Saying an MLS Homegrown side is set to be the most enjoyable iteration of itself is something like calling Master of None the best Netflix comedy series featuring an actor of Indian-American descent released in 2017. It may be good, but you aren’t saying much of anything.
Nonetheless, the 2017 MLS Homegrown team is A Lot Of Fun. The most fun, in fact, we’ve ever had in this game stretching back to the wild days of yore in 2014.
This is, it should probably go without saying, the best Homegrown team ever assembled. Part of this should probably include the fact that from 2014-2016, MLS and its attendant coaches were still figuring out the event itself. But of the players on this roster, 10 were signed as Homegrowns since the time of the last Homegrown Game, more than half the roster. And they represent arguably the most exciting cadre on the roster: names like Andrew Carleton, Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira, Ballou Tabla, Derrick Jones.
This is easily the most immediately excitable infusion of talent in Homegrown Game history. And one of these players, Alphonso Davies, is currently leading the Gold Cup Golden Boot race, so… right. Fun times ahead.
The Homegrowns square off against the Chivas U20s, the current Mexican champions, in Chicago on Aug. 1 as part of the All Star Game festivities. I attended the first, against the Portland Timbers U23 side in Portland, and it was a drab 0-0 draw featuring a handful of Homegrowns all of us knew, either then or quickly thereafter, would never have any real first team future in the league. The best player on the field that day, in fact, was a guest player in a Timbers U23 uni named Cristian Roldan. The MVP, ultimately, was keeper Jon Kempin, who was then released by his Homegrown club SKC. It was… not a memorable occasion.
It’s clear this game is on the up-and-up in terms of talent collection, which reflects back some truths about the slow but steady progress being made by the Homegrown initiative. Good things. That defense, though, should be an exercise in patience. All hail the 3-5-2?