Talen Maples just earned Best XI honors in the first ever MLS Next Pro League. Not the best eleven for a week or a month but for the entire 2022 soccer season. This is just another in a long list of accomplishments for the Houston Dynamo 2 defender and team captain.
The Leander, Texas native has been kicking a soccer ball around longer then many of his fans have been alive. Drafted number 72 in the 2021 MLS Superdraft by Toronto FC, one would think that a Best XI honor a year later might be a little far fetched. It's not.
Playing north of the border during the COVID pandemic helped Maples appreciate things a little closer to home and build a mentality that helped make him the team captain on an inaugural club in an inaugural season.
Maples drafted out of SMU, would play 19 games for TFC 2 in the USL Championship League. That season re-enforced the leadership attributes his dad and been showing him all his life. His team finished 10-10-8.Then came the offer to return to Texas.
Maples was given the opportunity to reunite in Houston with his old coach from Brazos Valley Calvary FC whom he played for in 2018. Kenny Bundy was the head coach at Brazos Valley and current Dynamo 2 interim head coach Daniel Roberts was his assistant. During 2018, he appeared in all 10 games under Bundy playing the full 90 each time. The defense he anchored there finisihed in the top10 of 35 USL 2 defenses in goals allowed. That following a season at SMU where he earned First Team All-ACC honors. He started every match and anchored a defense that had six clean sheets and a goals against of 0.94. Sound familiar.
Maples then received the opportunity to come play for the Dynamo 2 side coached by Bundy and Roberts signing a MLS Next Pro contract on February 19, 2022. Playing all but eight minutes of the team's 24 games, he was the stalwart that helped lead them to the playoffs in season one and allowed under a goal a game tops in the MLS Next Pro League.
“(Talen Maples) has been tremendous for us all year, he is a terrific leader," said Roberts describing why Maples earned Best XI honors.." Terrific personality, both on-and-off the field. I have known Talen quite a while, he played for us with the under-23s in 2018 and 2019. Funny enough, we tried recruiting him for the Dynamo Academy before then. I've known him a long time, he's improved as a player, obviously, through his time in the academy system, but then also in college with SMU and over his first two years as a professional. He's someone that's only going to get better. His approach to his daily work, his commitment to getting better is tremendous. He has to take all the credit for what he's accomplished this year, he has been superb.”
How far can he go? Let's see if the Dynamo give the 23 year old a chance to play first team soccer because if they don't someone else surely will.