Houston Dynamo Academy: Maximizing return on investment

Last Saturday I was treated to yet another magnificent performance by the Houston Dynamo Academy U-18 team. They completely dominated Lonestar Academy SC in a game that at first seemed like it might go either way. The Houston Dynamo took a few minutes to get into a rhythm, but after defending an early barrage of attacks from their opponents their talent rose to the top.

Houston’s midfield ended up being way too much for the opposing team as Koloko and Lucatero took care of possession and started connecting with the forwards. Koloko was a treat to see as a starter. As I had stated in the preview to that game, Koloko was a player that I wanted to see start since I hadn’t seen him in that role during the previous game against FC Dallas.

My prediction of his ability to control the midfield as a starter came to fruition and he added an extra spark to the team that couldn’t be ignored. Lonestar couldn’t double team Koloko effectively because they knew that Luca would then be left wide open to connect with Charly Flores. The chemistry that those three youngsters showed on the field cannot be created and has to come organically. Luca, Flores, and Koloko are a trio that’s capable of instilling fear into any team that they face. The Academy ended up winning 4-2 with 3 of those goals were split evenly by these three players. 

After being in awe of their performance, something crossed my mind; why should we invest in youth that’s coming from abroad or even another city when we have a talented crop of players in our very own Academy? In the past, the Houston Dynamo Academy has not received the financial backing that they should be receiving. These players deserve a dedicated staff that puts them on a diet and training regiment to follow while they aren’t at a training. However, I cannot really fault the front office for not providing them with one since our first team hasn’t even had one. Now, though, with Canetti’s “Dynamo 3.0” being put into action, this is something that I want to see changed.

These players have the talent to one day become professionals, and I don’t just mean Flores, Luca, and Koloko. There are others like Sterling Noreiga, Pat Wall, Josue Palomino, the Martinez Duo, and others. The thing is that they just can’t be sent through each level when they reach a certain benchmark like age, games played, or certain stats. Our owners need to pump money into these programs so that when a certain players is seen as having that “it” factor, they are paired with a life-coach that starts helping them build the muscle, stamina, and maturity to become a professional.

Talent isn’t everything. If all you needed to make it as a professional was talent then I could go to any pick-up game in a park and hand out contracts like crazy. However, many of these players, while skilled, do not have the mental or physical strength to make it as professionals. Our lack of implementing a system to support overall development might be the reason why a couple of homegrown players didn’t quite cut it for the first team.

Somebody in our ownership, and front office if that’s where the problem lies, needs to see that this is an investment that will pay for itself and even turn a profit. For example, let’s say that tomorrow the Academy is given 1 million dollars to hire more staff, upgrade equipment, and go abroad to study other programs, that money is not going to be a loss. Eventually a player with talent will benefit from this investment, he will join the first team, start selling jerseys with his name on it, and even connect with the community better than other players because he’s an actual Houstonian.

That connection with the community will sell more tickets and merchandise and some return will be had, but that’s not where it ends. If this player keeps on improving, the Houston Dynamo can eventually sell him abroad for a couple of million dollars like other teams have done in the past, Yedlin being a great example. That in itself would pay for the initial investment, the money the player made would also help fund the academy, and more stars will be produced.

Eventually a time will come when the team isn’t entirely dependent on spending money abroad, and they can just sign players straight out of their “farm teams”. The Academy can become the gift that keeps on giving. I know that I’m making this seem easier than it actually is, and it’s really actually difficult. You have to invest in the right places, people, and have a staff that’s motivated enough to go out and study what’s going on around the World in other clubs.

I’m going to end this by stating one final thing: we’re to blame for this, as well. By we I don’t mean the fan base, it’s not fan base’s fault, I mean the media. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m part of the media now. Obviously, I’m not part of your traditional media, however, if we (media) were to dedicate more time on the Academy more people would beg the front office to make some changes. That’s why one night I sent a random e-mail to Hal, and told him that we should start covering the Academy for Orange in the Oven.

We both knew that we would be losing money in this, because as everybody else that writes for one of these sites knows, we aren’t making any money dedicating our time to this. However, we knew that what we lost in gas money and time, we would be repaid back tenfold by being introduced to an aspect of the beautiful game that is often overlooked in our fair city.

The Academy deserves this. Houston deserves this. It is with this in mind that I challenge every single one of our readers, and anybody else that has a blog, website, podcast, radio show, or random social media account to come out with us and watch a game. Let’s spread the word on the wonders that James Clarkson is currently doing with the Houston Dynamo Academy.

We may be overlooking something that you can point out to us, and then we can use our sites to mention it. If we want a bright future in Houston Dynamo soccer, we have to take some responsibility in helping to shape it. Now with that mind, there’s a game tomorrow, and there will be another game in November that you can attend.

The remaining games in November are:

  • November 8th vs Colorado Rush at 2PM. Houston Sports Park.
  • November 15th at Texas Rush at 1PM. Bear Branch Soccer Complex
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