After taking over D.C. United as head coach, Wayne Rooney vowed to highlight the homegrown talent on the roster. He promised to rejuvenate the squad, and take into consideration the academy talent that long formed part of the D.C. United organization.
On Saturday night, Rooney followed through. The head coach started 15-year-old defender Matai Akinmboni against Real Salt Lake.
“I think I’m a man of my word,” Rooney grinned after the match. “What I said to the players when I came in was ‘If you perform well in training, you’ll get your chance to play.’ He [Matai] has been excellent in training and he deserved to come in.”
His time on the pitch saw Akinmboni become the third-youngest player in league history to make his MLS debut at 15 years old, and the fourth player to start a match before his 16th birthday to join Freddy Adu, Alphonso Davies and Obed Vargas on the list. And it’s only the start.
“He’s 15 and I have to protect him. But I just felt he was ready to come in and play. Is he going to play every game? Of course not. He’s still a very young boy. But for him and for us to see him playing in an away game in difficult circumstances and performing the way he did as a 15-year-old — he’s got a very bright future,” added Rooney.
“I got everything I wanted from the 45 minutes that he played tonight that I wanted to see. I’ll keep trying to develop him as a player and hopefully be seeing more of him in this season and for years to come.”
His start comes just weeks after the defender signed an official contract with the club on August 31, but his standout performances in training and with USL Championship side Loudon United propelled him towards a place on Rooney’s squad.
But the night wasn’t all celebratory.
D.C. United’s 0-0 draw leaves the club in last place of the Eastern Conference table, and officially rules them of contention for the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs. With four games left to be played before the end of the season, Rooney maintained he expects players to give it their all on the pitch.
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Newcastle set to finalise deal for Garang Kuol
Australia international Garang Kuol is set to finalise a move to Newcastle United, sources have told 90min.
90min revealed earlier this month that Newcastle were in talks with his club Central Coast Mariners, and now a deal is understood to be in place with Eddie Howe’s side seeing off competition from various clubs, including German giants Borussia Dortmund.
Newcastle were waiting for Kuol to complete his international duty with Australia this month before finalising the deal. The 18-year-old made his debut against New Zealand on Sunday and is now believed to be heading to Europe.
Kuol and his camp have already agreed terms with Newcastle ahead of a move that would be finalised in January – at which point the Magpies will decide on what to do with him in the short-term.
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As it stands, Kuol would not qualify for a work permit, but that matter could change quickly if he is involved at the World Cup finals. This won’t be known until manager Graham Arnold names his squad in a few weeks.
Newcastle are understood to already have a plan in place to send Kuol on loan to another league in Europe – the length of which will be determined by his work permit standing.
Jurgen Klinsmann & Danny Williams on why so many USMNT players succeed in Germany
Germany has long been a breeding ground for American players, but why do so many success stories from across the pond begin their European adventure there?
The United States men’s national team’s biggest stars first trained in the Bundesliga before making their jump elsewhere, from Christian Pulisic to Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. Giovanni Reyna, meanwhile, is continuing his rapid rise with Borussia Dortmund.
This is nothing new, with the likes of Landon Donovan and Fabian Johnson all using the German top-flight to kick-start successful careers at both club and international levels.
So, is it the similarities in culture between the United States and Germany that makes it such an attractive destination, the style of play, or something else?
“I think culture-wise, Germany and the US are very similar. They’re two countries that are full of ‘doers’. They don’t want to wait for the other nations, they’re just doing their thing. America is doing its own thing and Germans just like to go ahead and do their thing,” former USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told 90min.
“The German culture is very open to young talent coming in and giving it a shot, try it out, see how far you can take it. And if it doesn’t work, you can still go back home, no problem at all. The Bundesliga is known for giving young players chances. 17, 18, 19 years of age. If you’re good, that’s all it takes, the coach will throw you into the cold water and you’ve got to swim, and if the water is too cold, no problem, we can slow down the process.”
As a former US international who was born and raised in Germany, Danny Williams has experienced the pathway between the two countries better than most. The 33-year-old midfielder got his break at Freiburg back in 2010 and also went on to represent Hoffenheim before playing in England with Reading and Huddersfield Town.
He echoed Klinsmann’s sentiments regarding Germany’s willingness to give youth a try, owing – in his opinion – to the country’s much smaller ownership model when compared to clubs in the Premier League.
“I think Germany is one of the best places to develop as a young player because most of the clubs don’t have big owners and there isn’t as much money around like at Chelsea, Arsenal, or Tottenham,” Williams told 90min.
“That’s fine because they still go on and play for those clubs if they succeed in Germany. The tactical and technical education is very good in Germany. I was fortunate enough to go through my youth in these academies and what you learn there is amazing. What I really like about Bundesliga is these young guys are given a chance and they’re trusted by the coach to make the step into the first team, have game time, and not come and be replaced by a superstar if you don’t perform in one or two games, like at Man Utd. They’re a bit more patient with you.”
Across his time in charge of the USMNT and as head coach of multiple Bundesliga outfits, including Bayern Munich, Klinsmann has seen first-hand just how players can excel in Germany, with so many American stars across Europe owing their success to the country.
“I think over decades now, the Bundesliga has proven that model, that’s why a lot of young players give it a shot,” Klinsmann added.
“It’s just wonderful to see so many American players fight their way through it. Maybe they end up in another league but at the end of the day, they have their starting point in the Bundesliga where they become really good, especially if you’re talking about players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, or Tyler Adams. It’s a calibre of player that’s rare to have so many of them in the United States.”
Klinsmann and Williams spoke to 90min at the ‘Bundesliga Common Ground Project Event’ in NYC. For information and more from Williams and Klinsmann, check out our latest our article here and more of our video content from the event on our Twitter and Instagram.
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