Pro Prospects: European dreams a step closer

by J.R. Eskilson & Travis Clark
June 5, 2013
Pro Prospects: European dreams a step closer

The saying is familiar: like father, like son.

It’s a phrase embodied in the American soccer scene by D.C. United Academy goalkeeper Arie Ammann, who recently agreed to join Watford FC’s Academy this summer.

By heading to England (Watford is in the Championship), the goalkeeper is following in the footsteps of his father Mike, who was a goalkeeper for Charlton Athletic from 1994-1996. The elder then joined MLS in 1996, playing with the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United before an injury ended his professional career in 2001.

Arie Ammann, boys club soccer, WatfordArie Ammann

For the younger Ammann, who is currently a U16 goalkeeper with the D.C. United Academy, this is just another step towards reaching his ultimate goal.

“I always wanted to play for or even against Manchester United at Old Trafford, and that's what I use to push myself everyday working on and off the field,” he told TopDrawerSoccer.com.

Arie was previously going to join Norwich last fall, but the opportunity hit a snag at the last minute. He flew back over the Atlantic during spring break in 2013 for a trial with Watford, a club based just outside of London.

The team was impressed enough to offer him a youth contract, but the 16-year-old was also impressed by the experience and what the club had to offer.

“It was a different level, getting the opportunity to train with Manuel Almunia was mind blowing,” Ammann said. “He's played in a Champions League final and was always trying to help me during training. 

“I really like the set up at Watford, the scholars are involved with first team on a daily basis unlike at most clubs where there is no contact with the first team. It makes training more lively knowing you can be training with the first team if you are doing well. Arsenal is a fence away from Watford training ground so that's always cool having a top EPL team so close to training.”

For goalkeepers, there are fewer things more important than having a sharp coach to guide you through the ranks, and that’s something Ammann found at his future club home.

“As a goalkeeper there's nothing better then having a GK coach who is also the first team GK coach,” he said. “Alec Chamberlain has played over 600 games in England and will be able to help me a ton. I will get to train with the first team Goalkeepers almost everyday, and get to pick their brain to improve my game.”

By signing a youth contract, Ammann also leaves the path to college open, as he will retain his eligibility. And while that won’t be the first thing on his mind as he heads abroad, it’s definitely on his radar.

“It's my dream to play in England, something big would have to happen to change my mind,” he explained. “College is my plan B behind becoming a pro and I would really enjoy going to a top school.”

And while he’ll move on from his current club, he’ll take fond memories from D.C. United to his new locale, as he expects to head there mid-July.

“My experiences here at D.C. have been great from the staff to the players,” Amman said. “I always love driving into training everyday. D.C. has played a big part in my development and a club I have grown up supporting.”

U.S. U17 MNT defender continues climb at Chivas

Juan Espinosa has the unique distinction as one of the few players in the Chivas (Guadalajara) system that also plays for a U.S. youth team. Tapia, born in 1996, is a defender who last made his appearance with the U.S. in March at a U17 MNT camp.

While, he did not make the roster for qualifying, the teenager has enjoyed a successful spell at one of the more prominent clubs of the Western Hemisphere.

His path to Chivas started at Dallas Cup where he competed with West Coast FC, his original club.

“I went to Dallas Cup with my club team in 2011,” Espinosa told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “The Tigres, Chivas, and Pachuca scouts invited me to tryout at their clubs and my family and I decided to go with Chivas. The tryouts were two weeks with the team and at the end all the coaches gathered and decided that I had the same level they had and I stayed.”

The defender, who plays either center back or right back, has lived at the Chivas complex since then.

Over the past two years, Espinosa has enjoyed his stay with the Mexican club, as it has claimed titles in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Portugal. Espinosa was named the best player of the Cruzeiro Cup in Brazil as well.

The U.S. U17 MNT failure to qualify for the World Cup put a slight damper on Espinosa’s attempt to stay in the picture with the Federation, but his success with Chivas will likely keep him on the radar for the U20 roster during the lead up to the 2015 cycle.

U.S. U15 BNT mid attracts interest from top academies

Kyle Scott, previously featured on Pro Prospects, has been on the road to recovery for much of 2013 after suffering a broken leg in a game earlier this year.

The talented Chelsea Academy midfielder received a boost of confidence last week when reports that Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus all put in bids to have the youngster come join their academies.

Scott is planning to visit the three academies before making up his mind on if he will leave Chelsea and where he will be heading.

The youngster has also appeared with England’s youth national team in the past as well.

Spurned and forgotten

Villyan Bijev became the latest U.S. youth prospect to jump ship and represent another country last week when he put on the jersey of Bulgaria for a U21 UEFA Championship qualifying tilt against Andorra.

Bijev, who currently plays for Liverpool, provided the assist on the second goal for Bulgaria in a 3-0 win.

The striker did not receive much of an opportunity with the U.S. U20 Men’s National Team since Tab Ramos took over, as the Cal Odyssey product only appeared in one camp.