It was only three months ago when 16-year-old and U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team defender Erik Palmer-Brown signed a homegrown contact with Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City.
The native of Lee’s Summit, Mo., has worked his way up the ladder both in the Development Academy and Youth National Team picture, and now he has the opportunity to compete for Kansas City’s first team.
“It’s great being at home, playing in front of home fans and learning from guys like Matt Besler and Graham Zusi,” Palmer-Brown said. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world to say that I’m a professional in my hometown.”
Palmer-Brown is still very much at a learning stage of his soccer career, and he says the mix of professional and international environments has helped him grow tremendously in a short period of time.
“Learning from actual Men’s National Team players, you get more vocal and you’re able to read the game better,” Palmer-Brown said. “It’s a lot easier to see the game, and having gone through that, I feel like I’m kind of a leader. At the same time, I’m also learning from [U-18 MNT teammates] like Shaq Moore and Tyler Turner, who have been on the National Team level for a long time.”
One stronghold of Sporting’s Academy program is its director Jon Parry, who has been with the organization’s Academy since 2008 and has coached the game for the equivalent of Palmer-Brown’s lifetime.
“Jon Parry has helped me a lot over the years – since I was 12,” Palmer-Brown said. “It’s been a great experience learning from him and being friends with him. He’s a great mentor.”
Away from Sporting, Palmer-Brown has recently been involved with the U.S. U-18s under the guidance of head coach Javier Perez. In October, Palmer-Brown traveled to France and started in every match during the USA’s second-place performance at the 2013 Limoges Tournament.
“Playing at the international level is definitely an accomplishment,” Palmer-Brown said during the trip. “I feel my game has improved in terms of speed of play, and the coaches have really opened my eyes to how I see the game and read it. To be able to play with great players both in the Academy and on the National Team has made things go smoothly.
“Technically, I’m trying to get better all the time, and you really come out of each camp and each game as a different player.”