As the 20th season for Major League Soccer kicks off this year, one element that certainly has impacted the league each season is the increasing presence of former Development Academy players and homegrown contracts.
It is not only the volume of Academy alumni but their increased roles and the influence they have for their respective clubs.
Just last fall, former U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year Wil Trapp was praised by soccer legend Thierry Henry for his play during the New York Red Bulls’ 3-1 home loss to Trapp’s Columbus Crew SC. That prompted Trapp to admit that “you get goose bumps” hearing such acknowledgement.
D.C. United and former Academy goalkeeper Bill Hamid had a stellar 2014 season, earning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and becoming the first homegrown goalkeeper to win the award: “To see Bill’s growth as a homegrown player coming out of our youth Academy and now rising to being named the best goalkeeper in MLS is simply incredible,” D.C. United GM Dave Kasper said at the time.
LA Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes had a memorable campaign, as well, scoring 16 goals during the regular season (ranked sixth in the league) while also scoring the opening goal during the Galaxy’s 2-1 victory against the New England Revolution to win the 2014 MLS Cup. He became the first homegrown player to score a goal in MLS Cup, and his 16 regular-season tallies is a record for homegrown players.
Also noteworthy in the fact that 14 of the 20 players named to the 2014 MLS Homegrown Game roster were former Academy players.
Entering the 2015 MLS season, there are 109 players with Academy ties rostered on MLS clubs. Additionally, seven players in MLS have featured for the U.S. Men’s National Team: Juan Agudelo, Steve Birnbaum, Wil Bruin, Luis Gil, Bill Hamid, Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes.
Heading into this campaign, 16 new players with Academy ties are rostered with MLS clubs as 93 alumni were part of the picture in 2014. Of this year’s group, 69 Academy alumni have already made their professional debut.
Here is a breakdown of 2015 MLS-rostered players who have been a part of the Development Academy system:
- Chicago Fire (3): Collin Fernandez, Chris Ritter, Harry Shipp
- Colorado Rapids (8): Carlos Alvarez, Caleb Calvert, Marlon Hairston, Shane O’Neill, Dillon Powers, Dillon Serna, Grant Van De Casteele, Jared Watts
- Columbus Crew SC (8): Chad Barson, Adam Bedell, Romain Gall, Matt Lampson, Ben Speas, Brad Stuver, Ben Swanson, Wil Trapp
- D.C. United (6): Steve Birnbaum, Bill Hamid, Taylor Kemp, Collin Martin, Jalen Robinson, Michael Seaton
- FC Dallas: (7): Kellyn Acosta, Coy Craft, Danny Garcia, Jesse Gonzalez, Moises Hernandez, Victor Ulloa, Alejandro Zendejas
- Houston Dynamo (5): Will Bruin, AJ Cochran, Taylor Hunter, Michael Lisch, Memo Rodriguez
- LA Galaxy (8): Bradford Jamieson IV, Jack McBean, Raul Mendiola, Tommy Meyer, Charlie Rugg, Oscar Sorto, Jose Villarreal, Gyasi Zardes
- Montreal Impact (2): Eric Miller, Blake Smith
- New England Revolution (7): Juan Agudelo, Scott Caldwell, Diego Fagundez, Sean Okoli, Kelyn Rowe, Tyler Rudy, London Woodberry
- New York City FC (4): Connor Brandt, Matt Dunn, Thomas McNamara, Khiry Shelton
- New York Red Bulls (6): Santiago Castano, Sean David, Chris Duvall, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Connor Lade, Matt Miazga
- Orlando City SC (6): Conor Donovan, Earl Edwards Jr., Harrison Heath, Tommy Redding, Sidney Rivera, Tyler Turner
- Philadelphia Union (8): Dzenan Catic, Leo Fernandes, John McCarthy, Jimmy McLaughlin, Zach Pfeffer, Andrew Wenger, Ethan White, Sheanon Williams
- Portland Timbers FC (3): Seth Casiple, Darlington Nagbe, Taylor Peay
- Real Salt Lake (6): Jordan Allen, Lalo Fernandez, Luis Gil, Justen Glad, Boyd Okwuonu, John Stertzer
- San Jose Earthquakes (4): Fatai Alashe, JJ Koval, Tommy Thompson, Kris Tyrpak
- Seattle Sounders FC (3): Darwin Jones, Aaron Kovar, Victor Mansaray
- Sporting Kansas City (5): Amadou Dia, Connor Hallisey, Jon Kempin, Erik Palmer-Brown, James Rogers
- Toronto FC (2): Marco Delgado, Eriq Zavaleta
- Vancouver Whitecaps (8): Sam Adekugbe, Marco Bustos, Marco Carducci, Caleb Clarke, Christian Dean, Kianz Froese, Kekuta Manneh, Tim Parker
With the USMNT’s March friendlies against Denmark (March 25, ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMás, UDN) and Switzerland (March 31, FOX Sports 1, UniMás, UDN) quickly approaching, time is running out for the players to convince the coaching staff they should be included for the matches that start the honing process for the all-important 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer. The staff will have plenty of opportunity to watch the player pool in action this weekend – and so will fans!
Check out all the MNT players in action with their clubs across the globe (All TV times ET):
The spotlight is on the kickoff of the 20th season of Major League Soccer when the 2014 defending champion LA Galaxy hosts the Chicago Fire. World Cup vet Omar Gonzalez stands at one end with MNT neophyte Gyassi Zardes as the pair stare down Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson at the other. (10 p.m., UniMas)
The FA Cup quarterfinals kick off with a trip to famed Wembley Stadium on offer in one of the oldest and most prestigious cup competitions in the world. Brad Guzan and Aston Villa host West Bromwich Albion in the first leg (12:30 p.m., FOX Soccer Plus). In another final eight matchup, Reading midfielder Danny Williams continues his resurgence as the Royals head to League One side Bradford City (7:45 a.m., FS1). In the only Premier League match of the weekend, DeAndre Yedlin’s Spurs travel to QPR with a huge opportunity to pick up points in the race to reach European competition next season (10 a.m., NBCSN).
In Germany, Fabian Johnson is fresh off scoring his first goal of the campaign and Borussia Moenchengladbach travel to Mainz looking to keep their hold on third place in the Bundesliga table (12:30 p.m., GolTV).
South of the border, Club Tijuana look to maintain their lead at the top of the Liga MX Torneo Clausura after going 6-1-1 in the first eight matches. Joe Corona hopes to continue to earn minutes after recovering from injury, while Greg Garza will be kept out as a precaution after a minor hip injury on the weekend. Meantime, defender Michael Orozco has started all eight games for Puebla and has helped his side to fourth place as they travel to Chiapas (10 p.m., UDN).
MLS has a host of matches available on DIRECT KICK/MLS LIVE, led by the debut of Jozy Altidore alongside MNT compatriot Michael Bradley at Toronto FC when they square off against cross-coast Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps (6 p.m.). Check local listings for the full MLS schedule.
Last things first – the U.S. Under-17 MNT has a chance to book their ticket to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Currently sporting a 3-0-0 record at the top of Group A in CONCACAF Qualifying, a win against host Honduras would guarantee advancement to this fall’s tournament in Chile (FOX Soccer Plus, 10 p.m.).
The big draw will be the debut of the newest additions to MLS, with 60,000 plus packing the Citrus Bowl to watch Orlando City FC hosts NYCFC. Brek Shea is hoping for a jumpstart to his career wearing the purple of the Lions, while Mix Diskerud kicks off his domestic professional career with the Big Apple’s newest MLS entrant NYCFC (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 5 p.m.). Matt Besler will marshal the backline and Graham Zusi appears to be ready to go when Sporting Kansas City hosts the new look New York Red Bulls (FS1, 7 p.m.), while MLS Cup finalists New England Revolution will be without their MNT contingent in Seattle as Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen are still sidelined for the opener against U.S. captain Clint Dempsey, MNT defender Brad Evans and Sounders FC (FS1, FOX Deportes, 9:30 p.m.).
WHAT ELSE TO CHECK OUT …
Alejandro Bedoya returns from the infirmary to join his Nantes teammates when they meet Stade de Reims, who hover three points above the relegation zone … Jonathan Spector’s Birmingham City side have surpassed their point total from last season, and hope to climb into the top half of the table against Midlands rival Derby … It could be young versus younger in Holland when Aron Johannsson and AZ Alkmaar travel to face Rubio Rubin and FC Utrecht on Sunday … Finally, Eintracht Frankfurt’s starting right back Timmy Chandler gets an early look at the RheinEnergieSTADION in Cologne, which will host USA-Germany on June 5.
Three second half goals propelled the USWNT past Switzerland 3-0 in Group B action at the 2015 Algarve Cup on Friday. Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez and second-half sub Abby Wambach each scored a goal in the final 45 minutes as the U.S. took control of Group B.
The USA next faces Iceland at 1:30 p.m. ET on March 11. Due to insufficient stadium the match will not be televised but, fans can follow everything happening with the WNT during the tournament by following @ussoccer_wnt on Twitter and Instagram @ussoccer_wnt.
U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis
On improvements from the first match day to the second:
“I thought we were patient. In the first half, Switzerland made it hard for us to play and they got numbers behind the ball, but I thought our patience and our tempo certainly picked up in the second half. We obviously had some great finishes off a set piece and two goals in the run up play which I thought were fantastic. Our game changers came in and made a difference so I was really pleased; really pleased all-around with the performance.”
On Switzerland playing five or six players across the back:
“We have to move the ball quicker and move off the ball quicker, and that’s what we challenged them with at the halftime. We have to move and pick up the energy a little bit, and I think we did that. I think we started to move the pieces around and played more diagonal balls to stretch them a little bit and then we got it. I thought in the second half we played much better.”
On the advantage of getting all six substitutions in today:
“It’s huge. It’s part of our depth and it’s part of our build up to the World Cup. We need to know who can come in and make a difference. The players that came in were impactful and obviously we got to rest some legs which was huge at this point in the tournament.”
On Shannon Boxx making her first appearance with the WNT since April of 2013:
“I wanted someone in there to stabilize things and that can be a good role for Boxxy, to come in, tackle, win balls and stabilize us. She did that so I was really pleased for her.”
On the play of the back line, especially Meghan Klingenberg:
“Kling is a scrapper. She likes to go forward, attacking is her game but she has gotten much better defensively one-on-one. I thought the back line was solid overall with solving the players in front of them, and the runners behind them. They did a good job. To keep a clean sheet was fantastic. Hope‘s save was phenomenal. I was most pleased with the whole effort of the backline and the goalkeeper.”
U.S. WNT forward Abby Wambach
On the team being able to get on all six substitutes, including herself:
“This is a World Cup environment in terms of the structure of the tournament, so having multiple players not only come on and play but make a difference, that’s what it’s going to take to win a World Cup. Seven games is a lot and that’s obviously what we hope to accomplish and get to. But you’re going to have to play a lot of players to get there and play well. It’s not just about the best eleven playing seven straight, 90-minute games…Tonight it showed that we not only can play those starting eleven but the players that come off the bench can make an immediate impact.”
On her goal against Switzerland:
“When the ball went towards the defender I thought she was going to make a play on it and when she didn’t, I feel like I was in slow motion because I honestly thought she was going to touch the ball and she didn’t, she let the ball ran across her front. I kind of just ran as fast as I could, however slow that may have looked, got to the end of it, saw the goalkeeper was retreating to the back of her line and did my best to get a little bit of air under the ball, and luckily it went into the net.”
U.S. WNT forward Amy Rodriguez
On getting on the score sheet for the National Team:
“It feels good to score again. It’s been a while since I scored, so it was exciting and it was a great game to do it in too.”
On how the goal came about:
“Just a few quick little touches in front of the net. I felt like I had pressure from the ‘keeper and a defender, so tried some quick touches and tried to scoop it in. I’ve been getting a lot of comments about my quick feet so I’m just happy I was able to put it in.”
On the match overall:
“The huge thing is that we walked away with three points. We want to be in the championship of the Algarve Cup so, we have to keep working towards that and try to get another win against Iceland.”
U.S. WNT forward Alex Morgan
On the team’s patience to break down the Switzerland defense:
“[Switzerland] was playing a five-[person] backline, they were playing a slower pace than we wanted to and were trying to slow down the game. I think in the first half we played into what they wanted, but we came in and regrouped at halftime and realized we needed to step up the pace and play a little quicker. We came out ready to do that in the second half and converted our chances. I’m really happy with the way our team changed the game.”
On her goal from Lauren Holiday’s free kick:
“I just played with the offside line, the marker lost me and [Lauren] plays amazing balls in whether it’s off a free kick or in the run of play and she found me in the exact spot I was meant to be. All I needed was a tap in so, it was really all [Lauren’s] work and I was just on the end to finish it.”
U.S. WNT midfielder Shannon Boxx
On the feeling of returning to international competition after being away for almost two years:
“It felt amazing! It’s been a long road but, it’s been a fun road of trying to make it back. The support of my teammates has been amazing so I felt like when I got on the field everyone was super excited for me. The adrenaline was going! I was only in there for like 10 minutes but, I was like, ‘Whoo!’” It was fun and I’m hoping for a little bit more this trip. But the team is doing great. In the second half, the team picked it up and got some really good goals. It was a lot of fun.”