Yesterday I wrote about Jordan Morris and his looming decision to sign with MLS. I want to be clear, Morris forgoing MLS for Europe is very different than DeAndre Yedlin quickly bolting to sign with Tottenham Hotspur.
Both players’ actions are similar in that they say, “MLS is not the best league in the world. I want to test myself against better competition.” Thing is, no one is saying otherwise. MLS is not the best league in the world. Better players play elsewhere. Morris skipping out on the domestic league boldly insults MLS’s, and the American soccer infrastructure’s, ability to develop soccer talent. Whereas Yedlin’s decision was nothing but good publicity for MLS.
Yedlin and Morris had very different career paths. Morris practically has Lebron-esque hype. USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann raves about him and the Sounders are salivating at the chance to sign him. And Morris was capped by the senior team yesterday (and had some dangerous touches) in the USMNT’s 4-1 drubbing to Ireland. This is a far cry from Yedlin’s experience.
DeAndre Yedlin was a nobody when he became a Sounder. Like Morris now, Yedlin was a collegiate sophomore when he signed his first professional contract. But Yedlin wasn’t getting a sniff from US Soccer during his Akron days. Before a random injury to Adam Johansson opened the door for Yedlin to play, he was just another talented youngster. No one expected much from him but now he’s the owner of shiny new contract with an EPL club. Here lies the rub, the chief difference between Morris and Yedlin’s situations.
MLS did right by DeAndre Yedlin. MLS commissioner Don Garber and Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer despise Klinsmann’s notion that MLS cannot develop young players or challenge developed players. This narrative, they contend, stunts the sport’s growth in our country. Yedlin is a huge piece of evidence that Garber and Hanauer are right. Sigi Schmid and the Sounders coaches are responsible for Yedlin’s rapid development. Klinsmann rostered Yedlin in Brazil mostly because he liked what he saw from the Sounders rightback. It is hypocritical for Klinsmann to denigrate MLS at the same time he lauds Yedlin. Seattle gave Yedlin serious minutes and serious coaching. And he’s a better player for it.
Yedlin can only jump straight to Spurs because he developed in MLS. Spurs are, usually, a top five club in the EPL. It isn’t like Yedlin’s signing with an Eredivisie also-ran. Too many Americans go overseas and fail to see significant minutes or end up in leagues no better than our domestic one. How is this better for a young player’s development than the Yedlin experience? No one knows where Morris will end up or if he will ever deliver on the promise of his talent. But he would be wise to consider Yedlin’s past eighteen months and make his decision accordingly. I feel it is the best possible decision for the young man, as an American soccer fan and a devotee of the Eternal Blue Forever Green.