The schizophrenic hive-mind of American soccer fandom is tiring, and players hear it. If you don’t think they hear it, just wrap your mind around this Christian Pulisic tweet in response to criticism of the development systems in place in the U.S.
I guess I didn’t develop as a player at all Til I was 16 ♂️ https://t.co/Rjq4a9yIDk— Christian Pulisic (@cpulisic_10) January 12, 2018
Now, the point made in Phil Schoen’s article for The Guardian is far more nuanced than “Christian Pulisic didn’t develop in America at all.” But it’s hard to blame Pulisic (or any other player) for being exasperated at constantly being held up as an example for many different sides of an argument that the vast majority of people have overblown opinions on. Nuance is scarce. People are angry. Heads will roll.
So, in one corner, there’s the Europe-Over-Everything Development crowd. American soccer is completely and utterly broken, it needs to be completely blown up and rebuilt, and players should get the hell out of the United States as soon as they can. And to a certain extent, this crowd is correct.
Then there’s the people who tentatively agree with the whole “Europe Is Best” mindset, but also point out that that might not always be the best case for some players. To a certain extent, that crowd is also correct. Soon after dissenting opinions are present, internet-saliva begins to manifest around the American Soccer Tweets and posts, digital avatar eyes glowing red at the audacity of someone to suggest that Europe is the only way or that Landon Donovan is anything but a coward for not staying in Germany as a teenager. Eventually Ted shows up and compares MLS to literal slavery.
None of this is to say any one crowd or person is right or wrong about development in the States. It’s to say that the overwhelming din is very audible to everyone in the soccersphere, and for as much talk as there is about players “blocking out” the noise, it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes the pressure mounts, players try to get to and stay in Europe by any means necessary, and the moves don’t pan out. Obviously that player wasn’t meant to be.
Which brings us to Emerson Hyndman, who is at a very significant crossroads of his young career.
Before you get Mad on the Internet™ and start raging in the comments that I’m an MLS apologist who wants Hyndman stateside, stop. I’m not saying that. But if you think I’m happy for one second that Hyndman’s hunt for playing time appears to be taking him to Sunderland of all places, you are equally incorrect. Because being in Europe doesn’t mean the same thing at every European club.
Sunderland AFC are a Championship side less than a year removed from Premier League play, no doubt familiar to many U.S. Soccer fans for being the short-lived home of Jozy Altidore and DeAndre Yedlin, the current home of Lynden Gooch, and for those with longer memories, a stopping point in Claudio Reyna’s European tour during his playing days. Sunderland are also not good. They’ve featured no fewer than 9 managers in the last 7 years, and have displayed a constant cycle of mediocrity in that time that even they’ve managed to top in the last year, finally being relegated from the Premier League and sitting just one point off rock bottom in their first year in the Championship. And despite producing promising players from their academy, a combination of poor coaching and perhaps some cowardice in the face of relegation battle after relegation battle, many of those players, including Lynden Gooch and former English youth International Duncan Watmore, have failed to truly solidify their place in the club despite some truly putrid displays at the Stadium of Light.
That’s not to say that a move to Sunderland for Hyndman would be hopeless. He already has Championship experience, and maybe new manager Chris Coleman does better incorporating his young players into his squad, as a recent 1-0 victory over Hull City might indicate. And maybe Hyndman feels more familiar and comfortable with the English game and prefers to stay there. By all means, his career is his prerogative. But I can’t help but feel that maybe a move to the Netherlands or even Germany might do Hyndman’s career better, a place where youth development is actually held up as important and vital to a club’s success, as opposed to England, where the influx of money created by tv deals at the top of the English ladder have made youth academy movements increasingly superfluous, and coaches like Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis can perform combat surgery ad nauseum on bottom-half teams to help them limp away from relegation year after year.
And maybe the din created by U.S. fandom doesn’t come into play here at all, either. It probably has nothing to do with it. But I’d be willing to bet that Hyndman would be hammered by the fans if he were to come to MLS to play, and I’d be willing to bet he knows that, too. Even if I think a season in Dallas would do more for him than a season in Sunderland.
- Pugh Pugh Pugh -
The commentary on the first goal is a 1st ballot un-cool play by play Hall of Famer, but Mallory Pugh lined Denmark up and knocked them down all by herself on Sunday night, scoring a brace and adding an assist as the USWNT ran out 5-1 winners. After a tepid couple years following the 2015 World Cup victory, the women started the year off right, albeit doing it after going down a goal early. And after a pair of victories in late 2017, the team is starting to look like a dominant force again.
Oh, and Mallory Pugh is still just 19. So.
- But First...
No word on if Sanchez’s dogs were on hand for the selfies.
- More Tough Pills -
When one of the league’s best strikers over the last couple season wants to leave your club, it sucks. When your club also wants to leave your city on top of that, it really sucks. And when you get Gyasi Zardes as part of the deal...well, that’s just math. I’ll leave you to figure it out.
- Atlanta United Fans Have Completely Reasonable Expectations for Ezequiel Barco -
Ok, so it’s mostly jokes, but Atlanta United FC smashing the league’s transfer record on the young Argentine was legitimately impressive, and waiting to announce his signing until the SuperDraft was one of the funniest trolls in recent memory.
On the other hand, it also seems like ATL might be set to lose some of their academy products, as it appears Zyen Jones is in Germany and on trial with Schalke along with fellow U.S. U-17 Chris Gloster. Schalke seems to be going for the full set of U.S. youth players at this point.
- Gaucho Hangs Em Up -
Ronaldinho has entered the realm of “problematic fave” with his recent political endorsements, but the fact remains that he was one of the most impressive players to ever play. He made the game look joyful and goofy and mystical and did it at a world class level. And I’ll miss him.