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Beyond the Lens - After the Residency

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Is the program having tangible success?

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It should be no secret that the Caps have invested, quite heavily, in their Residency programs, most likely at the expense of a women’s team of some variety. For followers of all of the Caps teams, it should be no surprise that the U16 team, as compared to their older counterparts, have had a lot more success. While it’s great that the teams are doing well, and in the case of the U16 team, coming within minutes of an Academy Championship.

Now, what happens to these kids after they age out? Well, this is where their paths diverge and often become hard to track down. Up until a few years ago, there was no Caps USL team. While it’s provided a place for some of the graduates with first team contracts to play, it is really helping them? All I know is that WFC2 has struggled mightily this year, and I’ll leave that for one of my cohorts here to muse over.

Let’s start with one of the originals:
Russell Teibert - Been with the MLS team since Day 1. I’m not sure if any of the Caps MLS head coaches have known how to use him properly, or what his best position is. I wonder if even Russell knows. All we know for sure is that he can run for days. His most notable contribution to date would be his 2 goal performance against LA in 2013.

Sam Adekugbe - After being forced into action because of a suspension to Jordan Harvey, Caps fans got a rather tantalizing look at Sam. For a kid making his debut with the first team at 18, he looked like a veteran and got some Caps fans thinking that they may have their LB of the future. However, injuries would take their toll and Sam wasn’t able to keep a spot on the roster. After a few training stints in the UK, Sam went on loan to Brighton & Hove Albion for a year. Upon his return, he was then loaned out to Swedish outfit Goteborg for the rest of 2017. Time will tell what will happen to Sam.

Kianz Froese - After making his MLS debut as a 2nd half substitution in Seattle, he would only make 15 MLS appearances in 3 seasons, spending most of his time with WFC2. He was sold to Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Marco Bustos - After signing an MLS deal in September 2014, he would not make his first league appearance for a full year. His one start, a 4-0 drubbing at DC was definitely not one for the highlight reel, being played out of position. Fortunately, he wasn’t the worst thing on the pitch that night.

Marco Carducci - As far as MLS appearances, there were none. Perhaps his most notable contribution was the 2014 Amway Semi-Final against TFC. Facing the big guns of TFC with a mix of Residency, PDL and marginal first teamers in front of him. He and his team took the mighty TFC to penalties, where Nakajima-Ferran buried the decisive penalty for TFC. He would be released by the Caps, trialling with Minnesota United before joining USL side Rio Grande Valley Toros.

Ben McKendry - Another graduate to barely make an impact with the first team, pretty much spending his entire time with the Caps to date, with WFC2. He is currently on loan on NASL side FC Edmonton.

Alphonso Davies - I’m not sure how much credit the Caps can legitimately claim to developing this teen phenom. Yes, they scouted him in Edmonton and managed to get him out to Vancouver. Spending the bare minimum (if that) with the Residency team to qualify as a homegrown player, he would make a pitstop with WFC2 before signing in July 2016 and making his MLS debut against Orlando City a few days later. To date, he has one assist, primarily coming off the bench to provide a spark. However, his biggest tangible contributions came in the 2016-2017 CONCACAF Champions League, scoring the goal that would put the Caps through to the Knockout Round against fellow MLS side New York Red Bulls. He would top that by scoring the goal that would put them through to the Semi-Final against Tigres UANL. Alphonso also looks poised to become one of the staple names for Canada’s Men’s National Team, once again, getting his citizenship and first senior call up at the same time.

Outside of Davies and Teibert, it’s hard to say that the Residency Teams have pulled their weight as far as producing regular first teamers. However, that may not all be on the players as once they hit the first team, they face some pretty stiff competition from veterans, imports and in some cases Designated Players.

The simplest answer: Maybe they’re just not good enough. A former coworker of mine, who coaches a U10 team and he showed me some of the drills that he was supposed to be working on with the team. I looked at that once, and almost had a stroke trying to understand it. I can understand if kids get to the point they’re actually allowed to play, try to incorporate the skills that these convoluted drills are trying to teach, and then they give up on the game. I highly doubt the massive Academy programs of the European giants and the MLS peons alike are teaching skills that these kids could possibly understand.

Maybe it’s club philosophy that gets in the way of these kids. In that, I don’t mean that the club has to forego any potential success to do so, but they have to be able to endure the ups and downs of going down that route of player development over winning.

Perhaps the best example of successful player development might be FC Dallas. in 2016, they won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the Supporters Shield, the U18 and U16 USSDA National Championships. They have 9 HGPs on their roster. On the flip side, Portland has one (Michael Farfan).

Obviously, the number of Homegrown Players you have on your roster isn’t the only barometer for measuring the success or lack of, of your Residency teams, but it’s a good indicator of how much attention you are paying.

I think the real measure is, how they ascended the ranks within the club to full time starter and, if applicable, national teamer. Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas) just broke into the US Men’s Senior Team in his 3rd year as a defensive midfielder and he’s in his early 20s.

One final conclusion: Dallas and Sporting Kansas City are proof that you don’t need to spend megabucks to acquire players.