About a year ago Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie left the Union for RB Salzburg and KRC Genk respectively. Both were homegrown players in the Union Academy, both had only been first-team regulars for a little over a year at the time, but both had received serious attention from European clubs for some time.
It almost sounded too good , to be true. Two players who had grown up exclusively in the MLS system now packed their bags and set off for the elite leagues in Europe. Salzburg paid $ 6 million for Aaronson, making the New Jersey native the most expensive homegrown transfer in MLS history. Simply put, that was historic.
Now, Caden Clark, striker for the New York Red Bulls, announced in June that he would be moving to the German club RB Leipzig, which is being coached by his compatriot Jesse Marsch. That made sense considering that Clark is one of the most exciting young players in MLS right now. The only thing that kept him from taking the plunge to Europe earlier is the fact that he only turned 18 in May of this year and doesn’t rule out moving to Europe without an EU passport.
From one point of view For American football fans with no prejudice in MLS, it is incredibly exciting to see another young American player (especially one who grew up through an MLS youth system) moving to Europe. As a Union fan, however, she’s pressuring her to stay competitive when it comes to youth development.
The Unions Academy was recently ranked first in the MLS, and manager Jim Curtin is a firm believer in giving young players so many opportunities to give as possible in the first team. In 2021 homegrowns Quinn Sullivan, Paxten Aaronson and Jack McGlynn signed their first professional contracts. While they didn’t see much action in the first team, it was comforting to see that Curtin’s focus on the academy hadn’t waned.
During the 2021 season, Curtin made a point of recognizing the Union’s native players even though they are young, they are well equipped to play at a professional level.
“All of these players have shown that they already belong. The fact that 16- and 17-year-olds step in and play well against Ilsinho, [Kacper] Przybylko, [Jamiro] Monteiro and [Jakob] Glesnes speaks for the talent they have, « Curtin said in a preseason press conference. “There are many new, younger faces, but they are not unfamiliar faces. You have been in the academy in and around this club for several years. That’s what we believe in as a club and it has been proven over the years that if you give these young people a chance, they will mostly impress you. ”
However, it looks like the academy is a little too much resting on their laurels. It’s easy to see how the astronomical success of Aaronson and McKenzie got to the club’s heads overnight, but there is simply no place to sit back and get complacent. The young player market is getting more competitive every day and the Union is only marginally ahead because of Aaronson and McKenzie. That lead won’t last.
With Clark’s departure to Salzburg (which is admittedly a bigger and better known club than the teams Aaronson and McKenzie joined), the pressure is high. The United States is finally beginning to look more like Europe in terms of competition within its youth systems. On the way out there are the days when there was a star player on a team who got all the attention without doing much of the work. There is now a real chance that young American players will have their chance to play more consistently in the MLS – and, as the last year and a half has shown, in Europe too.
It would not be ideal for the MLS to be a To become a feeder system for European clubs as young players still have to stay in America to legitimize the American system, but the reality is that these young players want to go to Europe as their ultimate destination. Many of them don’t want to stay in the MLS over 18 (the age at which young non-European players without an EU passport can sign for European clubs. It’s daunting but it’s true and it will be years before the MLS catch up with Europe If the young players don’t want to stay, then their clubs can best prepare them for wherever their career takes them. At least no one will be able to tell. American youth development is inadequate.
The Union has an abundance of gems in their youth system – Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn, etc. – and those are just the better-known names Apart from that, there can be no rest for the tired. In the football world in 2021, it does not matter what a club did in the last Sai son did. It is important that all past successes can be consistently replicated, which means that the Union must continue to produce young players who are worth playing at the highest level, wherever in the world.
Rome did not become built in one day. It’s about progress, not perfection. However you want to put it, one thing remains undeniably factual – the Union must remain at the forefront of its development game. They have the talent, they have the confidence in their players and they are starting to gain the clout to attract even more young players to their academy. At this rate, many more Aaronsons and McKenzies will come from Philadelphia, and the sport will be better for that.
Posted by Siobhan Nolan on July 15, 2021 in Union, author: Siobhan Nolan | Permanent link
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