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They gotta come from somewhere

You don’t have to be a “area youth soccer aficionado” to care

Buried at the end of a piece in the Daily News on Monday about the Union’s draw with the Revolution was a mention about FC Delco’s loss to the Crew Juniors—an MLS academy team— in the U–19 Youth Soccer National Championship that really got my goat.

It wasn’t that this “news” had been published nine days after the final was broadcast live on FSC—even though the wording suggested that the match had happened this past Saturday. And it wasn’t that there was no mention of the final score, nor were any FC Delco players named. (In case you’re wondering the score was 1–0 and Chris Harmon, for example, had an excellent game. We wrote about it.)

2010 USYSA U-19 National Championship Runners-up, FC Delco Hammerheads

No, what got me was how this two-sentence mention began:

“While this won’t mean much except to area youth soccer aficionados…”

Really? Thanks.

Thanks for nothing

Forget for a moment that this was the first time a MLS academy team has won the James P. McGuire Cup and what that means in terms of the long term development of the league.

And put from your mind the question of whether a sentence about a local youth football, baseball or basketball team appearing in a national championship would begin with the same words and ask yourself this:

Where does the Daily News think American professional soccer players come from?

Which got me thinking…

All of this got me thinking about several former “area youth soccer” players, each of which were born within one year of one another, and either played with or against one another in local leagues for local schools and clubs before embarking on the path toward successful professional careers. Three of these players currently ply their trade in MLS. One of those three played in the Premiership and represented the US in the World Cup. The fourth player has had a long career in Europe and recently was playing in Saudi Arabia.

You don’t have to be an “area youth soccer aficionado” to know their names:

Bobby Convey. Dan Gargan. Jeff Larentowicz. Jeremiah White.

A golden Philly soccer generation

In high school soccer, Gargan and Larentowicz played together at Chestnut Hill Academy. Convey played for Penn Charter, White for the Haverford School. Each of these schools play one another in the Inter-Academic League. Chestnut Hill Academy was league champions in 2000 and 2001 while Gargan and Larentowicz were there.

In club soccer, Larentowicz and White played at FC Delco. Even though they played on different teams there, each earned national honors with their respective teams. White was on the 2001 U–19 USYSA National Championship FC Delco Black II team. Larentowicz captained the FC Delco Arsenal II to the U–18 and U–19 National Championship in 2002 and 2003.

Convey and Gargan played for FC Coppa at the Philadelphia Soccer Club in Northeast Philly. Convey was barely 16 years-old when he was selected as part of the inaugural class of the IMG Soccer Academy at Brandenton, Florida, in 1999, the full-time residency program U–16 and U–17 US National Team programs. There he was joined by the likes of Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Oneywu and Kyle Beckerman.

By 2000 he was playing for DC United and for a time was the youngest player ever signed by MLS. After visa problems prevented him from joining Tottenham in 2003, Convey signed with Reading where. In 2006 he helped lead the club into its first appearance at the top flight of English football since the club’s founding in 1873. That same year he played on the US National Team at the World Cup, making two starts and becoming one of the few US players to be praised for his performance. Now with the San Jose Earthquakes, Convey played in the 2010 MLS All-Star Game where he subbed in for the Union’s Sebastien Le Toux.

While Convey was beginning his professional career, Gargan, Larentowicz and White had embarked on successful college careers. Gargan played for Georgetown, where he was captain an MVP. Larentowicz played for Brown, where he won two Ivy League Championships. White, who had earned All-American honors while playing in high school, then played at Wake Forest where he was named ACC Player of the Year in his senior year and to the All-ACC Team three years in a row.

Gargan began his professional career at the Colorado Rapids 2005, the same year Larentowicz joined the New England Revolution. Gargan now plays for Toronto FC while Larentowicz is with the Rapids, whom he represented at the 2010 MLS All-Star Game. In 2004, White went to Europe where he played for clubs in Serbia, Greece, France and Denmark. He then played in Saudi Arabia. White has one international cap for the US.

They gotta come from somewhere

So there you have it, four Philly players born within a year of one another who have gone on to make professional careers for themselves in soccer. And they’re not the only former “area youth soccer” players who are doing so. From FC Delco, three other players currently make their living in MLS. 2010 MLS All-Star Kevin Alston is another IMG Soccer Academy grad who currently plays for New England Revolution. John Conway began with the San Jose Earthquakes, moved to the New York Red Bulls, and had a brief spell at Chivas USA before joining his current club, Toronto FC. Jeff Parke is now with Seattle Sounders after playing for the New York Red Bulls.

Other FC Delco players who have had professional careers include Ben Olsen, who played for DC United, Nottingham Forrest and the US national team (37 caps including one appearance at the 2006 World Cup) and was just named interim coach of DC United; Brian Kelly, who played for the New York MetroStars and LA Galaxy; Tim Sahaydak, Matt Napoleon and Ryan Kelly all played for the Columbus Crew. Beckett Hollenbach even had something of a career in lower division English football, playing with St Albans City and Harlow Town. Several of these FC Delco players— and more—were active with US Soccer below the senior team level. Many more had successful college careers and played or still play in different levels of the USL.

So, its not just “area youth soccer aficionados” who care about what a club like FC Delco or other area clubs do in a national championship final, not to mention at state or regional competitions. Believe me, scouts from colleges, professional clubs and US Soccer pay attention to these things too.

Actually, anyone who wants US professional soccer or the US national team to succeed cares, or ought to, if you tell them about it.

Such people are called “soccer fans,” you see.

Get to know them.

Because those players soccer fans love to watch on TV and at PPL Park, well, they gotta come from somewhere.

And they might just come from an “area soccer” club near you.

Postscript

Kerith Gabriel, the author of the “While this won’t mean much except to area youth soccer aficionados…” line,  apologized for the statement on Thursday just before this piece was posted. Gabriel wrote that it was “obviously an incorrect statement,” adding “My bad, and a personal congrats to head coach Alan Mezger.” (How about the kids?) But in doing so he didn’t even quote himself correctly, writing that he said “only true youth soccer aficionados” when in the original article he actually said “area youth soccer aficionados” (emphasis added). At the risk of sounding terribly pedantic, what are readers supposed to think if the author can’t even quote himself correctly, especially when the misquote favors the author by lessening the offensiveness of the original put down?

8 Comments

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