The Vancouver Whitecaps have signed another homegrown player in Damiano Pecile. The 17-year-old central midfielder was part of the Development Squad, where he will continue to play.
Pecile marks the 22nd academy player to be signed to an MLS contract by Vancouver, and the fifth in the past year, joining Hasal, Mukumbilwa, Metcalfe, and Facchineri. However, as Russell Teibert gets set to start his 10th season with the Whitecaps, it is worth noting that only a handful of those 22 academy players have made any type of impact at the MLS level. Yes, several have been sold on to clubs in Europe and elsewhere, but few have been heard of again after their departure.
All academy products cannot be gems. In fact, the majority cannot be gems. Yet, as we watch teams like the New York Red Bulls continue to play, and then sell, their academy players, it begs the question what is the aim with the Caps signing these academy players?
Many would argue that the midfield, especially the link between defense and offense, has not been addressed this off-season. The addition of Pecile brings the Whitecaps roster up to 28, meaning they have a little bit of wiggle room left, but it is likely that those questions in midfield will remain when the season opens at the end of the month.
Axel Schuster and Marc Dos Santos have emphasized their desire to buy, and develop, young players and then sell them on down the road. In-Beom is a perfect example of that at the higher level, but the club needs to start making some inroads with their academy. This, combined with the existing holes in midfield, may point towards the Whitecaps FINALLY making an effort to develop their young players.
I must admit, I am not the most optimistic about the Whitecaps ability to develop their talent. Each manager has stated that they need to rely on their academy, but none have really shown an ability to do that. Last season, MDS pointed to the desire and hunger as to why players like Colyn and Baldisimo did not feature for the senior club while Theo Bair did. It is a shame if that is true, especially last season when the club’s poor record would have been an ideal time to test young players. If this is ‘all’ it takes, then hopefully we see a transition from the young players. If MDS has instead used this as an excuse to not play his young players, then what are we doing with the academy?
We have seen the development squad prove beneficial, at least on the surface, despite their lack of games last season. However, the process has to be improved if the Caps want to become the club they continue to tout themselves to want to be.
What are your thoughts on the signing of Pecile, the usefulness of the Development Squad, and the prospects of academy players making an impact in Major League Soccer?