SEATTLE - AUGUST 13: Kennedy: a UCSB product - will Spencer be the newest Gaucho? (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
I want to apologize for the delay in this Academy update, as school and illness got in the way. But we are back and running!
Two weeks ago was the critical mini SuperClasico between our Chivas USA youth Academy and the LA Galaxy. The U18s went into the match in first place in the region, with one point separating them from second place (which was occupied by none other than the Galaxy). This game would be significant in not only the rankings, but also for bragging rights, as is usually the case when these two teams meet, no matter the level.
The Goats had the opportunity to go ahead in the first half when they were awarded a penalty kick due to the LA Galaxy goalkeper fouling Marco Delgado in the box. However, their goalkeeper was able to come up big and block Delgado's kick. That didn't stop the Goats from pressuring - Mark Verso was able to slot home a goal after an assist from Delgado. Just before halftime, however, the Galaxy found the back of the net and the teams went into halftime 1-1. The match would end up with the same result. This allowed the Goats to stay top of the West for the time being. They were knocked off the top spot this past weekend due to a bye week and the Galaxy getting a win against Pateadores.
The U16s also played the Galaxy two weeks ago and came away with the same 1-1 result. Again the Goats took the lead with a goal by wonder kid Jorge Ruiz, scoring his ninth of the season in the second half. The Galaxy, however, were able to equalize. Both the U18s and the U16s will be back in action this Saturday against Arsenal FC.
In other youth academy news, star U18 forward Ben Spencer announced via twitter that he has committed to playing for UC Santa Barbara next year. However, it is unclear as to whether this stalls any plans the Chivas USA Front Office has for Spencer. As is widely known. there have been rumors of the team's interest in signing him to a Home Grown contract. However, there are some obstacles in that Spencer is originally a product of the RSL-AZ academy and joined the Goats when Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney took over. As MLS rules stipulate, Academy teams must have players from their regions, with some exceptions (like RSL-AZ having access to the New Mexico market, Spencer's home, due to lack of academies in the region). It is unclear what his status is with Chivas USA and whether or not he will be allowed to sign with the team without having to go through the draft.
All of this bureaucratic red tape could be why he has decided to turn to college as an option. He stated via twitter that his commitment to UCSB is not set in stone and is just a precaution. Looking at the case of someone like Mark Pelosi, a U17 World Cup player who committed to UCLA yet ended up playing professionally for Liverpool, a commitment to a university program is only in case other plans fall through. While it would be great if Chivas could sign him, as having a young forward prospect is always great, it does not seem very likely. As RSL GM Garth Lagerwey recently told Top Drawer Soccer, "his rights are in dispute." So, where does that leave us with retaining our Academy players? Another "Stevie Rodriguez" failure? Not necessarily. While it will be unfortunate should we not able to sign Spencer as a Home Grown, be it before college, or when he ultimately decides to go pro, it's more a testament to the convoluted nature of MLS rules than it is to our team's ability to keep players. It's quite obvious that we have strong youth players who enjoy playing for this program. It seems to be more a matter of whether or not MLS will allow signings to happen.
Either way, Spencer has positioned himself quite nicely. Should he end up being a part of our first team, then we will have a great young striker prospect who we know will be a great asset for the future. Should he end up at Santa Barbara in the fall, then he will be joining a fine institution, both in soccer and academically, that boasts the best college soccer fans in the nation and a great pedigree for producing professional players (including our own Dan Kennedy).