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News Analysis

Jordan Morris Heads to Germany; Friedel With U19s

The Seattle Sounders own Jordan Morris' MLS rights, and his father is the team's physician, but that doesn't mean that the Stanford striker can't weigh other professional opportuntities.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 05, 2016
11:40 AM

THE NEW YEAR has brought a wave of significant news regarding United States youth international teams and players. New coaches have been hired and several key players are now on the verge of making moves. Here is the news from the past 24 hours.

Jordan Morris Story takes a twist

Yesterday Goal.com reported that Jordan Morris was close to signing with the Seattle Sounders. In a move that sounds like it has Jurgen Klinsmann’s fingerprints on it, today Werder Bremen announced that the Stanford University forward was set to travel to Germany to begin training with the Bundesliga club starting Monday—before likely joining U.S. training camp later this month.
Seattle remains the most likely destination for Morris and for good reason—he will receive all-but-certain playing time. Making the move from college to the Bundesliga is exceptionally difficult and at this stage, playing with Werder Bremen’s U-23 team probably wouldn't help the Seattle native's standing with the national team or even with his development. He is not 17-years-old, he is 21 and needs first-team minutes right away.
I like the idea of the best American players moving abroad to play in the most competitive leagues but spending time in MLS has proven to be the best path to get to that point. Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu, Geoff Cameron, Stuart Holden, and DeAndre Yedlin, all came out of college and parlayed their MLS experience into European offers. Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, and Alejandro Bedoya all bypassed MLS out of college but did so at lower levels than many of their contemporaries: Cherundolo went to the 2.Bundesliga, Onyewu went to Belgium, Bedoya went to Sweden.
The best example of an American-born college player who bypassed MLS and went to a big league is Eric Lichaj, who joined English Premier League side Aston Villa in 2008. It's worth noting that the 27-year-old fullback toiled for years in the Villa reserves, and also was sent out on several loan spells, before make his Premier League debut.
If Morris signs with Seattle, he will likely play significant minutes for a hometown club alongside players like Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. If Morris finds success in MLS, Europe will always be there—like it was for Dempsey. And if he makes the jump then, he will be far more prepared to play right away.

Sonora moves to Europe

One American who is going to move to Germany in 2015 is U.S. U-20 World Cup veteran Joel Sonora. According to Marca reporter Arch Bell, Sonora is moving from the youth system at Boca Juniors to Stuttgart, where he will likely play for the club’s U-23 team.

Boca Juniors and Stuttgart are both big clubs but they represent very different soccer cultures. Sonora is a typical Argentine player but moving to Germany will allow him to see the game from a different approach and philosophy. This move is likely going to enhance his development. 

Pulisic travels with first team

The U.S. under-17 team suffered through a very poor performance at the 2015 World Cup this past fall but that did not affect Christian Pulisic—perhaps the most talented American-born teenager since Landon Donovan.

Pulisic, 17, is one of the top prospects at Borussia Dortmund and on Tuesday the powerful German club announced that the Hershey, Pa., native would travel with the first team during its winter break camp in Dubai.

It will be interesting to see how U.S. Soccer handles Pulisic and if it avoids the temptation to rush him through the system too quickly. Either way, this time next year it would hardly be surprising if we are talking about a player who has made a Bundesliga appearance for one of the best teams in the world.

New coaches for youth national teams

The end of 2015 brought about significant changes for many of the U.S. youth national teams. U.S. U-18 coach Javier Perez and U.S. U-17 coach Richie Williams both left their posts for assistant coaching positions in MLS. Over the holiday season, former Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth took the U-17 job for the second time in his career.

On Monday longtime U.S. youth soccer coach Omid Namazi was hired to coach the U-18 team after most recently serving as an assistant to Tab Ramos for the U-20 team.

Most interesting, former U.S. goalkeeper and Fox Soccer commentator will lead the newly formed U-19 team, which begins play later this month.

“We are thrilled to bring on two guys who have such tremendous experience,” Klinsmann said via press release. “Brad Friedel played at the highest level for almost two decades, and his knowledge will be a huge benefit to our young players. Omid Namazi has not only been a professional player at all levels in the United States, he has worked as a coach both here and overseas which adds important perspective. They have both been assistant coaches in our youth national teams, so this is another important step in connecting the dots between our teams.”

Friedel and Namazi bring unique experiences into the equation but both will run teams that do not compete in major competitions. Instead, they will aim to prepare young players for the U-20 and U-23 teams and keep players involved in the system given the huge gap between the U-17 and U-20 levels.

Winning and losing is secondary at this level. The most important responsibility for Friedel and Namazi will be talent identification which requires a huge effort to comb through the various channels inside the United States and find the players who are ready to move up the ladder.

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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