Written by Will Parchman

yolo

Robert Earnshaw’s been at this soccer thing for a minute. As of today, that’s all over. Earnshaw is retiring.

The Welshman began his career with a six-year stint with Cardiff, but when he left he turned into the definition of a journeyman. There were a staggering 11 clubs in 10 years, including six in the UK, one in Israel for 10 games (!), and three in MLS. He spent the final year of his career with the Whitecaps, and he’ll now be helping with the academy and the strikers.

Earnshaw’s always been a serviceable forward for the right price, but he managed just 18 total goals in the last five years of his career. And, importantly, he produced the single greatest free kick of all time.

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Written by Will Parchman

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The 2015 season snapped shut on the Colorado Rapids like a rabid dog closing his jaws around a ragged piece of dumpster meat.

MLS titled its final regular season match day ‘Decision Day,’ aligning every Eastern Conference and Western Conference game to go off at the same time. In practice, this created a decidedly intriguing finale as teams flipped into and out of playoff seeds throughout the course of the day.

One team that had nothing to decide was Colorado. The Rapids were picking crumbs off the floor of the Western Conference basement before the day began, and a limp 4-1 loss to eventual champion Portland on Oct. 26 brought their season to a merciful conclusion. The poor dog had been run over.

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Written by Will Parchman

najar-hamid-split-620x350

The fanfare surrounding Jordan Morris’s decision to sign with the Sounders was visible from space (probably).

Think what you will of how it was handled, but the Morris deal kicked the Homegrown initiative into a new stratosphere. Oh, young players will still sign (at times) anonymously, and the flame-out rate will still hover somewhere between 60-70 percent, but Morris gave it more cachet than it’s ever had. If you don’t think young players find value in the spectacle, visit a couple high school gyms on college football signing day and see what happens.

Today, we split our focus to the past, present and future. We’ll look at the top five Homegrown prospects, and our caveat is they can’t have yet played for the first team. And then we’ll move to the top five of all time, a list on which I have omitted Morris for the sake of our sanity.

Here we go.

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Written by Will Parchman

jmo

Jordan Morris cleared the final step to the showroom floor at Seattle’s The Ninety and the flashbulbs popped and crackled like fireworks. Flanked by Adrian Hanauer, Garth Lagerwey, Sigi Schmid and Chris Henderson – the club’s most visible and influential decision makers in matters of player personnel – Morris sheepishly walked to the middle seat of the dais.

Morris, wearing a blazer and a button-down shirt and facing a packed room of about 100 people, settled into his seat and readied to hear the announcement he’d been waiting to hear for years. The kid who’d been in the stands for Seattle’s first ever MLS game in 2009 almost couldn’t believe he was here at all.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Morris said.

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Written by Will Parchman

arena

There was confetti on the ground and a broken man walked over it all to claim his trophy and none of us knew.

We had learned Landon Donovan was stepping away from soccer before the 2012 postseason began. He announced his body had told him to take a break, that he would have to push through the final games of the season, that eight years of anything is a long time. It didn’t seem to matter. Donovan had two goals and three assists in five postseason games, spearheaded another MLS Cup run and then disappeared to the sanded, broken cobbles of Cambodia.

The tandem story line running parallel to Donovan’s was David Beckham’s departure from MLS after a tumultuous half decade. Beckham had been productive in his time in the league, but his global reputation allowed him to float through periods of on-field disenchantment. Beckham stalked through his final years in LA more than he ran.

But he was Beckham. The hair, the pirate mustache, the DP rule his tactical largesse created, the Posh Spice, the everything. Your average Manc (or Parisian, or Belorussian) would no doubt give Beckham the lion’s share of the credit – or as much as can be bestowed on one man – for the team’s run in his latter years. As we’ve established… Beckham.

Ah, but the quieter brother is often the more dangerous one.

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Written by Will Parchman

JK

Something something American at a German club something something explosion.

At the same time Christian Pulisic’s been ripping through Borussia Dortmund’s midwinter hibernation in the Middle East, Jordan Morris took a post-national championship leave to trial at Werder Bremen for a spell. That latter piece of information is indirectly at the center of a cold war between U.S. Soccer and at least one MLS owner that seems to be turning hot, but we’ll breach that wall in a moment.

First, though, Pulisic and Morris. The Wonder Twins activated this week.

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Written by Will Parchman

superd

The MLS SuperDraft, hyperbolic name and all, was formed out of the gnarled latticework of the College Draft and the Supplemental Draft in 2000. At the time, with no Development Academy, a virtually nonexistent lower tier and a network of feeder clubs more scattered than ever, there was a sort of kingly dignity afforded to the draft.

It may have only thrown up pale shadows on the developmental wall, but like Plato’s interlocutor in a darkened cave, if those shadows are all you see, who’s to say the real thing projecting them from behind your back even exists? The shadows are real because they are what you see.

Even still, the draft made sense in 2000, and 2005, and maybe even 2007 and 2008. Until 2009 there was no such word as Homegrown in MLS, and until two years earlier MLS clubs didn’t even have direct academies. We take those facts for granted now – that FC Dallas churns out U.S. youth national team players like Coors turns out light beer – but it was not so long ago that these were ideas twisting in wind.

The new CBA introduced the inkling of free agency, and future CBAs will expand on it, surely if slowly. To lean on Nolan’s Inception, once an idea is implanted (read: implemented) it is almost impossible to eradicate. And I would go a step further and remove almost from the equation entirely. On the ground level, closed society trends toward freedom.

Whether they are allowed it by those in power is one matter, but the germ grows in strength exponentially once the idea is introduced.

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Written by Will Parchman

slip1

Oh yes. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Steven Gerrard was objectively bad for the Galaxy last year. While he started promisingly, he was a meandering wreck for the Galaxy’s back half of the season, wandering in and out of possession, lifting bored long balls to no one and generally not doing much of anything.

The old Gerrard is clearly there, somewhere, but he’s been washed out by the white noise of boredom, age and a faltering set of skills that leaves him somewhere above broken and somewhere well below useful.

And he costs the Galaxy $6.2 million. Great bit of business, that.

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Written by Will Parchman

joyce

Anyone who has read James Joyce’s Ulysses knows pain.

It is not that the book is bad. Thumb down a compendium of the best books ever written and you are bound to stumble on Ulysses at some point. It is dense and weighty and can do things to you emotionally that are perhaps outside the purview of what you expect from a novel. It is pulp and binding and yet it can seep into you like few things.

And yet Ulysses might also be over-dense nonsense that is maybe begging you to throw it into an incinerator manned by the wild beasts of reality television. I can’t say which.

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Written by Will Parchman

acosta

We are defined by that which surrounds us, whether we would have that be the fishbowl of our reality or not. In Stendhal’s 19th century French classic The Red and the Black, the author depicts Julien Sorel’s feverish attempt to transcend his lowly social strata and climb into the bourgeoisie. Sorel, though, is aware of the roleplay inherent in such a climb, and he will never not be the humble son of a carpenter from Franche-Comté.

In that sense, what we view as “sporting young” in America is defined by our national sports of record. In the NFL, young is anything inside a player’s first few seasons. 22. 23. 24. MLB funnels players through a minor league system that spits out players viewed as young in their mid-20′s.

But a college system that works so well as a developmental vacuum in other sports breaks down as we seek to define youth in soccer terminology. Is 24 young? Is 23? 22?

It is American to say so, but globally? No. None of those are, in the truest terms we have.

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