During the first half of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, LA Galaxy selected one player — Kyle Venter — to add to their club. Galaxy has been having a lot of movement in their offseason, and head coach Bruce Arena said it’s not over yet. Arena furthered his point by unofficially announcing that they signed two homegrown players this year, Raul Mendiola and Bradford Jamieson. Homegrown contracts are always good news; these are players that have been trained under Galaxy’s roof.
Galaxy really does love their homegrown signings. The program started in 2010, and they’ve been signing players through it since 2011. They really has a lot of young talent in their academy, and they don’t want others to come scoop them up. Their first homegrown signing was Jack McBean. McBean hadn’t even graduated high school, and he was already playing soccer professionally for Galaxy; he must have been one of the coolest guys on campus — varsity is nothing compared to professional teams. These homegrown players are the best from the academy, and this allows them to have more time to play with the first team. They are mentored by the best players on the team while accomplishing their dreams.
The second homegrown contract Galaxy signed was Jose Villarreal. Villarreal was an excellent player that was literally a game changer. In Galaxy’s most challenging recent year, Villarreal was subbed into a match against the Vancouver Whitecaps where he made the equalizing goal. He may not be the best player out there, but he was making things happen. This allowed Galaxy to take home a point instead of going home with none. Villareal has caught the interest of international clubs, as he is now on loan with Mexico’s Cruz Azul. I’m sad to know I won’t see him on the pitch this year, but hopefully he’ll have more playing time than they was able to give him.
The downside to the Homegrown rule is how it affects the SuperDraft. Galaxy “stole” the top SuperDraft pick last year when they signed Gyasi Zardes. Was it slightly unfair? Yes. Was it against MLS regulations? No. For a player to be eligible for homegrown signing, he must reside in the club’s home territory and have played in their academy for one year. Zardes did those things and Galaxy negotiated with him. If given the option, any other club would’ve done the same. If you helped train a player, why not keep him? Plus, Zardes was studying at Northridge; I’m sure he was pleased to know he’d be staying in LA.
Homegrown will continue to bring success and help Galaxy and the MLS as whole. It gives players an incentive to play in academies and encourages youth to take the sport more seriously. Soccer has a long way to go in hopes of catching up to the big three in the U.S., but hopefully programs like this continue to catch the interest of young athletes.