Burlingame Dragons: A Deeper Look
The San Jose Earthquakes Youth Development program took a huge step forward when they announced the addition of a U23 PDL team last year. For anyone who doesn’t know, PDL is short for Premier Development League and is a development league sponsored by United Soccer Leagues in the United States and Canada. It’s part of the United States soccer league system and is currently considered the top-level men’s amateur soccer competition in the United States. This league is for players who are in the NCAA. This is important because there are strict rules for players to be able to keep their college eligibility, that’s why PDL was formed, for college soccer players to have more games to develop, especially because the NCAA soccer schedule is very short. PDL is a perfect way for MLS clubs to keep an eye on, and further develop their youth academy alums.
As many already know, the San Jose Earthquakes U23 team based in Turlock was dissolved and turned into the Burlingame Dragon’s FC, under a new structure. The team is owned by Nick Swinmurn, founder of Zappos.com and a minority investor in the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and David Ebersman, former CFO of Facebook and Genentech. The business side is run by them, and the soccer operations are run by the Quakes. This is a great partnership, because it allows the Earthquakes to focus on the most important thing, developing the players. My only argument is that the Quakes lost a chance to spread more brand awareness by not being able to name the team “Burlingame Earthquakes”, but the pros heavily out way the cons. A huge factor in the decision was the location of the team. Turlock was just too far away from the Bay Area for a lot of the players. Remember, these are college kids who are not paid 1 cent.
Alright, so now that we’ve gone over the basics of PDL and the Dragons, now it’s time for some updates. According to my sources there will be a lot more Earthquake academy alums in camp this year then there were last year. The point of the team is to develop our homegrown eligible players. Only players that have played for an MLS teams YOUTH academy for at least 1 year are eligible to sign a homegrown contact, players who have only played for our U23 team are not eligible and can only be acquired by the first team via MLS Superdraft. The team only had about 2 former youth academy players last season. I’ll give them some slack being it was the team’s first year in existence and they were feeling things out, also there weren’t many alums to choose from given how young our youth academy is. But the PDL team doesn’t have to consist of all youth academy alums, it is also a good opportunity for the Quakes to scout potential draft targets. This is a key strategy for the Timbers U23s who had current Quakes players Mark Sherrod and Fatai Alashe on their PDL team at one point. A good mix for me would be around 7 youth academy alums, and around 4 top college prospects with no ties to MLS academies.
2 prospects to keep an eye out for are center-back Josh Morton of Cal and right-back Bryce Clark of SMU (Dallas). These 2 graduated from the Quakes Academy program last year and have been absolutely tearing it up in the college ranks. Josh is ranked as the #1 best college freshmen in the country by TopDrawerSoccer, and Bryce started all 18 matches on the back line for SMU, totaling 1,609 minutes of action. He was second on the team with five assists and had 17 shots, he scored the match winner at Temple for his first career goal and got his second against No. 24 USF. Bryce was part of a back line that only allowed 18 goals in 18 matches, and was sixth in both assists and assists per game in The American Athletic Conference. Needless to say, he’s a very attacking savvy, 2-way right-back. These 2 excite me the most because they are prospects in positions we need very badly. 3 of our 4 CB’s on the first team are 30+ years old. Our right-backs aren’t too far off either with Marvell Wynne being 28 (turning 29 in May) and Brandon Barklage also at 28 years of age.
As far as potential line-ups go, Coach Dana Taylor has not mentioned much, but here’s my mock line-up based on who was with the team last year, who our top academy alumni prospects are, and who the top local college players are.
Let’s start from the bottom. Many of you should know Kendall McIntosh, a highly rated goalkeeper for Santa Clara University who is HG (homegrown) eligible for the Quakes. He’s been part of the USMNT youth programs as well. At left-back I have Christian de Luna, normally a center-back for the University of San Francisco, Christian can also play fullback very effectively, but I mostly put him there because we’ve already got 3 CBs and he’s the most equipped to play outside back. He is also HG eligible. Next to him at CB we have his CB partner at USF, Josh Smith. The German international was part of our PDL team last year, partnering with Ramon Del Campo to form a dynamic duo. His familiarity with PDL and chemistry with De Luna should serve as very valuableto the Dragons. Smith is not HG eligible. Next to Josh I have the other Josh, Josh Morton. Morton has to be starting for me given he is our top prospect and is highly rated by John Doyle. The 2 Joshes will make a great pairing. At right-back I have Bryce Clark. Bryce will roam forward and join the attack every time he gets. He’s a dynamic passer and has an extremely high soccer IQ; he rarely gets caught up the field even though he attacks all the time. AT SMU, he was also taking set pieces all the time. He is HG eligible. I really believe this back 4 can be the best in the PDL. With the chemistry between De Luna and Smith from being CB partners at USF and the familiarity between Morton and Clark from the Quakes U-18 academy, our PDL team with an advantage. Not to mention, these are all quality players as well.
At left-mid I have Brandon Vincent of Stanford. Although he is a left-back, he led Stanford in scoring with 6 goals last year and led me to believe he can effectively play left-mid. I put him there because he would allow freedom for us to play a 4-3-3/ diamond. He’s a true 2-way player that you need if you want to play with such an attacking formation. He is not HG eligible. At the 6 (D-Mid) I have Ty Thompson, he is the brother of our beloved Tommy Thompson. He’s a horse at CM for Stanford. Not HG eligible. At right-mid I have Corey Baird of Stanford. He had 4 goals and 4 assists for the Cardinal last season as a Freshman and is an exciting young player. Not HG eligible. At the #10 (CAM) spot I have the 3rd Thompson bro and that’s Tanner Thompson of Indiana University. Trust me, I’m not picking the Thompson’s for their name recognition, they are quality players who definitely will become pro soccer players. Not HG eligible. I really like this midfield for the same reason as the back-line, not only are they quality players, they have familiarity with each other. The wingers are teammates at Stanford, and the CM’s are brothers.
Up top, we have Christian Thierjung of Cal, who scored 7 goals and had 2 assists last season. He is the top scorer for Cal that is coming back next year (The other guys were taken in the MLS Superdraft). Last but not least I have a very ambitious pick and that’s Chimdum Mez. Yes, the same Mez that the Quakes drafted this year in the 4th round of the MLS Superdraft this year. He is currently on trial with the Charlotte Independence of the USL Pro (D3). If that doesn’t go through, it wouldn’t be crazy to see him with the Dragons. Last year we had a player in the exact same situation: Devante Dubose. He was drafted by the Quakes, not signed, but played for our U23 team to further develop and is now with the Arizona United of USL Pro. It would be great to see Mez with the Dragons. This line-up only contains 4 HG eligible players, but that’s a step up from last year and it will only increase every year. In 2 years we could field a completely youth academy alumni team, so there’s nothing to worry about in that regard.
I hope you enjoyed my super nerdy first article for QuakesEpicenter, this stuff matters more than people think, and I hope one day more people will follow the Earthquakes Youth Development system. It’s not that hard to follow and it’s just as fun as following the first team once you know more about it in my opinion. The Dragons will be playing in the 2015 Lamar hunt U.S. Open Cup this year, so definitely keep an eye on that. Below is a link to the Burlingame Dragons site followed by a bio of all the players I listed on my mock starting line-up. Go Quakes! Go Dragons!