Youth development 2018-style: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

Images courtesy Cristina Fink

A new season with its new signings means a new assessment of whether the Union organization’s commitment to developing young players and young people has substance. We present two major points, an assessment of the present and the organization’s nascent plan to modify an aspect of the future.

The past and the present

Auston Trusty & YSC  grad Freddy Gil 2/6/2018

Since 2010, two home-developed youth players have gotten serious chances to play meaningful MLS minutes, and a third is currently trying to win that opportunity.

During Union 1.0 Zach Pfeffer got starts over a sustained sequence of time.

In the second season of Union 2.0, Derrick Jones did as well.

Currently, Auston Trusty is being given a serious opportunity to win the starting left back shirt.

There are 13 players on the Union roster currently age 24 or younger, and the signing of a 14th may be in negotiation as you read. Here are the 14.


Ages 21-24 Ages 18-20
Rosenberry – 24 Jones – 20                   Academy PG
Herbers – 24 Ayuk – 20
Yaro – 23 Mbaizo – 20
Najem – 23 Trusty – 19                  Academy ’16
McGuire – 23 Mckenzie – 18            Academy ’17
Epps – 23 Real – 18                     Academy ’17
Elliott – 22 Fontana – 18               Academy ’18


Consider them by position. Striker needs an asterisk, and defensive center midfielder is empty. Individuals are listed older first.

LW Epps
ACM Najem, Fontana
RW Herbers, Ayuk
CM Jones
LB Real
LCB Trusty
RCB Yaro, Elliott
RB Rosenberry
GK McGuire

The striker asterisk is that the Steel have already signed one player fitting these age parameters, Brandon Allen, 24, and are a lock to sign a second before the end of preseason,  Aidan Apodaca, 22.

Notice that youth is distributed evenly among positions and provides the first team with much of its depth, moneybag’s economic efficiency.

Consider the future, because …

As indicated in the first chart above, the Academy has three juniors in the pipeline – all 17 years-old – who have just returned north after having spent the last two weeks in Florida practicing with the first team, an attacking center mid, Brenden Aaronson, a center mid, Mike Pellegrino, and a keeper, Tomas Romero.

L-R: Pellegrino,  Romero, Josue Monge,  Fontana, Real,  Gil, McKenzie, Aaronson


The future for those three young men is unknown. How does the organization keep those it wants?

Publicly, they are all on track to graduate high school, gain admission to college, and play soccer there, as were Trusty, McKenzie, Real, and Fontana once upon a time.

Will these young men earn professional offers? In the past such offers presented stark, mutually exclusive choices. Either turn pro or pursue a degree.  A few years ago a prominent senior Union official reportedly said a young man could not both go to Harvard and become a professional soccer player.

… it no longer presents a path-excluding choice 

YSC Academy Head of School Dr. Nooha Ahmed-Lee is a problem-solver always on the lookout for the boys from her school. PSP was in her office about a year ago when Auston Trusty, under the weight of his apparently path-excluding choice, dropped by to ask about continuing his academic studies in some fashion.

Before Trusty’s visit she had already begun to explore the potential of internet University offerings as a natural segue from her schoolhouse’s methods. Ahmed Lee’s students already use remote education skills, for travel away to Development Academy tournaments, regular season practices with the Steel in Chester, and Steel away games.

Why change?

The future benefits to the Union are best illustrated by Mark McKenzie.

McKenzie was a candidate for a home-grown contract last summer, but did not sign. Instead, he chose Wake Forest. Like Trusty the year before with UNC-Chapel Hill, he had a choice but chose differently.

Ahmed-Lee wants Trusty and Mckenzie to have their cakes and eat them too.

Many post-secondary institutions offer online courses. She focused on Southern New Hampshire University because it offers Major League Soccer players a discount on their fees.

From a player’s perspective what SNHU offers is therefore special.

  • Play pro soccer.
  • Take as many or as few credits as desired, depending on goals and interests.
  • Do so without accumulating crushing debt.
  • Instead, possibly pay for it yourself without involving your parents.

What Ahmed-Lee and the Union might end up offering such a player is the comfort of familiarity:

  • a cohort of friends and old schoolmates doing the same thing,
  • those peers’ insights and experiences into the do’s and don’ts of “remote” academic life,
  • encouragement how to register and schedule in light of professional obligations, including from coaches,
  • pre-existing knowledge of individual interests and skills,
  • workspace supporting such endeavors at the stadium complex in Chester.

From the perspective of the Union and the Steel what’s not to like? An “either/or” t-bone intersection becomes a “both/and” career path.

  • Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin should like that because high school players, and their families, can realize both their dreams, not just one.
  • Richie Graham should because his product does not end in a mutually exclusive choice.
  • Mr. Sugarman increases his odds on receiving a return on investment.
  • And Brendan Burke is probably asking whether his guys can get a piece of the action.
Miscellaneous details

YSC schoolhouse people have visited Southern New Hampshire’s physical campus. Southern New Hampshire, Major League Soccer, and United Soccer League personnel have visited YSC’s, and conversations are on-going.

Ahmed-Lee is exploring a possible pilot program between USL and SNHU, using a few interested players from the Steel.

Dr. Ahmed-Lee will meet on these subjects with the Sporting Director and the Head Coach when they get back from Florida in March.


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    all in.
    chase the dream.
    college can wait.
    oh wait, seems you can do both?
    i am the walking definition of choosing safe. every choice has been and is safe. tell ya… have a kid with exceptional ability, i ain’t arguing for him to play it safe.
    chase the dream. life can wait.
    oh wait, you mean you can get college credit and play professionally?
    of course. thank you for the article. thank you for the time. spent many words arguing thusly here to mostly be rebuffed by the other failsafes.

    el Poacher.

  2. Nick Fishman says:

    Balancing education and career is always difficult, especially for a teenager. Thanks for the insight, Tim.

  3. The educational system has changed with the internet. The best case scenario is to chase the dream. And do online college courses! I can’t say this works for all the kids,but its not like it can’t be done! Thanks for the time and energy to show what can be done!

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