Written by Will Parchman

Dwyer-Hero

Europe’s breathtaking transfer jet stream appeared to be sweeping Dom Dwyer into its irresistible flow during the summer of 2016. Transfer rumor piled upon rumor as Dwyer bagged goals in clumps, until one finally caught in July.

Olympiacos, the biggest club in Greece and an on-again off-again Champions League group stage punching bag, offered a reported $3 million to Sporting KC for its stunning rags-to-riches striker.

This was not a windfall, so to speak, but it did represent a significant offering in a league with fewer than 20 $3+ million transfers in its 20-year history. On a personal level, it offered Dwyer a chance to crack into the world’s biggest club competition and provided an in to European soccer itself. On the other end, if it so chose, Sporting KC could turn around and use that money on a striker far more lauded than Dwyer was. Three million goes a ways in South America.

Except this is not, as we know now, how MLS works.

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Written by Will Parchman

jozy-altidore-usa_rhuh1rieohpl1nblet9r716de

There are no half measures with Jozy Altidore, no half-baked takes still in the process of rendering. He is, by almost any standard definition, the most polarizing first team figure not just in the USMNT, but perhaps in MLS as a heaving whole. At this point, the likelihood of your feelings on Altidore’s utility as a bonafide No. 1 striker being mutable are not great.

Altidore is the climate change of American soccer. It is easy enough to see his effects, and yet the wheel turns about what true cause of those effects are (is the natural course of Giovinco not really the one bringing down this heat?) The mention of his very name, in fact, often raises hackles and frankly somewhat uncomfortable debate.

The fruit pulled up from the diseased soil of the take farm has largely brutalized Altidore since his erstwhile stint at Sunderland went so violently awry. The drumbeats in his defense are steadier in number now that he’s among the blue-blooded scorers in MLS, a stream of 36 goals in 72 games since his return, including five in seven playoff games. But as with everything Altidore, there are barbed caveats digging into each notable item about his seeming revival in an attempt to drag them from even shallow heights and back to earth.

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Written by Will Parchman

jozy

Perhaps the single greatest benefit of VAR, once it’s instituted in MLS on a trial basis from Aug. 5 onward, is to burn off the fog of war and eliminate missed poor conduct red cards referees couldn’t possibly see. There is no injustice quite like seeing your teammate’s nipple twisted and the ref missing the call entirely.

Wait. Did I say nipple? Yes, America. Yes I did. I said nipple.

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Written by Will Parchman

mckennie

The last time we checked in with Weston McKennie, he was trotting on for his first 15 minutes of fame with the Schalke first team.

McKennie joined Schalke as soon as he was eligible in August of 2016, before FC Dallas was able to secure him to a contract and gain any financial windfall from a move. Whether or not that contributed to Schalke’s interest – scooping up a player of McKennie’s caliber for literally nothing is an unbeatable deal – it certainly greased the wheels to Germany.

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Written by The 91st

tds_podcast_logo_final_fam

It’s time we got The TopDrawerSoccer Show off the ground.

Today marks the official grand opening of The TDS Show for business. We’ve got the placard out on the street, an obnoxious hawker yelling at people to come in and listen, and beaucoup development topics to mull over. Yes folks, it’s finally here.

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Written by Will Parchman

pulisic

It’s been more than a month since Christian Pulisic’s titillated the American soccer public with form that somehow never seems to be anything but red hot. So, in this short-attention-span age of Pokemons and Skip-Its and Razor flip phones, he might as well have last played in the Mesozoic Age since we last saw him on the field in a USMNT kit in June.

Lest ye forget, Pulisic is still stupid good! A fact he was keen to remind us of on Tuesday.

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Written by Will Parchman

carleton

We’ve been parroting for so long that the Development Academy is arriving, and not yet arrived, that it’s become something of a lengthy exercise in patience. It’s something like sitting in front of an oven with a pie inside it. If you don’t busy yourself with other matters, there’s always a tendency to pull it out of the heat too soon.

But the 2017 DA Finals over the weekend provided a glimpse into what’s baking in the oven. And it was a fairly impressive thing to behold on balance.

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Written by Will Parchman

tds_podcast_logo_final_fam

Has there been a gnawing hole in your podcast oeuvre? Have you needed a true audible touchstone for the vaunted #PlayYourKids movement? Have you felt let down by the utter lack of Lord of the Rings references when taking an in-depth look at our youth development apparatus in America?

Then friends, this day is Your Day. The TopDrawerSoccer Show is nigh.

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Written by Will Parchman

San Jose Quakes take on the Seattle Sounders FCduring the U.S. Open Cup 16th Round.

The Premier League is not a model. It is not an architectural blueprint left on the table for enterprising leagues to prod into, a nicked business framework here, an aped monetary model there. Much like players attempting to become Leo Messi, there is no amount of self-sustainment that can get you to the Premier League. It is simply money, ambition and circumstance. There is nothing to follow in this. Just to enjoy.

The Bundesliga is different, even if the gradients are slighter and the scale reaches beyond what building leagues can grasp. They promote young, play consistently and have holistic policies reaching into the guts of their academies. And if you need proof, look at their daring anti-ageist approach to hiring coaches.

This season, six of the Bundesliga’s 18 teams will begin the year with a coach in their 30′s. Julian Nagelsmann, the most famous and youngest of these, doesn’t turn 30 until later this year and has Hoffenheim in the Champions League this fall. Why German clubs insist on doing this, on hiring on average five years younger than any other major league in Europe, is a matter of culture. Namely, it is a matter of youth culture. From the aforementioned Archie Rhind-Tutt article.

Neither Nagelsmann nor any of his five fellow German compatriots had experience of being a Bundesliga coach prior to their current roles but each of them had worked in a Bundesliga youth academy, with four promoted directly from roles within their current club’s coaching set up to then head up the first team.

In other words, clubs are placing an emphasis on how coaches have been able to develop talent in the past. In some cases, that then allows the coaches to promote young talent that they’ve worked with in that club’s own academy – one such example with Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim is Nadiem Amiri, a European Under 21 Champion this summer with Germany.

This phenomenon has accelerated of late, but it is not a particularly new idea in Germany. Jurgen Klopp, remember, was 33 when he was given his first major coaching job with Mainz in 2001. Thomas Tuchel, when given the same chance to launch his own career with the same club eight years later, was just 35.

This is certainly part of the German soccer culture, but it’s also a choice. A series of choices, really, stacked one on top of the other like bricks sandwiched between mortar. Unlike the Premier League, it’s a capable albeit scaled choice within reach. And though it’s early days in the Jesse Fioranelli Project, the San Jose Earthquakes, those San Jose Earthquakes, have begun walking this most German of pathways.

And, so far anyway, it’s been a thing to behold.

Even before Fioranelli fired Dominic Kinnear in June, expelling the man who represented MLS’s ancient of days, you could feel that there would be little place for Kinnear here. Kinnear was brilliant in how he manipulated the MLS rosters of the 2000′s. He engineered some of the best trades of the decade and crafted a small dynasty in a league that hates dynasties by trading, poaching off the draft bed and trawling for overlooked domestic players. But with the dizzying infusion of cash, which brought about a somewhat staggering bevy of new ways to acquire players, Kinnear had fallen away. There was now too much in the way of foreign acquisition, too many moving parts for him to keep pace. MLS still has miles to go, but if allocation money did anything, it was to lasso Europe’s acquisition practices and haul them a little bit closer in.

The Quakes, under Fioranelli, signed Jahmir Hyka from FC Luzern, Florian Jungwirth from SV Darmstadt, Marco Ureña from IF Brondby. Danny Hoesen joined on loan from FC Groningen. At No. 6 overall, they drafted scintillating UCLA playmaker Jackson Yueill after drafting a goalkeeper and a holding midfielder first the previous two years under Kinnear despite having a glaring need at neither position (both have been good, if predictable positionally vis-à-vis Kinnear, for what it’s worth). Yueill was widely reported to be Fioranelli’s pick.

But the real meat on San Jose’s bone, or at least the biggest difference in the organizational nomenclature these days, is in the academy. And this is where the Quakes become as German in ethos as any club in MLS.

When I talked to Fioranelli earlier this year, about five weeks before he fired Kinnear, he left no doubt about the academy’s primacy in his future plans. He told me San Jose plans to break ground on a new facility soon, and his carefully chosen word here – backbone – leaves nothing to the imagination.

“The youth academy will be the backbone of our club,” Fioranelli said. “Ownership has completely bought into this. We are looking into a youth academy complex as well that will be a significant investment that we’re really excited about. The youth talents here in the area have to have a perspective provided by an MLS club, so we’re taking it very seriously.”

San Jose lagged terribly behind most of the rest of the league in academy integration, boasting barely two Homegrowns (Nick Lima had just signed) by the time Fioranelli arrived. But the academy was slowly ramping up under the watch of Chris Leitch, who ran it from 2012-2015 and then oversaw its continued progress from 2015 while operating also as the broader team TD. In this time, the Earthquakes managed to raise up some truly important talent, and not just Lima and Thompson; names like Arda Bulut, Amir Bashti, Andrew Paoli. The Quakes are producing first team candidates at a quickening pace, and Leitch, it should be said, had a heavy hand in helping that wheel to turn.

It was out of this swift-running stream that Leitch was poached to assume Kinnear’s former position. Leitch is 38, making him one of the youngest first-time coaches in MLS history. His post-playing history was mostly spent overseeing the development of young players. And he has the mandate of the front office because of all those things.

This, friends, is what coaching promotion and team-building looks like in the Bundesliga. Pay attention to those things here.

“Chris is the ideal person to take the role for the Earthquakes at this time,” Fioranelli said. “He has a history with the club and has very good knowledge of our entire development pipeline from the youth teams, through PDL and USL up to the first team. He combines that with a shared vision for the club’s identity that we have been developing for the past months. Chris and Alex give us two very good soccer minds with a desire to make this club one of the best in MLS.”

Keywords: History with the club. Development pipeline. Shared vision. Club’s identity. And of course there’s this, a literal collaboration between the Quakes front office and the DFB as a knowledge exchange.

The results, so far anyway, have been stirring. The Quakes flipped the switch about as fast as any team in history from being almost entirely unwatchable to absolutely tap-dancing on opponents’ souls. Go watch back San Jose’s 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy in the US Open Cup quarters and behold. Leitch started Tommy Thompson, Nick Lima and Jackson Yueill, the Holy Quakes Youth Triumvirate, and the Quakes ran the Galaxy out of the building. With all apologies to Atlanta United, there might not be a more enjoyable watch in all of MLS than San Jose at the present moment.

This is a sort of risk most MLS teams have been historically loathe to make. It takes more than a simple blueprint to do what Fioranelli and Leitch have planned. It takes ideology, or an unwavering belief that you can build something out of miry clay. These sorts of projects rise and fall and then reset in Germany all the time, but the framework is left behind for whoever slides in next.

This, ultimately, is Fioranelli’s vision. And right now, it looks every bit as fun as its Bundesliga cousins.

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Written by Will Parchman

watt

JJ Watt is cocky about his soccer skills. JJ Watt, it turns out, should not be cocky about his soccer skills.

Watt recently linked up with the Albion Hurricanes girls club side in Houston, where he plays for the NFL’s Texans, to have a nice jog-about during practice to test skills he hasn’t flexed since the third grade. Watt, notably, is dating Kealia Ohai, a former national champion with North Carolina who also hit the winning goal in a 1-0 game against Germany in the final of the 2012 U20 World Cup. So we no doubt have Ohai at least partly to thank for the joy you’re about to witness.

Watt, who’s probably done enough to apply for mayor of Houston by now (you can apply for that, yes?), was schooled as the middleman in a rondo, spouted off some nonsense terminology (I’M GOING DIAGONAL) and generally just enjoyed the hell out of the day.

Now if Watt could just win more than one playoff game in the next six years, as he has so far, we’ll be all set.

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