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A look at the next generation at D.C. United


As you read earlier this week on SBI, DC United is one of five MLS teams that is now qualified to start signing homegrown players from their youth academy straight to the first team. If you were wondering who some of the better players in the D.C. United pipeline are, and some players who may wear the D.C. black and red one day, we have some names for you.

In what is the first chapter of what will be a series on SBI, we will take a look at some of the top prospects in the D.C. United youth academy. Write these names down. You may be cheering for them one day:


1. Shane Cooke, midfielder. Currently a U-18 player, Cook is a 6-foot-2 left winger with good speed and skillful left foot. Still a year away from being able to graduate to first team.

2. Chris Hegngi, forward. Currently a U-18 player, Hegngi is a 6-foot-1 striker who holds the ball well and is a good finisher. Still a year away from being able to graduate to first team.

3. Chris Jumalon, defender. Captain of the D.C. United team that won the MLS Youth Cup, Jumalon is a skillful and physical central defender, who makes up in strength and toughness what he lacks in height (5-10). Eligible to graduate to the first team.

4. Isaac Taylor, defender. A versatile player who can play left back or left wing, Taylor has good feed, is comfortable on the ball and could develop into a top-level left back. Eligible to graduate to the first team.

T5. Julio Arjona, central midfielder. A strong defensive midfielder who has shown good presence in midfield as well as leadership qualities at a young age. A U-16 player, Arjona has time to develop. Still a year away from being able to graduate to first team.

T5. Shaquille Phillips, defender. A U-16 star, Phillips would be higher on this list but he is set to go to the U.S. under-17 residency program, which could affect his ties to the D.C. youth system. A solid 6-foot central defender, Phillips has a bright future in the youth national team system.

As you can see from the list, it doesn’t appear that D.C. will be a lock to sign a youth academy graduate in 2008, but some high-level prospects look poised to make the jump in 2009. Speaking to DC officials, it sounds as if the current crop of U-16s is the group that will result in a bumper crop of options for D.C. United.

So who are the best candidates to be signed in 2008, if any? Jumalon and Taylor are the best of the player who have met the criteria of two years in the D.C. system. Taylor is a bit undersized for a pro central defender so Taylor may have the better chance of being signed.

The situation with Shaquille Phillips raises some serious questions about the MLS youth system rules and how they will handle a player like Phillips, who has played with D.C. but is now headed to Bradenton. Should DC United retain some sort of ties with Phillips considering he started out with DC? At this point it appears that D.C. will lose its rights to Phillips, which is a shame.

What do you think of this list? Share your thoughts on these players or any other subject covered in this post below.


  1. Julio Arjona is in the U-17 National team in Bradenton. Both Shaq and Julio are going to train with the first team on the beginning of June. They are going to be back on May 29.

  2. I have seen Isaac play in my own experiences, very strong back that brings a unique level of game play to the match at his age and size

  3. I didn’t know about the conflicting situation for Shaq, but all I have to say is that the kid is NICE. He’s so damn cocky but hilarious and able to back it up.

  4. hey since I am on this list I just thought I’d share a little bit about what I think. Obviously this is a whole new frontier for the MLS. I think it is the only way that the MLS will ever be able to compete on a global level with leagues like the EPL and la Liga. I think that all the players right now are caught in a transistion period, obviosly this is all very confusing for everybody and I think its a little to early to make a call on MLS policy. The MLS is definetely taking a move in the right direction and although ODP and Bradenton are still officially to best way to be seen by pro clubs the MLS youth teams are a serious competitor and eventually will be the future of youth soccer. As you know DC won the inaugural U-17 SUM cup and are qualified to go to Madrid to play in a youth tournament, all expenses payed for. If this isn’t a place for a kid to be seen by a pro club then I dont know what is.

  5. Fantastic Job Ives!!! I was just thinking the other day how great it would be if someone could update us on the prospects being groomed in the youth squads of these MLS teams. Thanks for answering my prayers!! Now back to wishing for a Ferrari (and I’m not talking Gaberial 🙂 )

  6. Folks, regarding the Shaq Phillips situation, I think the league is still sorting out how to handle these situations. It’s a fluid process. If a youth player has spent two years with a club team, then goes to Bradenton, they should by all means be able to sign with the club they came up with. It wouldn’t surprise me if MLS establishes that very rule at some point. The last thing you want is top prospects having to choose between going to Bradenton and staying on course to be signed with the team that brought them up.

  7. Eugene has it right in that a player’s MLS rights go to the club he played youth academy ball for IF they completed two years in the academy before going to Bradenton. IF they only completed one year at the academy before going to Bradenton then they must go back and complete another year in their original team’s youth academy.

    I’ve been told that Shaq Phillips has only one recognized year with DC, so he would have to come back and play for a DC youth team AFTER graduating from Bradenton, or come back and play for DC before graduating from Bradenton.

  8. Regarding Taylor:

    I don’t think undersized should be the overall factor keeping him from moving up to the 1st team. Parkhurst is possibly MLS’s best defender and he is consider undersize as well by many people. DCU should be looking at the kid’s understanding of the game and how well he positions himself as a defender.

  9. Ives,

    I posted this question in another one of your articles but don’t know the resolution — Can players that are “Still [some time away] from being able to graduate to first team” be picked off by other teams if DC picks two older kids in a given year? I would think only players in the graduating class who DC passes on can go pro for another MLS team with DC getting compensation for developing the player.

    The follow-up question is can DC promote a younger kid (not from the graduating class) if they think he’s ready, or can they only promote from the graduating class?

  10. Ives,

    I think the league’s rule is that DC will retain MLS rights to Phillips because he started in their academy prior to being selected for a youth national team. So as I understand it, they should have no problems promoting him to the first team as long as he has completed two years in their academy.

    The dilemma I think you’re referring to lies in the other direction — if he had been on a youth national team prior to being in DC’s academy. In that case, DC cannot claim him and I think he has to go through the draft or a special lottery.

    If you could do this same kind of post for other teams (especially the Red Bulls) that would be fantastic!

  11. I don’t think that’s what’s really going on here.

    Second to last paragraph says that a team can have a guy and if he’s later put on the U17 Nats it’s OK.

    My guess is that DCU might be denied the player on a “Bradenton saw him first” rule. My guess is the rule applies to the U15 Boys National Team as well (I seem to recall that part in the BigSoccer discussion), which Phillips was a part of a year and a half ago:

  12. Ives, I have a question in regards to the legality of these expost facto rules on signing players, most notably the player from Saint Ben’s. If he trained with New England under a certain set of rules (the understanding that he wasn’t bound to them) how can the league now change these rules, and essentially contract him (within) MLS to one team. For instance if I graduate from college, and 2 years later, or in my senior year, the school says you need to have an additional 4 credits in some area, I believe I would have a legal case against the school. Though MLS is not a government entity, I would imagine one might have a legal case, in that it was not fully disclosed to the player (at the time of training) that he was essentially signing away his rights to new england. This could be said for any future player who has played for an MLS club in the past (I’m thinkin college kids who played over the summer). What do you think? And I know my analogy is somewhat lacking.

  13. Its a nice thought that the club youth teams should compete with Bradenton but their just not there yet. In the meantime by loosing their rights to their best young players your penalizing clubs for having good youth development systems.

  14. so the idea is, you prepare a player well enough that the national federation offers them a scholarship to a residential academy, with a basically guaranteed spot on the age-appropriate national team, and you get punished for it? remember, the guys in the team academies aren’t under contract, it’s not like they are getting paid, or have a guarantee of getting paid. if you are a player like Phillips, who isn’t ready just yet for the club, wouldn’t you be a fool not to go to Bradenton? given the current rules, if he stays in DC he a: reduces his chances with the U-17s; b: cannot even negotiate with anyone until he leaves the training system. now he gets free education, free training, free global travel to play and is a free agent to boot. it’s the opposite of Angulo. Bad rule. I think DCU should hold his MLS rights until he turns 19.

  15. Competition between club and country? You don’t say… I honestly don’t think an MLS club will be able to compete with the training and coaching of Bradenton for at least another two decades. They pay their youth coaches really well and it’s the most obvious place for a big-name foreign club to look for young American talent. Clubs like D.C. should look to work with Bradenton, which means the league shouldn’t penalize a club if a player takes a Bradenton offer.

  16. I sympathize with Mark’s frustration with the “make-it-up-as-we-go-ness” of League rules, but in this case I agree with Adam a couple of comments above. The team academies should be viewed as in competition with Bradenton and players will have to choose between going to Bradenton and then the draft, or staying with their team and bypassing the draft process.

    I’ll also second his interest in a breakdown of what happened to the various Bradenton classes since they started the program.

  17. Ives,

    By the way, I think the team by team analysis of youth prospects is a fantastic idea.

    Can’t wait to see future articles.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. If MLS teams are going to lose the rights to players they discover and train when a player moves to Bradenton, then the whole system needs to be shut down. Just more MLS we-make-this-stuff-up-as-we-go-alongness…just like the DPs and the grandfathered DPs. Maybe someday we can have a real league.

  19. Wholeheartedly echo Tony in Quakeland’s sentiment — it’s refreshing to see a journalist take a very even-handed approach in his/her coverage of every team, not just their hometeam. Very delighted to have the opportunity to read your work on a daily basis, Ives!

  20. What is it with typepad and “comment spam?” All I wanted to do was playfully boo DC in my comment, but I can’t even do that because the site flags it.

  21. i think that if the team loses players to residency then they should not retain their rights. it should be the team’s goal to do everything they can to keep them in the system otherwise they lose the player. this forces the teams to get their academy as close to the residency program granted they won’t be playing as much, but teams can argue that the kid will receive equally talented coaching and be close to home and other little factors that residency does not have. in the end of the day, being a part of the residency program does not mean you are a lock for the pros.

    ives – not sure if you’ve done it in the past, but have you ever thought about highlighting the careers of those who have come through residency program? without any research, i feel like a very high percentage of these kids don’t amount to much while very few find stardom, with little in-between.

  22. I’m sorry, Ives, aren’t you supposed to be a horribly biased anti-DC Red Bull apologist? You’re going to ruin your reputation by writing balanced, intelligent and positive articles on DC United.

    (Fellow SBIers – Yes, I’m joking.)

  23. great coverage. you know, one thing everyone wonders is how good are these players compared to other club teams in the area? or compared to other club teams outside of an MLS city?

    BUT, if MLS teams begin to sign youth players, it is really going to make their youth teams stronger b/c more and more quality kids from the area or even outside the area will want to join an MLS youth team hoping they can one day get a pro contract.

    we just need a trailblazer.

  24. Ives,

    Are the players who are “still a year away from being able to graduate to first team” allowed to play in the MLS Reserve league?

  25. I haven’t had a chance to post since the new website was put up. Great Job Ives!

    As for D.C. and Phillips, the League’s rules should always reward clubs who work hard to develop new players. It would be a shame for D.C. to lose the rights to Phillips or have to jump through the whole discovery claim hoop to be able to eventually sign him.

    And, I don’t think we have to worry about upsetting the league’s competitive balance. There’s still a salary cap that will make it difficult for any team to hold on to all its talented young players in the long run.

  26. Ives,

    With regard to Phillips, couldn’t D.C. just continue filing discovery claims on him annually until he’s ready to go pro, a la New England?


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