Perry Kitchen just turned 22, yet he’s been one of D.C. United’s top performers for a while now.
He won the team’s MVP award at 21 last season. (Although the team’s 2013 campaign was a nightmare, that’s no small feat.) Last season, he also became the second player in MLS history age 21 or younger to hit the 8,000 career-minute mark.
And he’s still evolving. In four games this year, his fourth MLS season, Kitchen seems to have raised his game even higher.
The University of Akron product has been highly touted for years, winning an NCAA title his first and only season in college. With 46 appearances for the USA Under-17, U-20 and U-23 teams, Kitchen has the pedigree to be an MLS star.
Still, he’s never been named to an All-Star team or been called up to the senior national team. Could this be his breakthrough season?
Kitchen has always been strictly a defensive midfielder, which has limited his ability to influence the game on the offensive end. He wins the ball, makes the simple pass and switches the point of attack; the beauty of his game has always been its simplicity.
With usual attacking midfielder Luis Silva injured the past two games, Kitchen has partnered with Davy Arnaud in the middle, allowing him to get forward more than he normally does.
Turns out, the team’s best player can be a force on the attacking end as well. Kitchen scored against the Fire, and set up Nick DeLeon with a beautiful through ball against New England that DeLeon mis-controlled. Overall, Kitchen completed 21 of 24 passes successfully in the attacking half of the field against the Revolution.
After the game, Arnaud said: “I told Perry, I know he has the tendency to sit a little bit more, but I told him in the right moment go ahead because I’m comfortable covering for him as well.”
With more attacking freedom, 2014 could be the season Kitchen makes that long-awaiting next step in his evolution.
An earlier version of this story was accompanied by incorrect photo.