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:
DC UNITED TOP YOUTH PROSPECTS
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.