Is U.S. Soccer’s Bradenton program adequately preparing players for soccer careers? Or college? Or anything else?
Those questions popped into my head in thinking about several youth sports and college sports questions. Some of my Twitter buddies seem convinced that college sports (“big-time” college sports, at least) are nothing more than a holding pen for people trying to go pro, apparently not buying the NCAA ads in which a bunch of perky people with microscopes say they’re going pro in something other than sports.
As U.S. soccer “academy” programs drift downward in age groups, perhaps we need to be asking more questions. What happens to players who give up significant chunks of their childhoods for soccer?
We won’t be able to track every single player who passes through the Development Academy. But we can take a look at a few specific groups, particularly from the U-17 residency program in Bradenton, and see how they fared.
So what better place to start than the original Bradenton class?
A few of these players don’t require any detective work. We know where to find Oguchi Onyewu, Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley and Bobby Convey. There’s also another guy named Donovan who may have been in the news recently.
And then I’m not the first person to try this. Soccernet checked in on the Spring 1999 players in 2008. So all I’m doing here is updating and adding the players added in the fall. LinkedIn helps.
For other info, I’m open to crowd-sourcing. If you find anything about these players that I’ve missed, please mention them in the comments. I was going to list each player’s youth clubs, but their bios tend to start with Bradenton and mention a high school but not a club. Funny how things change.
Nelson Akwari: Went to UCLA, then through an assortment of MLS and USL teams — MetroStars, Columbus, Real Salt Lake, Charlotte, Charleston, Vancouver (pre-MLS), Los Angeles Blues. Didn’t play in 2012, but an RSL blog caught up with him and found him finishing school, starting a family and considering a return at some point.
DaMarcus Beasley: Funny how everyone frets about Donovan not playing in Europe, and then few people pay attention to Beasley, who did it in a big way. After a good run with Chicago, he went to PSV and started in a Champions League semifinal. He went on a yearlong loan to Manchester City, but injuries started to take a toll. He moved to Rangers instead and played less and less each year, eventually moving to Germany’s Hannover and all but disappearing. Now building his career back up with Mexico’s Puebla and looking for a national team return, having already played in three World Cups.
Kyle Beckerman: Brief stop with Miami, where he spent much of his time on loan to the Project-40 team for young reserves that played in the A-League (now USL, not Australia!). Then a long stay with Colorado before hopping over the Rockies to Real Salt Lake, where he has been a cornerstone of a successful team. Also gets occasional national team calls.
Danny Bolin: Spring 1999 only; didn’t play in U17 World Cup. Wikipedia sometimes puts things so well: Bolin is listed as a “former U.S. soccer midfielder and current helicopter pilot in the United States Air Force.” Sums it up pretty well. He started out at soccer power Wake Forest, then transferred to the Air Force Academy and moved into the military from there. Don’t say Bradenton didn’t recruit overachievers. The most recent substantive Wikipedia edit, which isn’t sourced, is from 2011. Any update?
Filippo Chillemi: Spring 1999 only; didn’t play in U17 World Cup. Went to Notre Dame and injured his ankle in practice, colliding with fellow residency grad Greg Martin, the Soccernet roundup reports. Still got a bit of pro experience in Italy before deciding on his fallback career — medicine. Again with the overachievers. Looks like he’s a resident at South Alabama now, unless there are two young orthopaedic surgeons in the USA named Filippo Chillemi.
Jordan Cila: Went to Duke and took some flak for not going pro right away. Finished up at school and went undrafted, then clawed his way onto MLS rosters at Colorado, Real Salt Lake and New York. Now he’s an analyst at Goldman Sachs. That “college degree” thing seems to be working for him.
Bobby Convey: The youngest MLS signee at the time, joining D.C. United at age 16. Went to England and helped Reading win promotion to the Premier League. Then came the knee problems. He returned to MLS with San Jose and then Kansas City.
D.J. Countess: Goalkeeper had a stellar youth career and a good year at UCLA before briefly to the MetroStars and then to Dallas, where he seemed to be the goalkeeper of the future. Then off to Chicago, where we wound up as a backup, then to expansion Salt Lake, where he was shelled. Stops in Sweden, Chile and Argentina followed, and a wrist injury ruined his career. The Offside Rules found his 2009 wedding video, calling it “100% baller” and “an advert for affluence.” I’m surprised it wasn’t on MTV. The production quality is unreal. I can find absolutely no record of him after that, including any confirmation of the anonymous rumor on The Offside Rules’ comments that they did not live happily ever after.
Steve Cronin: Goalkeeper went from Santa Clara to San Jose (briefly) and then to Los Angeles, where he was the backup on the MLS Cup-winning team of 2005. He started for the 2008 Galaxy, then moved into the USL with Portland. After bouncing back and forth between Portland and D.C. United, he went clubless in 2012. His Twitter feed has given a few updates — he’s a father, he’s retired and …
Kenny Cutler: Went to Clemson and had a few years with Real Salt Lake and then the USL’s Richmond Kickers. Then he disappeared and … oh, nope — like Cila, he’s at Goldman Sachs, except that he’s based in Salt Lake City.
Justin Detter: Fall 1999 only; didn’t play in U17 World Cup. Played at Notre Dame along with Chillemi and Martin. Made the Kansas City roster but didn’t get above developmental level. Now a facilities manager in Michigan.
Landon Donovan: Whereabouts unknown. For the moment, anyway.
Adolfo Gregorio: To UCLA, then England’s Darlington, then Real Salt Lake, for whom he played six games in 2005. Went back to run Pro Soccer shop in Modesto and was profiled in the local business press this year for taking advantage of lower property values. Sharp guys in this class.
Bryan Jackson: Made the rounds in Europe, getting a rough start to his career, before retiring to be a sports performance coach in New York. One woman from his class left a review calling him a “cutie who reeks of euro-cool.” But he’s also a tough trainer, apparently.
Kellen Kalso: Played at Michigan State and spent a few years managing restaurants. This fall, he moved to ESPN as a sports development manager. Twitter account says he’s going for an MBA and is an aspiring pro golfer.
Greg Martin: Notre Dame captain went into the energy field. This year, he founded a company called EdgePoint, which “represents the next generation of smart grid solutions.”
Oguchi Onyewu: Starting defender for Spain’s Malaga, which won Champions League Group C ahead of his former team, Milan. Take that! Also has a reputation for reducing Mexican forwards to tears and frustration. Just look at this picture. And he and Jay DeMerit will be forever famous for shutting down Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals.
Raul Rivera: Spring 1999 only; didn’t play in U17 World Cup. NSCAA junior college All-American (a division below Dane Richards and Omar Cummings). Spent a lot of time with the PDL’s Fresno Fuego but took 2010 off to work on his degree. Showed up for Fuego preseason in 2011 but wasn’t on season roster. The Soccernet piece said he was also working with van customizer SportsMobile. Found nothing after that.
Matt Roberts: Spring 1999 only; didn’t play in U17 World Cup. Declined to be interviewed for Soccernet piece. Went to Maryland and made the ACC honor roll.
Abe Thompson: Fall 1999 only but DID play in U17 World Cup. Went to Maryland, played a few years in MLS with Dallas, Kansas City and Houston, played a bit for the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers and then retired this fall to move into the USL’s administrative ranks.
Seth Trembly: Might be best known for missing a Colorado Rapids game to go to his prom. Played a bit with Colorado and Salt Lake over the next few years and was RSL’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2006. Moved into youth coaching with Colorado Rush and now with Albion Soccer Club in San Diego.
Peter Withers: Fall 1999 only; didn’t play in U17 World Cup. Played for Ohio State and went on to work for adidas, where he’s now soccer sports marketing manager.
Alexander Yi: Went to UCLA, then Belgium’s Royal Antwerp, then FC Dallas. Hamstring problems ended his career, and he went back to school — first at Dayton, where he also started coaching, then back at UCLA, where he also works with the Galaxy’s academy program.
So leave any other updates and observations in the comments. Which class should we do next?