INTERVIEW: GARRY HAYES
As a pioneer in the movement of American soccer players to Europe during the Nineties, John Harkes enjoyed a fine career in England, winning the League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday in 1991. He also played for Derby County, West Ham United, DC United, Nottingham Forest and New England Revolution, before retiring at Columbus Crew in 2002. Now one of the leading voices on US soccer, he gives TheInsideLeft the low down on his top six rookies from the 2012 MLS season so far. Spoiled for choice, it didn’t take us long to break the numerical restrictions of the My Five series, but we hope you’ll forgive us as we find out why Harkes believes these Stateside prospects have what it takes to shine…
Image: Courtesy of John Harkes
TEAM: DC UNITED
‘Nick has come in under the radar and has stepped into a role on the wing with ease and has looked very capable for DC United. He is from Louisville University and can play on either wing, which is a big strength, although he is primarily a right-winger.
‘In the beginning part of the season he was playing way beyond his years and scored on his debut. He has a great touch and is very aggressive and likes to run at defenders, which causes teams a lot of problems. For a player so young, he is very calm in possession and seems to handle the pressure well when he is in tight situations.
‘I like him and while he’s picked up a few injuries of late that have kept him out of the team, I have no doubt that when he’s fully fit, he’ll be a first-team regular. He’s been an important part of the team this year and has definitely played a role in DC’s resurgence.’
TEAM: NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
‘He was a UCLA product and when New England signed him he made an instant impact at the start of the year. Kelyn (pictured below, centre) is small in stature, but he is very skillful and has excellent vision, creating a lot of opportunities.
‘He has been in and out of the team of late, but I was very impressed with his performances at the start of the year. I had actually seen him play for UCLA before he came into MLS and he’s one of those free-flowing midfielders that is a joy to watch.
‘It’s Jay Heaps’ first year as a coach and his first at New England, so he is still tinkering with the team to find his best line-up. The college game in America doesn’t really prepare players for MLS and it could be better, which is also why I think Kelyn has been in and out recently. But give him time and he will be one to look out for.’
TEAM: VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
‘I know I was supposed to list five players here, but Darren is a first-year rookie striker with Vancouver who has impressed me a lot and I couldn’t leave him out.
‘He has played for the Jamaican U23 team and is quick off the mark. He can sustain his pace, too, and has shown this season that he is more than capable of changing the game when he needs to.
‘He is an excellent finisher and I think he is only going to get better with age and as he becomes more experienced. He was selected second overall in the Super Draft from the University of Akron in Ohio and is a dynamic player.
‘He is tall, so has that physical presence that every good striker needs, but he has that killer instinct in front of goal, too. If he continues as he is, he will definitely catch the eye of many other clubs and I am predicting he will go far in his career.’
TEAM: NEW YORK RED BULLS
‘Ryan wasn’t expected to come in and challenge for a starting place right away, but he has kept his position in goal after some great performances for the Red Bulls. He does the basics well for a goalkeeper and is good technically, but he also reads the game well and is confident in the box, collecting crosses. He is still developing as you would expect with a rookie, but he is already looking very strong.
‘Before he came into the system I knew very little of Ryan (pictured below) and when people discussed what the class of 2012 would be like, he is one of the guys who has surprised everybody. He has done very well, though, playing for a club where there is a lot of pressure on the players, showing his mental strength. That is good to see as sometimes young players in MLS can struggle with that side of their game. Players in Europe tend to grow up faster as they’re put in more testing scenarios, so it’s good to see this quality in Ryan.’
TEAM: COLORADO RAPIDS
‘Tony is another of the rookies who came in and did very well at the beginning of the season. The one challenge he had was that Connor Casey, who is a former US international, was coming back from injury, so he wasn’t sure how much time he was going to get. He didn’t let that affect him, though, and he impressed.
‘He is great striker of the ball and has a good nose for goal. He links up play very well and his movement is very good. He is always developing and he is an excellent prospect. He is one player who I would be very interested to see in a year or two to see where he’s at as I think he’s a guy with a lot of talent.
‘What I also like is that he can play in different positions in attack, either through the middle, off another striker or in a deep-laying position.’
TEAM: PHILADELPHIA UNION
‘Raymon is starting to come of age at the Union and that is good to see. I like him, although I have to say, I have never quite pin-pointed what his full strengths are as a player. He can play out wide or in the middle and has looked good in either role.
‘He knows there is still a lot more to add to his game, but this season Raymon (pictured below) has been effective coming off the bench and contributing. With the coaching changes recently at the Union, he has also grabbed his chance. John Hackworth is the interim coach at the moment after Peter Novak got fired and he’s given Raymon more game time. He has really blossomed in that time and has done very well. With more opportunities, I think he’s a player who can achieve a lot.’