Clarifying the Hertzog situation (how MLS has tweaked its GA program)

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By IVES GALARCEP

When Corey Hertzog was placed in the pool for the MLS Waiver Draft on Monday the move turned heads because the move came just two years after Hertzog was drafted by the New York Red Bulls as a Generation adidas player. The natural question became, “How did a GA player who barely played manage to graduate from the GA program?”

The answer involves a change in Major League Soccer’s approach to GA contracts two years ago, sources told SBI on Tuesday. In 2011, MLS began offering shorter guaranteed portions of Generation adidas contracts to older GA signings (players signed to GA deals as college juniors), with some players being given GA deals that had just two guaranteed years. Now, such players enter their third seasons in the league on option years, options that aren’t likely to be picked up if a player hasn’t made significant progress toward the first team (not when those options are in the low six-figure range).

Hertzog never managed to break into the Red Bulls first team, making just five appearances in two seasons (and none in 2012). He did enjoy an impressive loan stint with the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL-Pro League, earning Best XI honors and finishing second in USL-Pro in goals scored with nine (and to clarify one passing notion, Hertzog’s time with the Hammerheads had no effect on him graduating from the GA program).

Hertzog’s success in Wilmington still wasn’t enough to convince the Red Bulls or MLS to pick up a six-figure option on his contract, and thus he was let go. Hertzog then went undrafted in the waiver draft. He could still wind up trying out for MLS teams come January (The Philadelphia Union tried claiming him as a homegrown player before the 2011 MLS Draft and Hertzog was seen training with the Red Bulls on Tuesday). If Hertzog does sign he won’t be signing for the kind of money he made in his original Generation adidas contract.

MLS’ move to reduce the guaranteed portion of Generation adidas contracts is in line with the league’s growing desire to direct more resources away from the traditional Generation adidas program (which is used to sign college underclassmen) and toward signing Homegrown Players. An increasing number of college soccer’s elite players are MLS academy products, and MLS is going to need more money to sign those players.

That means the days of the seemingly never-ending Generation adidas deals for prospects who never wind up seeing the field are drawing to a close, which means there is more pressure on teams to make sure they are signing Generation adidas players who are good enough to make an impact in their first two seasons.

Not all Generation adidas deals have seen their guaranteed portion reduced to two years, but it is a safe bet MLS is trying to push contracts in that direction. There should still be longer guaranteed deals for younger prospects, and for the very top prospects in the GA classes, but the number of GA contracts with more than two guaranteed years is being reduced and should continue to dwindle as the league pushes more resources toward Homegrown Player signings.

With that being the case, if teams don’t do a good job of scouting GA signings, and developing once they draft them, they could run the risk of doing what the Red Bulls just did, parting ways with a first-round draft pick after just two seasons and a total of 35 minutes played in MLS.

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27 Responses to Clarifying the Hertzog situation (how MLS has tweaked its GA program)

  1. Shane says:

    I’m not really following this. Why and how will resources be directed away from GA to homegrown signings? Who is paying for the GA contract? The MLS team, Adidas, both? Do MLS teams want to sign more homegrown players because the contracts are usually smaller? Do the MLS execs want to direct resources away from GA to home grown players?

    Also, MLS academies are just fraction of the Development Academies. I hate to see those academies continuing to get more advantages over the other academies. It kind of defeats the purpose and goal of having Academies all over the country.

    • patrick says:

      As I understand it, Gen Adidas was a way to entice underclassmen to come to MLS by offering them larger contracts. In comparison, homegrown players typically are signed to relatively cheap contracts.

      Due to the growth of MLS academies and teams, they’re finding more and more top prospects that may have been Gen Adidas are now also homegrown players, which puts Gen Adidas in direct conflict with Homegrown players.

      I believe that Adidas pays the wages of all Gen Adidas players, as they don’t count against the cap. The sentiment about using that money elsewhere may not be meant literally but as in “we can have adidas sponsor something else”.

      That could all be wrong, but thats the way I see it

      • fischy says:

        Homegrown players may come more cheaply, but that’s not the public reason for pushing players to sign Homegrown deals. Supposedly, the league thought it could do a better job of developing those young players than the NCAA does. At least, that was true until this season, when the league realized all those Homegrown players were not playing and were doing worse with MLS than they would ever have done in the NCAA. So, they started loaning them out to lower-tier clubs.

        The league will still go this way, because playing in college allows more players to attract interest from European sides and negotiate better MLS deals — but, it’s looking like a lousy way to develop talent. The league will either have to develop a much more robust reserve league,or start fielding teams in lower level leagues. Academies work in Europe because they have a more developed system to get these kids into competitive matches. MLS is gonna have to get there, or we’re gonna crush our best players.

  2. MLSsnob says:

    More talent slipping through the cracks. So he had trouble breaking into a line up that the second leading scorer in MLS couldn’t consistently crack and they release him? I thought the GA contracts would help develop talent.

    • fischy says:

      It’s irrelevant. He may still develop, but he’s not gonna do it with a team that doesn’t want him. His contract didn’t really stunt his development, except that he might have played more if he stayed in college.

  3. James Bray says:

    Ives, What about Michael Tetteh? Same draft class as Hertzog (even less development in two years), but he wasn’t offered up in yesterday’s draft.
    If I’m not mistaken, Tetteh was one of the last GA signings two years ago. Did he sign as a sophmore or a junior? Does that play a role in the GA criteria if he’s a sophmore? Does he get a third year of GA status?

  4. David K says:

    Like Hans Backe gave a damn about developing American talent. I hope he finds a place somewhere in the league, seems like he could still develop into a useful player for somebody.

    Ives do you know anything about ucb’s Zardes? Do you think it is possible if he will sign with LA, or is he going to try Europe?

    • link to twitter.com

      Roland B Banks ‏@rbmint

      Remember this name. Gyasi Zardes # 1 ranked college player trained my daughter on his way to Germany to play pro soccer, God sends his best.

    • Shane says:

      +1000 on the Hans Backe comment, but you can include all of the Red Bulls organization in that. NYers only care about NY first and what the rest of the non American world thinks of them second.

      • Pete says:

        You are soo wrong , if you don’t show your skills at he practice and other people do you are in the whole. If NY didnt care about developing American talent why Meira and Lade played such a big part of it .ppl just saying that we , meaning RB have all foreign legion up here but our starters were 3 American goalies ( meara , gudette ,Robles ) defenders ( Pearce, barklage) midfilders( Lade, Dax) and forward ( KFC ). Add few other players that went thrue first team , like keel, ruthven, arteaga ect. It’s not so foreign anymore huh.

  5. Josh D says:

    I think this just reinforces the notion that MLS is not the league to go for to properly develop as a player. Or at least the league stacks things against you.

    I think without a proper reserve league – and the league we have while better than nothing, plays too few games, these players do not have an opportunity to shine. Some teams are taking the European route which is to field younger teams in tournaments, but even then coaches are put under pressure to succeed and the tournaments tend to be fewer games than in other leagues.

    I don’t think most coaches know how to develop young players. They don’t understand their mentality or their need to be put in pressure situations and played. Sure you bring them in slowly, but you need to introduce them in games. ESPECIALLY those players entering the league in their 20s. They must play and there must be trust between team and player to ensure they do get those opportunities.

    Teams also need to develop a culture where bigger teams (NY, LA) can loan better players to smaller MLS teams (Chivas, Revs) who could use young, but good players to fill their ranks. I like that we’re sending them to lower leagues, but those loan stints tend to be very short.

    Ideally, I’d like to see MLS create a team in NASL where teams get to dump young players and they get put there for a year. Call it NASL MLS. Make them play in Home Depot or NY – someplace central to MLS. It would be like a transitional year. Player salaries would be split between MLS and their team and the team itself wouldn’t need to pull that much of a profit.

    I just think we need better coaches who understand youth and we need a culture change in MLS. Otherwise, we’ll get players who show potential but who waste valuable years on the sideline.

    Granted, a few players do break through at a young age, but they are mostly bigger players who have physically matured (Shea). Not the smaller, more technical players.

    • Hal says:

      MLS NASL? No i don’t think so. We do need to develop the rest of the pyramid though. More young MLS players loaned out to NASL clubs will help a lot. Also, the NASL and USL need to the incentives to get into youth development. Right now MLS has a rule that they don’t pay transfer fees to NASL or USL. This hurts our lower division because they don’t have the incentive to develop young players that they can then sell to the top league. This also creates instability for NASL and USL because all their players are on one year contracts with the hopes they can move up to MLS.

      For instance, look at the case of Josh Gatt. He didn’t live near an MLS team and MLS doesn’t allow young players to trial with an MLS team. So he had no pathway towards a pro career in the US that didn’t include going to college. His choice was either go to college where his skills may not develop or go to Europe.

    • H-town says:

      Having a MLS NASL team is actually one of the better ideas I have heard. Maybe even 2 NASL MLS teams where younger players can be loaned for high level of play. MLS East team and an MLS West team.

      • travies04 says:

        I agree with Josh’s suggestion of fielding an MLS reserve team in the NASL. Also, there is precedent with this. Back when the nike project 40 system existed, they fielded a team of players who weren’t breaking in with their MLS teams in the old A-league.

    • Beto says:

      From what i have heared is that mls coaches dont trust nasl coaches to development and training like epl mangers do with championship sides, etc. thats why you see 1-3 game loans; just to get pt.

      I think that as/if nasl and usl get more established and advanced teams will be more inclided to loan a propsect to a low div team that might need someone at that position. Right now that relationship is not developed.

      As for the idea of academy home grown over GA drafted players; of course it is the favored way but ya we will miss out on players in areas not covered by the 19+ mls clubs. All the more need for div ii and iii clubs as well as ncaa. All are necessary but need to independant from eachother as they all have there own priorities and individual bottom lines

    • fischy says:

      Interesting notion. A little tweaking of the Club America concept that started the national team’s climb. I think it would be brilliant. Best idea I’ve heard. Actually, I’ve had he same thought, but you get props for articulating it first.

      First off, the players would get to train with some of the best young players in the country. Second, the team could be a real draw for the other clubs in NASL — a chance to see the local team take on MLS’ future stars team.

      The only drawback I see is that the MLS teams might have some issues if their players aren’t getting into the starting lineup….

  6. Hal says:

    how about just add free agency and do away with all this nonsense? The league would be much higher quality if teams had to compete over players.

    • fischy says:

      Love the idea in the first sentence. As for the second sentence,I have no idea why free agency would produce a higher quality league. It’s a non-seuitur. What might make for a higher quality league is to do away with the salary cap, which would make it possible for the teams to compete for more foreign talent. However, that’s far from certain, to — because some teams would not spend much more for fiscal reasons.

    • John says:

      You don’t think things out, do you? How would MLS improve if teams got into bidding wars for mediocre American talent? A player worth 70k might then get 150K from some team. Happens all the time in other sports. It would kill MLS.

      And as for the no salary cap guy below. Free spending worked so well for the old NASL.

  7. Ridge Mahoney says:

    A more sensible use of adidas money would be to fund regular competition among MLS academy teams and/or add U-23 teams. Like a lot of teams, the Red Bulls are not so willing to carry dead weight, and homegrown guys like Matt Kassel aren’t immune to the process, either. Dallas has also cut loose a bunch of such players. A few GA signings, and many HG deals, smacked more of publicity than productivity. Like Kassel, who played last season for Pittsburgh, players will have to work their way through the system rather than get a seat at the MLS table.

    • Hal says:

      we know what works around the globe when it comes to this sport. It just boggles the mind that were are always in search for solutions when the solutions have been around the whole time.

      • John says:

        Maybe because other leagues around the world don’t have to compete with 10 other sports like MLS does? What works in Europe doesn’t work here. We can’t even give youth contracts because of our laws.

    • fischy says:

      Except for one thing — The GA concept supposedly give MLS a way to compete with European bidders. So, MLS pays more than they would for a player who would be under the cap. Would they be willing to do that for guys assigned to a U23 team? If not, then what? If players had the choice between being stuck in a low-paying MLS system, or going to college, perhaps getting an education while showcasing their skills…and maybe landing a decent deal in Europe …which will they chose?

  8. Nic D "The TX 2 Stepper" says:

    Wow. Time to pull out the Dust Buster.

    Someone’s got sand in their …

  9. Ives,

    Can you put into perspective. How many GA players have actually succeeded, since the start of the program?

    It would be interesting to understand the total number GA players and who have gone onto to have successful careers? I am betting that the GA program is seeing the same level success in graduating players as any academy program – not many.

  10. RBNY says:

    I think the whole problem with GA is that there are too many contracts given out. I think we need to see more homegrown contracts and less GA. Save GA for the guys that went through under the radar and seriously have blossomed in college and are actually getting Euro interest.

    OT: while we’re talking about getting young players PT, why not expand the reserve league? Why not get MLS teams into more cup competition? We need to get the younger guys more playing time and the US Open Cup + like 10 games of reserve league play isn’t enough. Couldn’t Adiddas sponsor cup competition in place of giving so many contracts to guys that don’t get run anyway?