In Seattle, DeAndre Yedlin blazed a trail for players from the Sounders FC Academy when he was the first player signed to a Homegrown contract in club history.
While players after him will likely thank Yedlin for clearing that path, Yedlin may have some thanking to do when he gets back from U.S. National Team training camp in Brazil, as the first player in MLS history signed straight from an MLS Academy system will be wearing Rave Green this year after Sounders FC inked Tristan Bowen to a contract last week.
The California native signed with the LA Galaxy prior to the 2009 season and his path to Seattle was not an easy one, though he is glad to have experienced his time playing in front of his home fans and proud to be the first Homegrown signing in a league that now touts the mechanism.
“It never really hit me until more people started talking about it and you see so many people coming up through the Homegrown system,” said Bowen. “It’s something special, especially when you look at European clubs and see how deeply rooted that is in their culture. To be able to say that I was the first one in our country is definitely an honor and as I’ve gotten older I’ve appreciated just how special something like that is.”
Bowen signed at the young age of 17 and played just one match in his rookie season with the Galaxy, but would never call the experience a lost year. That is because he spent the year learning from veteran players with plenty of international experience.
“My first year was a bit challenging. Being able to play with David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle, Chris Klein and Jovan Kirovski … all those guys have achieved things on an international level and they are the standout players in the U.S. and to be a part of that was exciting,” he said. “It took me an entire season to finally figure out what I needed to do in order to be successful from watching the guys, their habits and playing with them. The second year was completely different. The most important thing was being a professional. There’s no surprise why those guys are at the top level. When you’re around them every day and see how they approach every session – they are top professionals.”
Now 22 years old, he has been through two trades in MLS, the first just sending him across the hallway at the StubHub Center when LA sent him to Chivas USA before the 2011 season. After three more seasons in Carson, he will now spread his wings and join Sounders FC for his first MLS stint away from the StubHub Center training grounds.
However, it is far from his first time away from home.
In addition to a loan spell with KSV Roeselare in Belgium’s second division from 2011-2012, Bowen also trained in Brazil with Corinthians just before signing with the Galaxy in 2008.
Now he will join a team that has set the league attendance record in each of the club’s first five seasons.
“I’m used to being away from home and away from my family for extended periods of time,” Bowen said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve heard great things about the city. And who wouldn’t be excited to play in front of those fans? It’s definitely something that I’ve been looking forward to since I heard the news.”
Bowen is among a large crop of new players that will break camp with Sounders FC on Saturday when Seattle opens training camp for the 2014 season.