Najar, Agudelo highlight growing impact of Homegrown Players in MLS

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Photo by ISIphotos.com

By AVI CREDITOR

For all the attention that Designated Players get in Major League Soccer, Homegrown Players are beginning to do their part in making an impact on the pitch. All signs point to a continued influence by these young, up-and-coming local products.

2010 was a banner year for Homegrown Players. Andy Najar went from high school standout to MLS Rookie of the Year in a matter of months. Juan Agudelo emerged in the postseason as an attacking threat and parlayed that into success with the U.S. senior national team. The league's first Homegrown Player also became the first one to be traded, as U.S. U-20 striker Tristan Bowen scored two goals last season for the Los Angeles Galaxy before being shipped to fellow Home Depot Center tennant Chivas USA.

Five teams (Seattle, Portland, Columbus, San Jose, Real Salt Lake) have yet to sign a Homegrown Player, but the growing impact of these young players, the improved quality of the league's academies and the roster and financial advantages to signing them make it only a matter of time before they become a league-wide commodity.

Here's a breakdown of the current Homegrown players in MLS and who should be expected to contribute in 2011:

STARTERS/CONTRIBUTORS

F Tristan Bowen, MF Gerson Mayen (CHV); GK Bill Hamid, MF Andy Najar (DC); F Ruben Luna (FCD); MF Francisco Navas Cobo (HOU); F Juan Agudelo (NY); D Doneil Henry (TFC).

Najar and Agudelo are the success stories the league will hang its hat on for years. From high school standout to an MLS threat who makes even the top fullbacks look foolish, Najar's stock seems like it has no ceiling. The same can be said for Agudelo, who was nothing but a solid prospect a year ago. Now (when healthy) he'll be starting next to Thierry Henry in a key role for a team with title aspirations.

Luna, Navas Cobo and Mayen should all be key components of their respective teams' benches in 2011.

Bowen played well in spurts for Los Angeles last season before being traded to Chivas, where he'll compete for minutes as a complement to Justin Braun.

Hamid, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and is nearing his return, got time as a starter for D.C. last season and figures to be the team's keeper of the present and future.

As for Henry, a Canadian U-20 international, he could be pressed into immediate playing time if Adrian Cann's contract situation doesn't get resolved before the season begins. Either way, he'll play a part for a young TFC side this season.

GETTING CLOSER

MF Conor Shanosky, D Ethan White (DC); D Moises Hernandez, MF Bryan Leyva, MF Victor Ulloa (FCD); GK Tyler Deric (HOU); GK Jon Kempin (KC); MF Zach Pfeffer (PHI).

Defenders White and Hernandez are the two from this group most likely to contribute this season. White would have been a first-round pick in January's SuperDraft had he not been signed by D.C., a team that was defensively one of the worst in the league in 2010.

Considering FC Dallas' schedule now includes MLS, U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League matches, Hernandez, a U.S. U-20 defender, could get his chance to crack the lineup.

Leyva and Ulloa find themselves in the same boat as Hernandez, except there's more of a logjam at their positions and they're not as far along in their professional development.

Deric and Kempin both enter this year as backups, with the Houston keeper more likely to be thrust into action in the event of an injury to the team's starter. Kempin, a U.S. youth keeper, will fight for minutes behind Jimmy Nielsen with Erik Kronberg.

WORKS-IN-PROGRESS/LONG-TERM INJURY

MF Victor Pineda (CHI); MF Davy Armstrong (COL); MF Bryan de la Fuente, D Cesar Zamora (CHV); GK Richard Sanchez, F Jon Top (FCD); F Alex Dixon, MF Josue Soto (HOU); D Kevin Ellis (KC); F Jack McBean (LA); F Diego Fagundez (NE); F Giorgi Chirgadze, D Sacir Hot, MF Matt Kassel (NY); MF Nicholas Lindsay (TFC); MF Philippe Davies (VAN).

Lindsay would have been a sure bet to contribute to TFC this season if not for suffering serious knee injuries in a snowmobile accident in January that cost him the entire 2011 campaign. The speedy winger was a bright spot toward the end of last season.

Chirgadze is a year removed from hip surgery and on the comeback trail, but given the Red Bulls' current roster, there's no need to rush him into action. 

As for those who are fit:

De la Fuente, Zamora and Hot are all in the U.S. Under-20 player pool, while McBean was a part of the CONCACAF championship-winning U.S. U-17 side. Pineda and Top were called into the U.S. U-18s February camp. The potential is there for all of them, but contributing in 2011 might be a stretch.

An interesting one to keep an eye on this summer is Sanchez, a goalkeeper for Mexico's U-17 team. He'll be under the spotlight as Mexico hosts the U-17 World Cup.

Kassel, Dixon and Soto were each signed out of college this past winter and are more physically ready for the rigors of the professional game than some of their counterparts, though all three will likely spend the season with their respective reserve units.

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Do you see Homegrown Players having even more of an impact in 2011? Which Homegrown Player(s) do you see breaking out this season? Which prospect are you most excited about?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in MLS- Chicago Fire, MLS- Chivas USA, MLS- Colorado Rapids, MLS- D.C. United, MLS- FC Dallas, MLS- Houston Dynamo, MLS- LA Galaxy, MLS- New England Revolution, MLS- New York Red Bulls, MLS- Philadelphia Union, MLS- Sporting Kansas City, MLS- Toronto FC, MLS- Vancouver Whitecaps. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Najar, Agudelo highlight growing impact of Homegrown Players in MLS

  1. Pete says:

    It’s funny that Mexico’s U17 GK plays for an American club. I guess the USA does have a better history of producing top goalkeepers.

  2. bob says:

    I love how people call it homegrown when you can tell these players were clearly not grown here.

  3. Branden says:

    Why no Aleman for TFC? Was a standout player at the U-17 qualifying, and has actually been called up to the main team for training.

  4. This Guy says:

    I hope to see Pineda get some quality minutes this year. He hasn’t been featuring much in the preseason though. What I have seen of him seems to suggest his brain is quicker than his feet. Just a matter of experience I guess.

  5. cowtown says:

    A kid’s last name ending in ‘z’ or ‘a’ doesn’t mean he wasn’t “grown” here.

  6. Brian says:

    I think the kid was born in the US.

  7. Shmenge says:

    Speaking of FCD, it’s funny that homegrown prospect Ruben Luna is actually OLDER than Fabian Castillo, who they just signed for $800K and expect to start right away.

  8. Aljarov says:

    Aleman isn’t signed to an MLS contract.

  9. Ben says:

    Uh, except in this case, “homegrown” means something very specific. It is defined in the MLS rules, so it has nothing to do with whatever nationalist tripe you are alluding to.

  10. Aljarov says:

    Ives – I dont think Mayen is considered a HG player by the league. He predates the academy system and although was signed out of a youth team, isn’t considered that. I think he was just a discovery player.

  11. anon says:

    Is Russell Teibert signed to Vancouver? I was impressed by him in Vancouver’s preseason matches.

  12. TimbersJ says:

    Portland Timbers signed two players from their unbeaten u-23 pdl Timbers team.

    link to portlandtimbers.com

    They aren’t technically “academy”, but they fit the criteria of amateur youth players brought up in the Timbers system- at least on the pdl level.

  13. Matt says:

    Ives/Avi – Just wanted to say this is a great article as I was trying to find a list of homegrown players a couple days ago.

  14. akd says:

    Isn’t the definition something along the lines of having gone to the team’s academy? Just as Messi is Barcelona product, Najar is a DCU product.

  15. Lorenzo says:

    Bowen, Mayen, Hamid, Navas, Henry all born in those countries. As are almost all of the other ones in the following categories “getting closer” and “works in progress”

    outside of Najar and Agudelo (who both spent years with those academies at a young age) most were born here. Ruben Luna has been in Texas for a long long time no?

    Kassel, Dixon, McBean, Fegundez, White, Pfeffer, all the recent academy signings are all born here too. I don’t know why you get an idea to the contrary.

  16. Myles B says:

    TFC will probably have a few more coming through if Winter has his way: I expect the trio Oscar Cordon, Alando Matheson and Matt Stinson to play some part this year as well.

  17. Kevin says:

    I don’t have any idea whether he is a HG player or not, but I played against Gerson and Arsenal a few times during their three-peat national championship run. Damn good player.

  18. Mito says:

    Actually this kid came out of the Chivas youth system, then was poached by Atlético de Madrid, and then poached by FC Dallas

  19. theultra says:

    The Crew have had trouble signing their Homegrowns since most of them are suburban kids who’s parents would rather them take a college scholarship over a contract.

    Which is a shame since the Crew Academy is very good and full of talented kids.

  20. Dale says:

    it’s funny how USA striker Omar Salgado was formed in Guadalajara.I guess Mexico does have a better history of producing quality strikers like Legendary Hugo Sanchez or maybe Chicharito, Vela, Bravo,Borgetti…. that kid was formed in Guadalajara, then he decided to try out for Atletico Madrid but ultimately ended up in Dallas because of his family…it looks like the US is going to try and Cap this kid before he tries to play for Mexico’s senior side in a few years…

  21. fischy says:

    That would be a really interesting piece — to project the next round of Homegrown signings — but would require a heckuva lot of legwork. First, you have to figure out which layers the senior clubs might be interested in, and then you have to find out if the kids are interested n bypassing college or the draft (depending on where they are in their development). Lastly, you have to project whether the team will have a roster slot available.

  22. fischy says:

    Where are you getting that number? Don’t believe that hype — I wouldn’t put too much stock in rumors.

  23. Eric K says:

    I guess that means in the drafts ahead, they’ll have some players to pick from on the side (like DC with Ethan White and NY with Matt Kassel). Not a bad deal, because it’s like getting extra draft picks but you didn’t have to find playing time for them over the past couple years. As long as they developed at a good college program.

  24. Paul says:

    loser dale spotted.

  25. Hush says:

    Mexico produces quality strikers??! No mames huey!lol j/k But on a serious note. Mexico in 80+ years of Futbol has only produced one quality striker, Hugo… Borgetti, Bravo, Vela? ooook.. You said quality strikers, not Mexican good enough strikers. Vela?? Really? You lost all credibility with that bench warmer.

    The U.S has produced better players in the short amount of time in the game of Futbol than anyone in the world. Pure Fact.

  26. abc says:

    Well the best college program in the country is just a few miles away in Akron so no excuses there.