The academy problem
December 12, 2014
Dan Metzger spent years in the RBNY youth academy. He is currently a top-rated midfielder at Maryland. He will be taking part in the MLS combine and is expected to be a first round pick in the next SuperDraft...
Wait a minute! Something doesn't add up here! How can Metzger, an academy product, be available for the SuperDraft? Doesn't Metro get first dibs on a homegrown player? They can't be so stupid than let talent slip through their fingers for free!
Apparently, it's not their decision, it's Metzger's. Recently, he has disassociated himself from the academy. To keep a player's homegrown eligibility, he must spent a minimum number of hours every year in the academy. Metzger, who has been in the system since an early age, decided to pull out. He doesn't want to come to RBNY. He wants more options.
At one point, the RBNY academy was the jealousy of the rest of MLS. It still is one of the top producers of talent in the country, with many of its members turning up for youth national teams. But what is the point of the academy if its graduates don't want to play for the club?
Perhaps it has something to do with the history of RBNY signing its academy products. There have been nine so far; to say that the first eight have made minimal impact in their pro careers would be an exaggeration.
Giorgi Chirgadze never played a minute in MLS and returned to his native Georgia, where he now turns up for Dinamo Tbilisi. Juan Agudelo burst out on the scene, but has already been on three MLS clubs, and is now out of the job. Matt Kassel and Sacir Hot linger in the minor leagues. Connor Lade had a good first year, but his only steady playing time since then has been on loan in the minors. Santiago Castano is yet to play a first-team minute. Amando Moreno thought so highly of he skills that he ditched RBNY for a contract in Mexico. He hasn't played yet. Matt Miazga played for a while when Metro was desperate for a defender.
Meanwhile, homegrown players at other clubs are thriving. No, not all of them; some have suffered the Kassel/Hot fate of not being good enough for MLS. But many have grown to solid contributors and even stars.
Yet here, the perception is that young players don't play. That was under the Hans Backe regime, that is continuing under Mike Petke. Now, it's possible that they are not playing because they are not good enough. And it's easy to forget that under Backe, Lade got more than his share of playing time, and that for all his talent, Agudelo spent more time falling down on the grass than he did scoring goals. But the perception is there, and it's not exactly helping.
Never mind Metzger; the one we really should be worried about is Brandon Allen, currently a junior at Georgetown. The striker is one of the top-rated players in the whole country; there have been rumbles that he is disassociating himself with RBNY as well. To lose such a talent for nothing would just be silly.
The perception needs to change. Perhaps signing Duke midfielder Sean Davis is the first step. Creating a USL Pro team for Davis and other youngsters to play is the second. Proving that an academy is a path to the first team and not just to soccer oblivion would be the goal.
An academy is a terrible thing to waste.