Cutting in from the left, with defenders closing in, Ousseni Bouda drove towards the goal with scoring on his mind as all that stood in his way was the Tacoma Defiance keeper. Bouda sent the keeper to the ground and toyed with the Tacoma defenders to get the Earthquake 2’s first goal of the game. By the end of the game, he would score another, making it clear that the future of the Quakes is Bouda.
With the eight pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, the Quakes could have gone a lot of different ways, they could have chosen a player to fill in at right back or try to find another gem in the midfield. Instead, they chose to go with the player that had the highest ceiling in Ousseni Bouda who many were surprised to see fall all the way to eight.
While he has played in only four MLS matches, every time he steps on the pitch, fans can see the potential that he has. His impressive technical abilities are matched by his innate feel of the game and in the games that he has played in the MLS, he has shown that he understands how to play in an offense. Of course any rookie will need reps to get acclimated to the league, but Bouda has shown that he could start to pick up a bigger role for the team.
Bouda’s situation with the Quakes is pretty similar to another Bay Area and their development of their seventh overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Similar to the Quakes, the Warriors could have gone a different path, but chose to go with the player with the most tantalizing potential in Jonathan Kuminga. Like Bouda, Kuminga played sparingly in the early part of the NBA season, spending time in the G League, but as he got his chances in the NBA, Kuminga showed that he could be a playoff contributor.
So much has gone wrong for the Quakes this season, and to be honest for a while before, but the team has found a gem in Bouda who could be the Quakes next success story. Just as Kuminga will likely carry the torch for the Warriors soon, Bouda could be the Quakes next star.
Although he has bounced between the first and second teams, Bouda has demonstrated great physical tools matched with a great sense of the game. Especially for rookies, this is rare as many rookies will find themselves struggling in the league as their physical and technical tools are subpar for the league.
Further using that game against the Defiance as an example, Bouda’s second goal and the buildup to it showcase those skills. With a great long ball flying over the Tacoma backline, Bouda sneaked through the back, leaving him ample space to get his first shot off. While the first shot would richot off a defender, he would move back to the top of the box to get back into the action and curved home his second from distance.
That small move of moving back towards the ball to recycle possession shows a player who refuses to give up, always believing that a better chance will come his way. For a young player, this determination and knowledge is impressive, as many youngsters will look dejected after a miss. In that moment, Bouda showed who he is, a player with elite physical and technical talents that are made even better with a great knowledge of the game.
In his brief time in the MLS, he has showcased some similar abilities, as his speed is still lethal in the league, but when he combines it with his dribbling skills, he has shown that he could carve defenses. Not only is he a great dribble, but has shown in a few games that he can play make at the MLS level.
Taking a look at his statistics is impressive, but it can be a little hard to gauge how representative those stats are given that he has only played in four games. The stat that will jump out is his shot creating actions per 90 at 5.11 which ranks among the best in the squad. It’s indicative of a player that can create space either with his passing ability or the gravity his speed demands.
That number will likely go down as he plays more, but unlike Said Haji, another Quakes draft pick, Bouda has shown in his MLS appearances that he is already at the level needed to stay in the league. He already has a higher pass success rate than Chofis and the plan should be that Bouda will replace Chofis as his loan ends in the summer. This would help both player and team, as it will free up a roster spot and money as well as give Bouda a chance to develop.
Bouda has already impressed for the second team and first team in different competitions and fans should hope that he gets more chances to develop in the MLS. With Shea Salinas and Chofis out, Bouda should be the team’s first option off the bench.
Across the Bay in San Francisco, there is another Bay Area team that chose to draft an interesting prospect with the hope that he would help carry the franchise in the future. Jonathan Kuminga is the rookie whose unique skill set, like Bouda’s, will help determine the team’s future.
Kuminga was a highly touted high school athlete with his rim breaking dunks tantalized fans and scouts, making him one of the most sought after high school players in the nation. Bouda had a similar story, as he scored over 100 goals in high school and was named Gatorade High School Player of the year. Both were high school phenoms who ultimately decided to go different paths after high school with Kuminga heading to the G League and Bouda committing to Stanford.
While both would find success in their post high school ventures, they wouldn’t find the same success that made them favorites amongst scouts. Kuminga would be outshone by teammate Jalen Green and Bouda wasn’t scoring at will, which caused both to slip down the boards on draft day.
Bouda would be taken eighth and Kuminga seventh, just a pick difference between the two as fans felt hope and excitement for what the future could hold for the two of them and their teams. Although fans were excited, it was clear that both players would be projects that would take time to develop into meaningful rotation players in their first season. In order to properly be developed, both players would be sent to their respective developmental leagues where they quickly showed that they belonged in the first division.
Their skillsets are what clearly showed that they belong in the top flight, as they’re both hyper athletic players who use a great understanding of the game to affect it. Kuminga has played himself into the Warriors’ playoff rotation by showing his ability to play in a Steve Kerr offense without too many turnovers. Bouda has shown that he could be the first player off the bench with the opportunity to replace the role that Chofis had played given how unafraid of the MLS he has been.
Both players may just be rookies, but have proven that they could be the bridges between their teams’ present and future success. As the Warriors hope for a title run, it’ll be interesting to watch Kuminga’s role and for Quakes’ fans, they’ll hope to see Bouda get a larger role in the side.
With the MLS season still in its relatively early stages, Bouda has shown to be worth the pick that Quakes used on him, as his play should warrant him more chances in the coming weeks. Bouda might not be a starter in the MLS this season, but he should cement his role as the first name off the bench. While the Quakes may be struggling, they have an exciting crop of young players that fans will hope will carry them back to the top.
Featured Image: San Jose Earthquakes