Pitch Points finds VisionQuests justified

Rounding up some of the relevant links around the world of Nashville SC and U.S. Soccer. As always, if you find something you’d like me to include in a Pitch Points, leave a comment here or drop me a line through the social channels.

Development. Sacramento Republic is using USL Academy contracts as a way to inject some youth into their first-team roster without sacrificing NCAA eligibility for their four signings. That’s v. cool to me, and something that’s particularly cool to see in the second division of US Soccer (at least as long as Republic will be there). I haven’t seen – nor have I had the time to research – what is unique about these contracts that prevents the crossing of the eligibility barrier, given that typically competition on a team of professionals against a team of professionals is a no-no to the NCAA.

It also makes me a little wistful that Nashville SC didn’t hop into the USL with at least some form of youth structure, and more so that they’ll probably take a couple years to ramp up in MLS before getting one fully established. I understand the reasons for it, of course, but it’d be nice to see some local development here, too.

LandyCakes. Landon Donovan has long come in for a little lashing from the Euro-centric USMNT fans, sometimes fairly and very often not so. His latest comeback to the MASL has given him a chance to do a bit of reflecting on his career.

His star turns in youth tournaments earned him a contract with Bayer Leverkusen. He was unhappy there, largely because he wasn’t getting games, and a year or so later he joined Major League Soccer.

“I was just doing what my gut was saying, which was like, ‘Landon, you need to play soccer.’ I didn’t care about playing at Bayer Leverkusen – they were in the Champions League and all this – I didn’t give a fuck, I just wanted to play soccer. So I’m glad I got out of there as quickly as I could, because I wanted to play. I needed to be happy.”

Donovan was one of the first well-known Americans to forgo the college route completely, and I’ve actually wondered (with the benefit of hindsight, of course), if he’s the sort of player who could have used a year or two in the college ranks. It’s almost a cultural rite of passage in our country for those who have the economic means (or athletic gifts) to attend.

Given how Germany worked out for him (poorly), and his rate of burnout (he’s admitted it to be quite high at times), he seems like the sort of guy for whom another short stint of being a kid and a BMOC could have helped with his mental state deeper into his career. That’s not to minimize the very real effects of his depression – it’s a medical issue, not a personality failing or quirk – but a different type of support throughout his career could have been helpful for him.

That’s why I’ve advocated something of a youth advisory council under the USSF structure (if you’re going to restrict it to national team prospects, it could fall under the umbrella of MNT general manager Earnie Stewart and WNT general manager to be named later), helping kids make sure they make the right moves early in their careers for them not just as athletes, but as human beings, as well. Donovan could be one heck of a member for such a council, given the breadth of his experience, and on-field success despite off-field struggle.

It’s also part of why I’ve long said that avoiding college soccer altogether is not an answer – I don’t want to speak for Donovan, but as I’ve outlined above it seems he’s a guy who could have benefitted – but rather improving college soccer to make it less a hindrance to development. (Start with a two-semester season and longer summer break). Alexi Lalas, who I know draws extremely mixed reactions from the US Soccer crowd, has a pretty good take on the matter. He consistently talks about how he doesn’t regret going to Rutgers instead of having pro opportunities right away, because there’s value in personal growth that you don’t get from skipping college that, even if it’s not the best for skill development, is important in building a more well-rounded athlete that pays off in the long run.

Hey this section ended up being a lot longer than I expected and strayed just a bit from where it started, but Jermaine Jones is also joining an MASL team so there’s that.

USMNTalk. I’ll have more about today’s roster release at a later date (that date: March 14, 2019 – or maybe it’ll wait until Monday). There are some serious head-scratchers there, for sure. One player who isn’t there is Mexico youth international Efrain Alvarez, who Gregg Berhalter is monitoring.

“When he’s doing what we expect him to do, there will be an opportunity for him with the U.S. national team. Regarding a potential choice for him, we want to create an environment that players want to be in. We want to create a playing style, a team spirit that players want to be a part of. If we do, we’re confident we can get players like that and keep players like that in our program.”

Alvarez’s older brother has walked the fine line in saying that Efra is open to the US if the circumstances are right (he’s represented both countries at the youth level), and it’s somewhat refreshing – if also frustrating – to get a peek behind the curtain of how Berhalter approaches these situations.

In the minors. Yes, Nashville SC is also minor league in the strictest sense. My subheads could use some work, I guess. ANYWAY, here’s your chance to try out for Inter Nashville FC’s NPSL side.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Rhythm of the WPSL (essentially the female analogue to the NPSL) has announced its schedule. I would urge all fans to take in as many games as possible for both these teams – there are only a few dates that are clear from Nashville SC conflict, unfortunately – and support soccer throughout the region.

Etc.: Cameron Lancaster one of USL’s forwards to watch this season. You don’t say. … When you totally misunderstand what “Moneyball” actually means. … This was probably more preseason links post-type content, but NSC was third-favorite to win the USL per 538. The Boys in Gold are up to No. 1 after the first weekend of play. … Pride Publishing covers Nashville SC’s first mini-pitch. … One day I’ll stop linking content just because it says “Gutman.” … I’ll be interested to see how this event compares to a similar one hosted by Chattanooga FC last year. … Every Open Cup game this year will be broadcast. … Ian Ayre will be speaking at SportsFest.

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