When you think of some of the best teams in the world you think of the stars who dominate the headlines, and the list is endless. This isn’t necessarily what makes these teams successful. Something that does is a young player that challenges the players around them to be better every day.
Usually you see this young player break through at some point in the season, and make some noise for themselves. It happens at all levels, and it holds everyone to a higher standard especially at this level. The last thing a veteran player wants to do is loose their spot to a promising player. Your minutes will be gone, your value will lower, and if you want to “save your career” you generally have to move your family. So when young players join training they are targets, they are kicked a lot and they are tested to see if they crack.
When this young player survives this and proves they have what it takes to play at this level, players and staff notice. It’s a trial by fire, and generally this is rewarded by the coaches.
Whether it is minutes in a cup game, or a debut off the bench, young players proving their worth up the level for everyone around them. This is what Thomás Chacón was brought in to do. Earn your spot, and raise the level around you. Problem is Chacón hasn’t done that since arriving in the Twin Cities.
There could be a variety of reasons why, when you add a transfer value you are treated differently then a young player coming through the academy. At the end of the day the veterans like Robin Lod and Ethan Finlay have played well enough to not give him an opportunity. Why Chacón hasn’t worked is a question that needs to be asked in the front office, and a realization that it’s not over for him is important as well. Sometimes young players are “no brainers” and you just clear out the way in front of them because they are game breaking. However, most of them need to be brought through on a “player pathway” and take time and more importantly trust, this is something Minnesota United has not done a great job of yet.
When you have a player pathway, it allows you to develop from within that fit the clubs ethos. When you don’t have players that fit to the point you’d look to get them involved with the first team, you can go out and find a player that would fit.
A perfect current example is Caden Clark.
I’m not saying Caden would be as successful in Minnesota as he has been in New Jersey. I’m also not saying Caden is the player MNUFC are missing, but he is the type of player they are missing in the current cycle of this team.
When you evaluate a young promising player, you want to see how they look on the ball. From 1v1 situations to how they look in tight spaces, and quite frankly do they look to almost “break the rules” around them. Then you add in the concepts of how they move off the ball and the intensity they play with on both sides of the ball. This is what you evaluate to bring them into trainings.
As they start to train you start to see the nuance. Does this player fit in with the group, do they look to create opportunities while going forward, do they have the focus to do the little things every day? These questions are things the manager needs to find answers to in order to trust them on the field.
Caden does just this if he gets on the field for Red Bull. In addition Caden recognizes space around him, which allows him to be able interprets the next movement he needs to make.
Caden Clark's head was on a swivel for his goal last night pic.twitter.com/TF9ROk7vbr— Matthew (@false_fullback) October 15, 2020
Caden Clark was never going to be a Loon, he fits perfectly into New York Red Bulls system and being in that system opens up potential opportunities abroad. I’m not sure what his position would be in Europe, but what he is doing now he can play there with another year or so.
That’s awesome for MN youth soccer, and it reaffirms the belief there are talented players in the area that are good enough to play professional soccer at a respectable level. This was never about Thomás Chacón or Caden Clark it was always about something much more.
The player MNUFC are missing, isn’t a particular player or position. It’s about an identity and a culture. Having a young player break through galvanizes everyone around them, and that’s not tactics it’s about creating the environment everyday where people want to get better.
I would love to see those players be Minnesotan, but if that's not what you want to do you have to identify the right player and actually develop them.