MLS Playoffs: Philadelphia Union Youth Pipeline Means Even When Their Stars Leave, They Keep Winning

For Major League Soccer to become a world power, it must become a development league for the rest of the world. Leagues like the Eredivisie in the Netherlands have been very successful in developing and exporting talent to the biggest European teams. But it can create a complicated challenge for MLS teams. While in the Eredivisie Ajax (which you can watch Champions League games for on Paramount +) can both be a dominant force in the league and sell the stars they develop, in MLS, the teams that have always been good at development didn’t gain much. FC Dallas, for example, have made a transfer profit of over $ 20 million in the past three years. They managed to sell players like Bryan Reynolds, Reggie Cannon, Tanner Tessmann in Europe. The problem is, the team has been in decline during this time as well, ultimately missing the playoffs this season. Given the interest that current Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi is generating overseas, Dallas’ decision-making challenges may be just beginning. But, it’s not about Dallas.

Some teams have enough money to buy players year after year to compete, but after time even these teams burn out without the help of their academies. LA Galaxy, Toronto FC and LAFC, three evolving teams this offseason, are good examples of what happens when you buy without regard year after year. The Galaxy and Toronto even have strong academies, although you wouldn’t know by looking at their rosters regularly, as they instead spend millions of dollars on nominated players who, when not playing, turn into contract albatrosses in one. salary cap. league.

What the Philadelphia Union is showing is that perhaps the road to success is to mix these two approaches. The Union defeated Nashville SC to reach the Eastern Conference Finals where they will face the winner of New England against NYCFC on Sunday, December 5 on ABC at 3 p.m. (you can stream the game on fubo TV – try for free ), Jim Curtin alluded to how difficult it is to have continued success saying, “We lost two best players in the XI, we lost Ray Gaddis, but the guys stepped in transparently.” Curtin refers to Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie moving overseas after the Union Fan Shield victory season ended last year. Aaronson went to RB Salzburg while McKenzie went to Genk. Just as both players started to establish themselves firmly in and around the national team setup, the Union lost them to Europe, but they didn’t miss a beat.

Substituting the two was a group effort with Jakob Glesnes taking over at center-back and the whole midfielder stepped up to replace Aaronson. Leon Flach and Daniel Gazdag were bought out to fill the gap, but locals Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan and Paxten Aaronson (Brenden’s younger brother) also had to play important minutes with the Union competing in the Champions League. Concacaf and have international calls.

Jack McGlynn’s penalty to freeze their victory over Nashville was a poetic moment because he embodies the way of the Union.

Many resources have been invested in the YSC Union Academy and the fruits are starting to be felt. Even after “graduating” two of their top prospects in Europe and trading a few more if you count Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty traded in the league over the past few years, the locals were still a little over. 9% of total minutes played. by the Union. And that’s with Jack de Vries on loan to the Venezia youth team and Cole Turner on loan to the USL El Paso Locomotive team.

Contributions from local players are one of the reasons Jon Scheer was promoted from the academy’s director of talent assessment to director of first-team scouting. Speaking of the move, Ernst Tanner said:

“He has done a fantastic job in our academy, solidifying it as the backbone of our first team and an assessment center for players across the club. Jon’s promotion is further proof that our academy is a place. of choice in the country where young players also as the staff develop their careers. ”

The flexibility between young and savvy veterans helped the Union to be the last MLS team to advance to the CCL semifinals while propelling them to second place in the Eastern Conference with a final. upcoming conference Sunday. It’s the vision the Union has been selling for years, but with only the final disappointment of the US Open Cup to fall back on and get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, it’s not easy to believe that success is possible.

But with Curtin’s partnership with athletic director Ernst Tanner, the sky is the limit in Philly. You can see a clear path to these locals who contribute more next season and keep the trend towards success. That’s not to say the Union shouldn’t spend the money, as the team are clamoring for a top striker (or they can give Rolando Damus a chance after he continues to destroy USL), but that it is easier to spend that money. when the pounds are balanced.

Following last year’s Supporter’s Shield, Bringing the Red Bull philosophy to MLS but without the organizational constraints of New York put the Union on the path to success that could lead to two trophies in two years after zero in their first 12 years of existence. This is a model that should also be reproducible, whoever is in charge, now that the organizational foundations have been laid.

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