Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Myth of the Tahuichi Gold Mine

Paul Gardner, the NY Sun soccer writer, always seems to do a good job staying on message regarding MLS. His message, "you need a more attractive product on the field". That's hardly a controversial stance but I do take some exception to his article, "How MLS lost the Tahuichi gold mine", in October's Soccer America magazine.

Back in 1998 deputy commisioner of MLS, Sunil Gulati, recognized the quality of Jaime Moreno and Marco Etcheverry. Knowing they each came out of the Tahuichi youth club in Bolivia Gulati made a bold move. According to Gardner "He brokered a deal with Tahuichi, under which MLS paid Tahuichi $100,000 a year, in return for first refusal on any promising youngsters." After Gulati lost his job the following year "the deal continued for a couple of years and then was quietly abandoned."

This according to Paul Gardner is "a decision that now stands out as the most stupidly short-sighted gaffe the league has ever made." I'm sorry but we are talking MLS, I'm thinking taken in context this isn't even in the top ten of stupidly short-sighted gaffes the League has made.

At the time $100,000 annually to a struggling League bleeding losses was huge. The fact that MLS was seeing no return on that money was even worse. Only one player began a MLS career out of Tahuichi, Joselito Vaca was drafted by Dallas in 2001.

The decision was also tempered by the fact that the League had no infrastructure in place to handle youth players adequately, as Gardner points out "[Tahuichi has] consistently...produced technically skilled players - young players of considerable promise. No more than promise, of course - this is a youth setup, and the next step is the responsibility of pro clubs." The League wasn't in a position to develop players at the time.

The reality of the situation is that MLS has not lost sight of the need for flair or the talent South of the border. This year a dozen players were signed from Central and South America and only three used Designated Player slots, while all had immediate impact for their team (although Denilson's was negative).

So while Gardner takes jabs at MLS for its short sightedness, Steve Goff reports that DC United is doing what it does best, finding and signing talent.

"United Coach Tom Soehn and General Manager Dave Kasper are in South America this week on a scouting mission. One source tells me they are attempting to finalize a deal with Argentina's Juan Sebastian Veron. Another source tells me they are looking at Veron as well as others."

Back in June when it was announced that Etcheverry would be working for DC United again I had posted a link to an article about El Diablo's visit to San Lorenzo. Who knows maybe another youth academy agreement is afoot. But I gotta tell ya, I'm pretty happy with the job United does identifying and signing talent.

No comments: