UPDATE: Deandre Yedlin named to All MAC Conference First Team.
Seattle Sounders Academy alumni Nick Palodichuk and Sean Okoli each performed well in their freshmen years of college both gaining individual recognition by their conference. Palodichuk, with Duke, is surrounded by talent (Andrew Wenger will be #1 pick in MLS Draft if signed). The Blue Devil's are 22nd by RPI holding a 10-6-2 record, and advanced to the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals. Okoli's Wake Forrest team is 8-6-4 (32nd RPI) but has a strong history of producing MLS talent.
With such strong performances in a quality league on quality teams the two players (as well as Deandre Yedlin) have fans start wondering when the first Home Grown Player will be signed. At yesterday's meeting with Jeremiah and I Adrian Hanauer spoke in general about the Academy and it's future impact on the First Team. His comments echoed those he said at the Date with Sounder at Heart;
I'm not sure that people should have hugely high expectations. In the next year or two those are kids that we will have gotten into our system at 15 or 16. I'm more confident that players that we get into our system at 12, 13, 14 once we have 3,4,5 years with them, there's a higher likelihood that something will come out of that.
We're continuing to put a lot of resources against it. We believe in it. We think that eventually we'll feed our first team. Realistically, there aren't very many clubs in the world that generate one player per year for their first team. Especially as our league continues to improve in quality of play, just having the same number of youth players entering at the bottom of the soccer playing pyramid is not necessarily going to lead to more professional players.
The success of Palodichuk and Okoli at their current level of competition are actually part of the process that Hanauer sees. Again, his statements are prior to the two earning individual awards.
We haven't signed any players because we haven't been comfortable that we could sign a player that was going to contribute in the near future to our team. We would rather they continue on the path that they are on. Whether it is Sean going to Wake Forrest, or Deandre in Akron. Going to good programs where they can continue to develop, keeping in good contact and hopefully their evolution as soccer players and some point it then makes sense.
While it is unlikely that either player gets snapped up after their freshmen year, both are on strong development paths. At this time Okoli seems to project to a Lamar Neagle type player moving to the wing from his current forward role, that of a strong shooter with good speed and tactical awareness more than a passer. Palodichuk is a larger framed central midfielder with a similar skill set to Brad Evans. He can pass, score and with strong defense. While neither are copies of the current first teamers, these example give perspective into the type of player they are. If their career arc continues a signing next season may be in order.