Three Under Discussed Big Stories of the Last Few Months


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.

14 thoughts on “Three Under Discussed Big Stories of the Last Few Months”

  1. Isn’t Agbassoumande moving on loan to their youth system? I mean, that’s still great and he will have an oppurtunity to crack the first team and develop his game more, but it’s not like he’s going there to be a starter right away.

  2. Vancouver’s system is modelled on two systems. First, other international academies. Second, the Canadian Hockey League structure which has a residency program that is second to none in producing hockey talent.

    The Whitecaps have done an excellent job bringing together an academy program which should be adopted across the board in North America.

  3. Hi,

    Does any of you have “the answer” why American football (soccer) goalkeepers are so successful in Europe? Howard, Hahnemann, Friedel, Guzan etc. Is it just because of that other ballsports eg. basket and american football is so popular that american has more “ballhabit” than an average European one?

    / Question from Sweden

    1. Whenever I have asked that question of people I consider to be soccer knowledgeable, the answer I get is that the GK is the most pure athlete on the field — speed, strength, quickness, hand-eye coordination. Development of these skills is easier and is not dependent upon soccer skills or of a soccer culture. It does ask the question though: why can’t the US figure a way to develop and/or find athletes with soccer field skills. I have opinions on that but won’t bore you now.

  4. A real interesting subplot to Vancouver’s entrance to MLS will be their development system. Will they be able to find a way to stash players on their NASL team in Edmonton? Will their system make the ‘super’draft (more) irrelevant? I will follow MLS to see how Vancouver’s system will fit into the single entity setup. Will other teams follow their setup? We are already seeing active and passive franchise ownership groups in MLS. Some franchise owners want to add money to their investment to upgrade talent and others want to keep things the same. Will the Vancouver approach to developing talent create a further rift?
    As a supporter of the USL-1 team in Austin, I wish Vancouver the best in their move to a MLS franchise.

  5. The big problem is that MLS rules prevent Vancouver from signing Academy players. I think the Whitecaps have more to lose than gain by moving up to MLS, unless the system changes. Too bad they already made the decision to jump.

    1. I thought that a MLS franchise did have the first right to sign their own academy players. I admit MLS rules are hard to follow and remember. If that’s the case, then they can still sell their players to clubs in other leagues.

      The move by Whitecap ownership to buy into MLS and start a franchise was the next logical step. My guess (and it is certainly a guess) is that running a MLS franchise is a profitable business at this point. The Whitecaps can gain more exposure in North America with the franchise and better fund their soccer clubs/academies with the money they make from their MLS franchise.

      1. They can, but they can only sign so many within a certain amount of years. Also, they have to been in the youth system a requisite number years. That’s why Dilly Duka is going to the Crew even though he was part of the RBNY youth system.

  6. Vancouver can sign residential academy players, exactly why they invested $1 million annually for the past three years in the first place. Their current academy players are from all over Canada and other countries, which conflicts with MLS regulations. Residential academies themselves are not in sync with MLS rules, which are now being reevaluated and will be adjusted. This will be a big story in the coming year.

    Chicago is also gearing up for a residential academy.

  7. I’ll miss seeing Haber on the Whitecaps side (kinda), but good on him for the move. That’s a class organization up North that do a lot things right, I’m glad to be moving up to the MLS with ’em in 2011.

    Go Timbers

  8. When Kartik wrote this, was he already working out of the Miami FC offices? Pimping a player your employer (or soon to be employer) signed is really unethical. Sadly, that’s par for the course.

    1. Kartik wrote this on 1/16. He began working out of the Miami FC offices almost a week after the story ran, so you may want to retract your accusation.

      The Gaffer

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