Sunday, January 22, 2012

Natty Light

Last night, I let my eldest stay up to watch Rico Clark score the gamewinner against Venezuelan reserves in a friendly that seems to have impressed no one outside of my home. But within these four walls, we were thrilled to see A.J. DeLaGarza and Graham Zusi start the game for the U.S. Men's National Team. I was particularly taken with DeLaGarza's play, who seemed nonplussed by the gravity of the event.

DeLaGarza and Zusi were the fourth and fifth Terps, respectively, selected in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. The first Terp selected, A.J.'s L.A. Galaxy teammate Omar Gonzalez, hit what is hopefully only a speed bump in his ascendant career with an ACL injury suffered in his first practice with Nuremberg. The second Terp selected in that draft, Rodney Wallace, has scored twice as a Costa Rican international in friendlies against the United States and Venezuela. And the third Terp selected in the draft, Jeremy Hall, will begin this year in the MLS on his fourth team, Toronto FC, after FC Dallas unloaded Hall for a second-round pick in the 2013 draft.

Of the Maryland kids coming out of that draft, I think I would have pegged Hall as the most likely to excel early on as a professional. I'd imagine that however happy Jeremy is seeing A.J., Graham, Rodney, and Omar in the limelight, it is tinged with regret at not joining them.

But at least Hall still has a shot at rebuilding his career in Toronto. I'd missed that Jason Herrick (the Chicago Fire's third-round draft pick in 2011) announced his retirement from professional soccer back in November due to a concussion injury that cut short his rookie year with Harrisburg last season. Herrick must of been one of the hardest-working players Coach Cirovski's ever been blessed with and he will, no doubt, take that same ethic to a professional career in finance or accounting.

Herrick's strike partner, Casey Townsend, seems to have landed in a good spot at Chivas USA after being selected fifth overall in this year's draft. Even more encouraging to see Alex Lee's talent recognized as a (what is effectively a third-round) pick in the Supplemental Draft for FC Dallas.

Two other recent Maryland grads, Will Swaim and Matt Oduran, were on trial with D.C. United. I'd guess that both are the longest of shots to break camp with the squad. While Willz got Skillz keeps the dream alive with the Black & Red, some of his former teammates at Real Maryland will vie for a contract with a USL Pro team in Bradenton later this week, including George Mason's Draymond Washington, John Hopkins' Sean Coleman, and Aboucarim Ndaw.

Most of these guys deserve shots as professional soccer players and a lot of talent is simply wasted by the limited opportunities available to our young athletes. That's probably what makes Billy Schuler's decision to forego a Generation Adidas contract and play in Sweden important. For good collegiate American players -- whether drafted or undrafted -- Scandinavia should increasingly become a destination to further player development.

In that vein, it is nice to Jide Ogunbiyi make some effort to describe his experience thus far in Denmark with Viborg. Long may it continue.

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