Written by Will Parchman

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Money is flying from clubs’ collective coffers these days at a rate that has largely broken our compass. Whether or not the transfer fees being posted worldwide make economic sense – and maybe they do – they certainly enfeeble our ability to dissect and understand.

So perhaps D.C. United getting to the brink of doubling its transfer record to buy 22-year-old USMNT international Paul Arriola at $3m should not come as a shock of cold water to the system. Arriola’s been on an upward trajectory with Bruce Arena’s national team, has more than 3,000 minutes in LigaMX and, while he hasn’t been asked to score with any volume for club or country, is an able winger. We can quibble about the price, but it only seems enormous for D.C. United. It’s not a huge sum for league teams anymore.

This does, however, put Arriola in some pretty interesting transfer territory. Luciano Acosta, the spritely attacker at the head of D.C. United’s final third danger, was acquired for half that sum less than a year ago. David Accam, Shkelzen Gashi and Hector Villalba were all purchased for less. Nemanja Nikolic and Romain Alessandrini, two of the league’s most dangerous attackers signed within the last year, were right at Arriola’s transfer number.

If nothing else, it would seem the USMNT designator and D.C. United’s desperation drove up the fee considerably. Xolos came out smelling pretty fresh in this deal.

That, it seems, will all be sorted in one way or another. Fees are rising everywhere, and perhaps Arriola’s deal simply signals that advance. We’ll see. I’m far more interested in a seemingly smaller detail that, apparently, has set a new precedent in MLS transfers for Homegrowns.

Arriola, as you’ve probably heard by now, spent some time in the LA Galaxy academy. A brief amount of time. Very brief. While moonlighting for various USYNT age groups, Arriola scored 15 goals in 17 games for SoCal club Arsenal FC during the 2011-12 Development Academy season. The Galaxy, as MLS clubs often do, swooped in and collected Arriola for the 2012-13 season, his last on the club level. Arriola was stretched by national team duty that year, mostly with the U18s, and only played 11 games. On May 3, 2013, Arriola joined Tijuana, and most of this seemed to be moot.

It, apparently, was not.

Isn’t that curious.

This has never happened before, or at least not that I can tell. Until now it’s more or less been an ethereal test case: a player with held Homegrown rights returns to MLS via transfer fee without having signed an MLS contract in the first place. What happens then? Teams have secured Homegrown rights (as Sporting KC did with Josh Sargent) and dealt Homegrown rights (as the Red Bulls did with Adam Najem and the Philadelphia Union this year), but this? Arriola seems to be a test case. And one we didn’t think possible.

Here’s the relevant passage from MLS’s roster rules page.

A club may sign a player to a contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has been a member of a club’s youth academy for at least one year and has met the necessary training and retention requirements. Players joining MLS through this mechanism are known as Homegrown Players.

Bolded part for relevance.

We never really knew what this meant, practically. What defines a retention requirement? A couple training sessions per year in the offseason? A greeting card during the holidays? But what it did signify was that Homegrown rights could be lost to time if they were not met. I think a fair reading of this rule is that if you don’t hit a certain threshold, you lose the player’s rights. And Arriola, by this definition, should’ve lost them.

Arriola had been away from the Galaxy for five years, and he’d played all of 11 games with their U18s over a period of about seven months. His first game for the Galaxy academy wasn’t until the middle of October in 2012, and he signed for Xolos in the first week of May. It wasn’t even a full season. Arriola’s ties to the Galaxy are as tenuous as any player designated ‘Homegrown’ in MLS history. And yet the Galaxy are on the business end of $500K in allocation.

Whatever those retention requirements were – I’ve never been able to acquire a firm answer on this – it doesn’t seem to matter now. We have the Arriola Precedent in hand.

This matters. And if it doesn’t as much now, it will in the future. MLS is producing more and more academy players coveted not just by their own technical staffs, and a fair amount of them are already leaking out to foreign leagues before signing at home. Weston McKennie left for Schalke in 2016 before signing a contract with FC Dallas. Say he returns in five years and the Red Bulls, for instance, secure his transfer. It doesn’t seem to have mattered that McKennie had been gone for five years. Under this Arriola Precedent, FCD is owed allocation. Full stop.

The news here is that if you have a Homegrown claim on a player, it doesn’t seem to expire. And, as SKC proved with Sargent, they don’t even need to have played for your academy, just have lived in your Homegrown catchment area. Whether or not MLS has a secondary deterrent to keep teams from simply squatting on the Homegrown rights of dozens of local and regional players it’s never even developed in hopes of collecting future fees, we’ll have to wait to see.

MLS allocation rules are so intricately webbed that they often require real world precedents, much like landmark court cases, to set them in stone. We seem to trip over new scenarios by the year. If this one is the way it appears, MLS clubs who’ve watched academy players fly the coop before signing them, only to have them return years later for another team, will be compensated.

That’s not such a bad thing, even if it does appear to contradict MLS’s own rulebook.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Whenever a Roman general returned home to the capital from some particularly successful campaign abroad, he threw himself a homecoming party. The Romans called this a triumph, and it was an occasion. He’d parade the spoils of war through the center of the city on groaning oxcarts loaded down with treasures and exotic beasts with the conquered general laggardly dragged in chains at the back of the caravan. It was a way to curry the public’s favor, but it was also tangible proof of success from points distant.

If we threw the U.S. U20 MNT a triumph for its first ever U20 CONCACAF championship trophy from the weekend, Eryk Williamson’s thunderplonking golazo would be on the lead oxcart next to the trophy itself.

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Written by Will Parchman

favre

Every so often, a crack of opportunity meets a seam of luck. And the 2010 interregnum between the fired Curt Onalfo and whoever would follow behind him appeared to be that avenue into rarely luminescent daylight for D.C. United.

At the time, D.C. United had a shortlist of at least seven coaching candidates, each of whom it interviewed. Among that list was, of course, Ben Olsen, who ultimately won the gig permanently after guiding the club to a 3-8-1 record as an interim after Onalfo was jettisoned. Olsen’s tenure since has been a rocket that periodically loses its thrust before jetting into the atmosphere again. In 2013, D.C. United recorded the worst regular season in MLS history (while simultaneously winning a U.S. Open Cup) and then snapped up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference a year later. The years since settled somewhere in between.

But the biggest story in hindsight isn’t necessarily who won the job. It’s who didn’t.

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Written by Will Parchman

najar

Andy Najar is more important than you imagine. He is in many ways the MLS Alpha, the genetic ground zero of the league’s next phase of evolution. His headshot should be in a place of prominence in MLS HQ, because in some ways the coming age he foretells is more significant than the new winds that arrived behind David Beckham.

Now, approaching four years since he left the league, Najar is the first MLS Homegrown to have been sold on for profit. He’s no longer the only one, but the list is exclusive. Last summer, FC Dallas engineered a transfer that sent midfielder Alex Zendejas to Chivas for $500K, which followed on the heels of the club’s sale of keeper Richard Sanchez to Tigres two years earlier. Matt Miazga of course moved from the Red Bulls to Chelsea in 2016. And though he’s not listed on MLS’s official list, Carlos Salcedo signed a Homegrown deal with RSL in 2013 before being sold, again to Chivas, for an undisclosed amount in 2014.

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Written by Travis Clark

USATSI_9635974_167117710_lowresHeading into Thursday night’s MLS playoff clash between D.C. United and Montreal, Didier Drogba dominated the headlines.

Much of that is the player’s stature in the global game. No matter what he does,  Drogba will generally draw the attention, whether good or bad. It’s part and parcel of the approach that Major League Soccer clubs seek with big name signings. Create the splash, by acquiring internationally recognized talent, and deal with the blow backs if conflicts arise

Whatever happened between Drogba and the Impact over the past few days (or weeks even), the Impact sure didn’t need his services in Thursday’s win. Thirty-two year-old Italian forward Matteo Mancosu scored twice and had an assist as Montreal’s lone striker, with Drogba watching on from the stands, sharing his delight on social media.

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Written by Will Parchman

durk

The Homegrowns are flying in from every direction these days. First Andrew Carleton. Now, not even a week later, Chris Durkin.

D.C United’s ripcord pull on Durkin’s contract is a quality bit of business for the capital club. For one, United hadn’t signed a Homegrown from the academy that pushed out Andy Najar and Bill Hamid since January 2014. But there’s also the fact that Durkin is a tidy player who’s value added to a franchise that tends to give opportunities to players of his ilk.

And what kind of players are those, you ask? Step right up.

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Written by Travis Clark

USATSI_9151733WASHINGTON — If there was one key for D.C. United’s quest to erase a 2-0 deficit against Queretaro in the CONCACAF Champions League, it was simple: don’t concede an away goal.

Four minutes into Tuesday night’s second leg of the quarterfinals, Queretaro’s Ángel Sepúlveda scored.

Tie over. Simple as that.

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Written by Will Parchman

DCU

You might’ve seen this week that D.C. United is cutting funding to its academy to divert money to its impending stadium project. Chucky Boehm over at Soccer Wire reported this week that the club has already cut ties with longtime academy coordinator Steve Olivarez, and U14 coach Jonny Frias isn’t coming back next season.

By and large, MLS academies have been slowly slashing their cost to the player since the Development Academy was implemented in 2007. A practice once commonplace is now almost entirely extinct. Only five MLS academies require any sort of fee at all for its players, and even fewer require an annual fee. None present a cost above $500, let alone $500/year.

Well, except one. D.C. United.

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Written by Travis Clark

perrykitchen[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts that will track MLS players under 23 and look at them from a statistical/tactical perspective.]

D.C. United midfielder Perry Kitchen’s goal on Saturday night against the Chicago Fire was in some ways symbolic of his nature as a player: scrappy, persistent, but it got the job done. The ball hit the back of the net. At the time it looked possible as the game winner, though United conceded again to draw 2-2.

That’s perhaps a bit of an injustice to the nature of the former U.S. U17 men’s national team player and Akron Zip (Kitchen played a year of college soccer under Caleb Porter in 2010). A central midfielder who has been a constant fixture since his rookie season — Kitchen played right back, center back and in the middle of the midfield in his first year — as he enters his fourth season the performance on Saturday suggests that he’ll take another giant step forward this season.

He already has significant experience at just 22, having played in a youth World Cup and winning a national championship in his one season at Akron, along with more than 8,000 minutes in MLS already. Last year’s abysmal D.C. United campaign did him no favors, as he played more than 2,700 minutes in a year that everyone associated with the team would like to forget. However, he was more often than not the best player on the field in a number of those performances, though that doesn’t lend strong credence to his case.

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Written by Travis Clark

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Every year, over the past few years, Major League Soccer puts on its annual Generation adidas Cup, a youth tournament that matches up its academies against once another.

In the past, the tourney is held nationally, with all participating teams congregating in one location. This year, it’s been split regionally into East, Central and West groups, with a national final scheduled around Easter 2014.

On Friday down in Leesburg, Virginia, six teams kicked off the East group, with the Montreal Impact, D.C. United, Columbus Crew, Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union U16s doing battle.

Check out photos and scores from Friday after the jump.

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