During the End of Year press conference Sigi Schmid indicated that this may be the year that Seattle Sounders FC signs a Homegrown Player. “I feel that our program is solid. We've encouraged some of our Homegrowns to move onto college as an intermediate step for them and I think as we move forward you're going to see some that are very close,” Schmid said. “Maybe even this is the year that we end up signing one or two.”
Seattle’s Academy system is younger than most in Major League Soccer, but even those with history are not producing many significant players. Schmid mentioned that Seattle will not sign a player just for a press release. The HGPs that are contributing in the league are among the best as Gaschk outlined in his recent post about Sounders FC patience with signing one themselves:
While many teams around the league have signed local products to Homegrown contracts, very few are seeing significant playing time. Toronto FC defenders Ashtone Morgan (2,528 minutes) and Doneil Henry (1,139 minutes) and DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid (2,087 minutes) and midfielder Andy Najar (2,045 minutes) were the only pairs of local talent on the same team that were regular starters. Meanwhile, Connor Lade (2,088 minutes) earned a starting role in New York and Diego Fagundez (770 minutes) was a regular contributor for the Revolution.
Outside of those six, though, the drop-off is immense with no other player over 200 minutes for the team that signed them.
With Schmid indicating that he wants a player that can play and contribute the players that the team should look at are those that are ready now rather than higher peak players that need more development. All of the players of course need development still, if not they would have already signed. Here is a selection of a few players that could make sense to sign and what skills and styles of play they would bring to the team.
DeAndre Yedlin – Right Back, Akron
Yedlin played only one season with the Sounders U-18s due to his age. Now with Akron he is just on the bubble with the US U-20 National Team getting a couple of camp calls and was on the U-18 team as well. Very much the modern attacking right back he is fast with and without the ball, generally looking for small interplay more like a classic #10 than the booming crossing of the typical fullback. A decent enough one on one defender his struggle at the next level will be timing when he makes those charges up the line.
Darwin Jones – Forward, No College Team
Fast, compact and explosive Jones is in the mold of former Sounder Mike Fucito. He has a quick trigger and is willing to body with the bigger backs he faces. A frequent site around Starfire and Sounders training he receives tips on improving his techniques from local hero Marcus Hahnemann and national team star Eddie Johnson. Jones will need to continue to improve his reading of the game, but has MLS caliber speed and strength already.
Nick Palodichuk – Forward/Center Mid, Duke
A capable center mid while with the Sounders Academy and the United States U-17 squad Palodichuk played as mid and forward with Duke. He reads the game quite well for his years and the time up top should help him learn to time runs effectively no matter what level he takes. He’s a decent passer, solid defender and fits in the Brad Evans mold of player in MLS.
Aaron Kovar – Left Mid, Stanford
Kovar was a multi-year player for the Sounders Academy at the U-18 level. During that time he excelled in both USSDA and high school competitions, earning a State Player of the Year award. Last summer he saw some time with the Sounders Reserves and showed quite well there. Probably the best crosser among Seattle’s alumni he is deceivingly fast and supplements his long ball game with strong short passes. Still a bit small he will be bumped off the ball in future league play, but he tracks back fairly aggressively. Take a bit of Alex Caskey and a bit of Mauro Rosales and you get his style of play.
Sean Okoli – Forward, Wake Forest
Like Yedlin, Okoli is on the fringes of US U-20 National Team consideration and was frequently in the U-18 mix. Average height with decent speed, Okoli burst onto the goal scoring scene by combining two very useful forward skills – off-ball runs and finishing. Getting those things down young show promise for the future. It is a Chris Wondolowski skill set without any indication of that level of production.
These are not the only potential future HGPs. The list could get rather long. Defenders Michael Gallagher and Ian Lange at the University of Washington have appeal. Midfielder Troy Peterson is at the College of Charleston and doing well. Jamael Cox once went on trial with Rangers over in Scotland. There are a couple dozen others in college as well.
There is also the even deeper future of the current Academy players. Jordan Morris, Jalen Markey, Michael Steele, Dennis Kalamar, Paul Christenson and others will eventually climb through the ranks as they develop. They take the Starfire Sports Complex Stadium pitch next on Saturday, December 15, against cross-town rivals Crossfire (Noon for the U-18s and 2:30 PM for the U-16s).