbus Crew 2)