Everyone in the American/Canadian soccer press does their best job to keep up with the goings on throughout the continent and stories involving North American ties abroad. The sheer volume of stories makes it difficult to cover everything well, and a few stories have slipped largely under the radar for their overall significance.
The moves of Paul Mariner, Gale and Marcus Haber to Europe all have significance beyond simple coaching or transfer moves. All three stories reflect the positive growth of the sport in this region.
- Paul Mariner served as a player/assistant in the old APSL (now USSF D2) with the Albany Capitols and more importantly as the right hand man of Steve Nicol with the outstanding New England Revolution teams of the past several seasons. Mariner is a former playing legend with Ipswich and also Plymouth Argyle. Mariner’s move back to Home Park this time as Head Coach (following the MLS 2009 Regular Season) and his recent ascension to manager are important in noting how much coaching experience in the United States is now recognized as good experience to manage a top level club. Plymouth is currently in the second flight of English football (The Championship), a division that would pass for top flight status in most countries including the US and much of the European continent.
- Gale Agbossoumonde made an impression in the Under 20 World Cup for the US after signing a professional contract with Miami FC over the summer. The lanky defender at age 18, has secured a loan deal with one of Portugal’s top club, Sporting Braga. Braga is currently level on points at the top of the Portuguese Liga with high flying Benfica. For all the attention Freddy Adu’s loan deal to bottom feeder Beleneses received, this loan deal from Miami FC of the NASL to Braga has gotten comparably less attention. But what it does accomplish is put an American national team pool defender on a team that is competing to win a major European league. That is an accomplishment to say the least.
- Canadian International Marcus Haber’s recent move from Vancouver to West Bromwich Albion got some attention north of the border but is significant in the United States also. Haber has come from the Whitecaps renowned youth system (which currently features Americans Charles Renken and Joseph Gyau) and after several trial stints at English clubs, has secured a high profile transfer to Championship promotion contenders West Brom. Haber has a fabulous USL-! Campaign in 2009, scoring eight goals and also showing a real quality in the Nurtalife Canadian Championship. Heber’s move is yet another sign that Vancouver develops players the right way, and their shift to MLS in 2011 will reap dividends for the entire soccer infrastructure in North America.