USL

Getty Images

Orange County SC signs 14-year-old to pro deal

Leave a comment

Freddy Adu no longer holds the distinction, or pressure, of being the youngest signing in American soccer history.

That’s because on Monday, USL side Orange County SC signed 14-year-old Francis Jacobs to a professional contract. Jacobs, according to a press release from the club, had interest “from multiple European clubs,” but turned down a move abroad to stay close to home in Southern California. Per USL, Jacobs is eligible to play matches through the rest of the season. It’s unclear whether this type of contract allows Jacobs to keep his NCAA eligibility, should he potentially need to develop in college down the road.

[READ: The First Premier League Power Rankings]

“Francis is a special Orange County talent and has shown a maturity on the field way beyond his years,” Orange County SC general manager Oliver Wyss said in a statement. “He is the perfect model of player to develop in our pathway to professional program that we have established here in Orange County. The entire organization is committed to providing him with guidance, training and support as he begins the first step in what we believe will be a long professional soccer career. Our training environment will allow him to learn every day from our experienced technical staff and play alongside top pro players, some of which have played on the highest international level in Mexico and Europe. Francis has a bright future ahead and we are proud to have him and his family as part of Orange County SC.”

Jacobs, though still young, has been called up by the U.S. Soccer to take part in training camps with the U.S. Under-14 Boys National Team. He’s been described as a midfielder, but of course, at that age, he can end up playing anywhere.

Hopefully for Jacobs, this isn’t too much too soon. As Freddy Adu has learned over the course of his career, he bought into his own hype and didn’t work hard enough in training, or work hard enough for his teammates. He was capable of a moment of brilliance, but too often it was nowhere to be found.

For Jacobs however, this could be a chance to take his game to a new level. Playing with and against professionals each week calls for a player’s best, and hopefully over time, as he matures into an adult, he can rise to the challenge.

This isn’t a totally unprecedented move for the USL club. One of Orange County SC’s goalkeepers, 17-year-old Aaron Cervantes, signed ahead of last season and now has become the No. 1 for the team in July. He’s started each of his team’s last five games, helping keep two clean sheets.

USOC wrap: Saint Louis, New Mexico knock out MLS sides (video)

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Leave a comment

USL sides delivered the drama on Wednesday night and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup got five more quarterfinalists to join Atlanta United and Minnesota United.

Still to come Thursday, LAFC and San Jose will decide the eighth slot and a date with Portland Timbers.

[ MORE: VAR will not review GKs on PKs in PL ]


DC United 1-2 New York City FC

Wayne Rooney‘s 32nd minute goal gave the hosts a lead which would only last six minutes, as Alexandru Mitrita and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi made it 2-1 before halftime on the way to an away win at Audi Field.

Portland Timbers 4-0 LA Galaxy

Three goals in nine first half minutes helped spring Portland to an easy win over disinterested LA. Guillermo Barros Schelotto didn’t bring the majority of his first choice stars to Oregon, and the Timbers routed their Western Conference opposition to the tune of a 19-7 edge in shots.

Saint Louis FC 1-0 FC Cincinnati

They won’t be forgetting this any time soon; Saint Louis got a stoppage time goal from Sam Fink against their old USL rivals to book a place in the USOC quarterfinals.

Orlando City 2-1 New England Revolution

What began with stars on the bench and a 0-0 score line through 90 minutes really escalated quickly in extra time. Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele gave Orlando a 2-0 lead through 15 minutes of extra time, but Carles Gil set up Justin Rennecks early in the second frame to up the drama. Ultimately, Nani‘s men had enough despite New England’s 22 shots.

FC Dallas 1-2 New Mexico United

FC Dallas took the lead through U-20 World Cup star Brandon Servania, but Kevaughn Frater scored again, and ex-Colorado Rapids draft pick Sam Hamilton added the match winner.

Landon Donovan to lead new San Diego USL franchise

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Landon Donovan will be the leading man as the USL launch a new franchise in San Diego.

The owner of the team will be Warren Smith, who has been involved in minor league baseball teams and founded Sacramento Republic FC who have been one of the most successful lower-league teams in recent history and are now serious contenders to become one of the next MLS expansion franchises with their new ownership structure in place. 

Donovan, 37, will be the executive vice president of soccer operations as well as a minority investor, as San Diego will begin play at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego in either the 2020 or 2021 season in the USL Championship, the division directly below Major League Soccer.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated about the new team, Donovan revealed why being a big part of something from scratch in San Diego is so important to him.

“San Diego is my new home. I don’t anticipate ever leaving, and I want to do something in this community around soccer that’s special,” Donovan said. “So why wouldn’t I want to do something with someone who clearly knows what they’re doing, who has a track record of success, of doing things with quality, and who’s as passionate as I am? Once I sat and thought about it and was able to let go of the disappointment of the previous two years, this was an absolute no-brainer.”

Donovan’s ties with San Diego has seen him involved in an ownership group which tried to bring an MLS franchise to the Californian city in recent years, but their SoccerCity plan failed to gain backing from local government and is pretty much done and dusted.

The MLS and USMNT legend moved to San Diego to be closer to his in-laws while he and his wife can bring up their family, and he is eager to do all he can to develop soccer in the area.

Donovan has made multiple comebacks in his playing career, most recently with Club Leon in Mexico and the San Diego Sockers of the Major Indoor Soccer League, and that came after heading back to the LA Galaxy after his first retirement in 2016.

But now it seems he is fully focused on matters off the pitch and on developing a focused, successful USL club to San Diego.

Smith’s expertise from Sacramento will be invaluable to building the club from the bottom up, while Donovan will be tasked with creating the structure of the team and everything on the pitch.

San Diego has a rich soccer culture and if TV audiences are anything to go by, there is huge potential for a USL team to gather serious momentum quickly which will turn heads at MLS HQ.

U.S. Open Cup draw for Round of 16 after New Mexico surprises Colorado

@opencup
2 Comments

A minimum of one lower league side will feature in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s Round of 16.

New Mexico United got a helping hand from a red card, defeating Colorado Rapids in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule announced ]

Devon Sandoval gave the USL visitors a stunning lead, but Diego Rubio and Nicolas Mezquida scored on either side of halftime to restore order to the MLS hosts.

Then Axel Sjoberg was shown a 72nd minute red card, and Kevaughn Frater pushed an equalizer over the line deep into stoppage time to set up penalty kicks.

A second team could join New Mexico, but that would require a surprising win by Charleston Battery on Thursday versus Atlanta United.

A non-MLS club has won the USOC since the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.

Round of 16 schedule

Columbus Crew v. Atlanta United/Charleston Battery (USL)
Saint Louis FC v. FC Cincinnati
Orlando City v. New England Revolution
DC United v. NYCFC
LAFC v. San Jose Earthquakes
Portland Timbers v. LA Galaxy
Houston Dynamo v. Minnesota United
FC Dallas v. New Mexico United (USL)

USL League One takes its first strides

@USLLeagueOne
2 Comments

What does success look like for USL League One?

The newly-minted third level of American soccer, below Major League Soccer and the USL Championship, debuts Friday with South Georgia Tormenta FC hosting Greenville Triumph SC.

[ MORE: PST chats with League One commish ]

Put plainly: There have never been more professional players plying their trade in the United States and Canada. Between MLS, USL, the Canadian Premier League, and select teams in the NPSL and PDL (not to mention the looming specter of NISA), jobs are there.

So what does that mean to the third tier in the United States? Good question, me.

Well first off, there are certainly names you’ll recognize. John Harkes is the manager of Greenville. American soccer architect Peter Wilt runs Forward Madison SC. One-time USMNT prospect Conor Doyle is with Chattanooga Red Wolves.

But really this feels like a chance for players who might’ve normally washed out of MLS, USL, or — once upon a time — the NASL to get a second look at growing their games at a professional level. Much like the New York Red Bulls have been lauded for producing gems from within their PDL and USL structure, League One can serve as that vehicle.

In other words, rejection by one wonky manager who only signs behemoths or European players won’t signal the end of a promising career built up through academy or college roots.

That’s not terribly sexy, though, and in truth more eyes will be trained on things like attendance figures, viewer counts, and the quality of goals that cut through the mess of highlights on social media and TV (a robust start-up TV deal will help League One here).

It will be interesting to see how USL League One teams handle success. Some, like Toronto FC II and Orlando City B, are just here to develop players for parent clubs, but most markets are going to have big ambitions. Certainly commish Steven Short and Co. will want to grow the league as a unit, rising tides raising all ships, but what happens when USL League One gets its own FC Cincinnati or Sacramento Republic? With no promotion and relegation, will the USL Championship find room for them? And how is the league equipping itself for those tests?

And player success: When a team is off to a roaring start and an MLS club offers a significant fee for the leading scorer’s services, a fee that might fund the roster for a year, how does a front office handle that for its fans?

A massive front office and cozy relationship with MLS will help, and USL owner Alec Papadakis is back on the U.S. Soccer Federation’s board of directors. Short has set himself up to be the right conduit between USL League Two (nee PDL) and the Championship. It’s not cynical to say that these facts strengthen the league and will also make owners think twice about their status in a very safe place.

Still, Friday night is an entertaining one even for those who have a pony in another part of the race, whether NISA, NPSL Pro, or some other nascent organization. Several new clubs and some old familiar faces — looking at you, Richmond Kickers — are taking shots at stardom in a combustible but growing climate.