Despite not having a blog for more than 3 months, I’ve long wondered why there isn’t more youth on the pitch for the Sounders. Obviously, it’s hard to both maintain a young squad and still come away with consistently battling for the Supporter Shields, taking home 3 US Open Cups and competing in the CONCACAF tournaments. So please, don’t kill me with that thought, it’s kind of generic and generalized. I realize it’s only been 4 years and you can point towards the Seattle Mariners as a living example of trying to fight the battle between developing talent and winning. It’s incredible difficult regardless of the sport and really the Sounders haven’t dropped the ball entirely.
The team certainly has youth on the squad with Generation Adidas contracts awarded to Michael Tetteh (who admitted himself, the question marks regarding his future with the club) a 2011 first round draftee. Cordell Cato, 20, signed last year out of Trinidad and looks to be interesting. His 15 appearances (totaling 571 mins.) certainly showed some promise. Then, there is also #23 on the MLS 24 under 24, Andy Rose and his increasingly important role with the first team. It’s obvious that the Sounders have taken a step towards not just finding good talent but also develop it. This is important with MLS taking steps in reducing the GA contract lengths and reallocating those resources for the home grown player program. This is an interesting thought considering the talent that sits on the U-23 horizon for the Sounders.
Players such as Jalen Markey, Paul Christensen, Henry Wingo, Ike Crook and Mark Matula are all players that are considered top-100 prospects in HS playing on Sounders youth squads. Not to mention college prospects Sean Okoli, DeAndre Yedlin and others. There are going to plenty of opportunities for the Sounders to grow these prospective talents in the very near future and they’ll be doing so in the way that MLS is specifically trying to push teams towards, the home grown player program.
The problem with investing in these younger talents, and it’s one that if you follow MLS is commonly gripped upon, there are just too few opportunities for them to show and grow their talents outside of the training ground. Too infrequent are there successful loan opportunities and the MLS Reserve schedule is largely criticized as being too short.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Sounders find ways to keep the top talent they discover within the organization and find them playing time when they aren’t ready for the first team. I imagine that until MLS steps up and can start providing a reserve league or make some sort of deal within the USL or NASL for players to be able to be loaned out and help grow within lower divisions that some creative planning is going to have to occur.
One thought is with the recently re-branded Ascenso MX (formerly Primera División A) having two different tournaments to decide it’s season (Jul – Nov, Jan – Apr). It could lend itself to a prime partnership between it and MLS clubs. You can point to the development of Sonny Guadarrama, an American that has been using opportunities with Club América to grow. Guadarrama also has family ties to the MLS as his brother (Willy) played a season with Kansas City before falling off the map.
You could point out that the Mexican second division isn’t really all that dissimilar from MLS in terms of breadth of talent. So it’s unlikely that if the individuals didn’t have opportunities with their current club, they also may not find room on any club south of the boarder.
That wouldn’t necessarily rule out anything. But another example of working outside of the box is what the Sounders did back in July by almost shipping Alvaro Fernandez to Deportivo Cali of Categoría Primera A. The team that, as pointed out by Joshua Mayers, hosts Miguel Montaño on-loan from the Impact de Montréal (aka Montreal Impact).
With all the imports coming to MLS from Columbia it wouldn’t be absurd for clubs to kind of return the favor. In which they would send off some of their youngsters down to Columbia. The 17-week schedule would enable them to play plenty in the second half of the year and by that time they could have even had the opportunity to feature in a few MLS reserve matches.
There are a few options outside of going south, leagues like the Canadian Soccer League (which is somewhere close to the USL) which is still trying to grow despite being around in many different incarnations. But they could appreciate the additions to the leagues and the talent in flux that would come with a deal between them and some clubs in MLS.
Just a few thoughts on the day after turkey food.