The MLS academy system is still new folks. No matter how you look at it, the system as a whole is really only a little kid in terms of age. It hasn't matured enough to give us what we all really want out of it - that is a number of regular starters that came out of the academy.
FC Dallas is finding this out more and more as we go along. Early on it was perceived by many around the league that FCD had the advantage due to such a talented and deep youth base. That much is still true but the players that have made it out of the academy system into the professional ranks for FCD haven't all panned out the way we once thought they would.
Yesterday's announcement that the team had waived forward Bradlee Baladez marked yet another instance of a Homegrown that was cut for FCD. The club has still signed more HGPs to professional deals than any other MLS side but still doesn't have a ton to show for in terms of regular starters from the academy.
Baladez was a candidate to go on loan for the season but it appears to be the case that Pareja just didn't see a future for the kid with the club. The signing of David Texeira probably didn't help matters out either.
The old philosophy
The old thought for FCD really did seem to be sign the young player that was leading the charge with the academy teams. Early on it was guys like Ruben Luna and Bryan Leyva who came out of the academy with such promise and hope for a long career with their hometown team.
But those guys along with Victor Ulloa and now Baladez were brought in and were slowly developed over time by former head coach Schellas Hyndman. At the time for each player, they were far enough down the depth charts in their first couple of seasons that they had to fight hard to get playing time. Eventually all would (except for Ulloa) but none were given consistent time to develop and mature as a professional player.
Maybe that was on Hyndman. Maybe that was on the player. I tend to believe it was on both. The fact of the matter is that some young players just can't cut it once they get to the big show.
Sign them early
Another part in that philosophy was the sign them before someone else does. We've mostly seen this with guys like Richard Sanchez and Jesse Gonzalez but it is also partly true for other players as well. Again, not a great philosophy but in an early stage of development for the youth programs here in MLS, it is one that has to be there.
FCD and any other MLS club doesn't want to lose a player that could be a star to a Mexican or European team. They especially don't want to lose a player in that way if it means they're getting nothing in return for him as well.
Because of that, here in Dallas we've seen more players signed than we probably should have over the years. [Note: I highly doubt that will go away anytime soon either, the academy depth is still very deep and will only continue to improve as time progresses.]
As 2014 rolls on with new manager Oscar Pareja, we're already seeing an emphasis on youth with the team in the form of big signings. That could still mean that other HGPs could get left in the dust yet again. Pareja has already shown that if you aren't producing, even in practice, that he has no use for you. That sends a strong message to young HGP hopefuls too. Hopefully guys like London Woodberry and Jonathan Top are reading that message loud and clear.
On the flip side we should see more of them on the field this year. Kellyn Acosta is a pretty sure bet to start at right back in the season opener. Moises Hernandez is likely a potential starter at center back as well if George John isn't healthy. Then there is the keeper situation right now as Raul Fernandez is sidelined, we could still see Richard Sanchez make a late push to be the opening day starter as well.
Pareja isn't going to bring HGPs along slowly like we saw under Hyndman. If he can find a use for them, they will see minutes. Why else do you think he brought two academy players to Florida with the team last week and got them both some solid minutes?
So what will it take to get the right combination down for FCD and their HGPs? Really it does come down to the player. We're seeing that the ones who are working out the best (Acosta, Sanchez) are working more for it than their predecessors. That will be a key factor for new HGPs coming into the first team. If they don't show that they want it, Pareja will have no need for them.