Darwin Jones via Chris Coulter for www.soundersfc.com
In our recaps of Seattle Sounders FC's Academy Alumni the focus was primarily on the players within the NCAA system. Players like Sean Okoli (second leading scorer on the U18s in 2010/11), Deandre Yedlin and Nick Palodichuk are following typical American collegiate paths. Yedlin and Okoli even got picked for the recent United States U-20 path. Darwin Jones and Jamael Cox are doing things a bit differently, and both seem to have a shot a pro career. Previously Sounders academy director Darren Sawatzky raved about Jones.
It comes as little surprise that after a stellar season with Highline Community College Jones is now in preseason camp on trial. A trial that Jones said today may lead to something more:
I'm here for a week on trial. If I do well and go to Arizona I won't be going to Highline or I'll go back to school at Highline and finish off Winter and Spring Quarter and then I'm off to the UW in the fall.
Jones was the second-leading scorer on the first-ever Sounders U18 team. Third on the team was right mid Jamael Cox, who is on trial with Glasgow Rangers after a previous trial with FC Nurnberg. His representative Ricci Greenwood describes the process of getting Cox those trials:
So I came out with him [Darren Sawatzky, Sounders Academy Technical Director] a couple times and I watched and pointed out a couple guys. Basically we made the combination there. I played over in Germany, in the Bundesliga over at FC Nurnberg so I have a club relationship over there. I said 'You know what I could send Jamael over there.' We sent him over there and he did well. He impressed over there. They wanted to bring him back this summer.
After that I said 'I know that he can compete at least. Let me look at another option.' I have a great contact with Rangers of Glasgow. Basically I submitted his information and talked to my contact over there. They just came back to me and said 'We'll take a look.' And I asked when they want to see him. So I sent him over and he's been there a week now. So far so good. They have a big training game with reserve players, first-team players and some trialists will be there. After that if everything goes well I'll fly over and we'll see the next few days and see what happens.
While Jones sees a path that provides options to got to the University of Washington or in a best-case scenario with the Sounders Cox's path is different. Greenwood's pro career was in MLS with the Columbus Crew, various other non-MLS teams and with Nurnberg in Germany. He'll continue to use those connections to place Cox where he can succeed.
There are many paths to become a pro in this game of soccer. For some the right path is four years at a major college, for others community college and then see where the path takes you and then there are those who will find an opportunity anywhere in order to play the game they love.
Major League Soccer's growing Academy system prevents none of those options. Sounders Alumni are on each of those. Some may never sign with the senior team, but their dreams can still come true.