Ryan Martin, DC United Academy Director, Discusses Culture, Tactics, and the Future of DC United, Part 3

Oct 16, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United fans cheers during the second half against the New York City FC at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. D.C. United defeated New York City FC 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United fans cheers during the second half against the New York City FC at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. D.C. United defeated New York City FC 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Part three of a three part series in which Ryan Martin, Director of the DC United Academy, discusses the culture, tactics, and future of DC United.

If you missed parts one & two of the series, focusing on Ryan Martin’s background and developing a culture and tactical plan for the program, you can find them here and here!

On the future of DC United

Though Ryan has the difficult task of developing the next generation of DC United players, he also has the responsibility, one which he excelled at with Wake Forest, of bringing in youth players to the Academy. However, looking at the talent in the DC area, Ryan is not concerned about a lack of talent in the city.

An “exciting thing is the talent level in this city is incredible, even looking at the the MLS draft, looking at Ian Harkes, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Jacori Hayes, Jeremy Ebobisse, 4 talented kids from this area”.

It’s worth noting that all 4 of these players are from the DC Metro area, with 3 of them first round picks in the MLS Draft, with Ian Harkes signing a Homegrown Contract with DC United. Many analysts have suggested that had Ian Harkes not signed that contract, he could have been the number one overall pick.

Looking at how the young incoming players might fit with DC United, Ryan had a few words.

Regarding incoming Ian Harkes, Ryan has unique insights as he was Ian’s Assistant Coach at Wake Forest, and Ian’s father’s Assistant Coach at FC Cincinnati. He joked that John may have known in advance that Ian would move to DC and may have wanted Ryan to be back here to take care of Ian when he made the transition.

With Harkes’ contract signed only days ago, Ryan stated that Ian Harkes fits the physical build which they’re looking for in a number 8 role, with a good range of passing. Many, including Ryan, are excited for his start with DC United with the belief that he’ll be able to contribute quickly.

DC United’s 2017 Draft Picks

On Chris Odoi-Atsem, the recently drafted right back, Ryan remarked that “he’s quite an exciting player.” When at Wake Forest, Ryan actually scouted and liked Odoi-Atsem, saying that he reminds him of Chris Duvall, a successful college and MLS player who played under Ryan. On expectations, Ryan said that “his athleticism will give him the chance to play early on,” which is exciting as Ben Olsen recently announced that Sean Franklin, current starting right back, would be moving into center-back, meaning the position is Odoi-Atem’s to take.

Ryan also had some unexpected insights into Goal Keeper Eric Klenofsky, immediately remarking that “he’s a big boy.” More than comments on his 6 foot 6 inch frame, he also revealed that Klenofsky played under Monmouth college coach Robert McCourt, close friends with John Harkes, and godfather of Ian Harkes. “Soccer is a small world,” Ryan reminded me.

Something I hadn’t read anywhere else, Ryan told me that Eric played his entire season with a  broken thumb. Broken in the first game of his season, he sat out second game, watched his team lose 3-0, and then decided to suit back up and play the whole season. Though deep on the depth chart, this insight shows Klenofsky’s strong drive that should help him succeed.

DCU2 & the USL Future

A few months ago, DC United discussed its plans to create a USL team to give youth playing time. With Ryan’s experience with the USL, I couldn’t help but ask if he’d be moving into a prominent role within the USL team when it’s formed. He said his goal for the future is to get players signed to the DCU2 (future USL) team and then onto the first team. For now, he’s excited about the Academy and sees it as a great project. He told me how much he respects youth coaches and how at DC United, he likes the energy and thinks it’s a good group. However, he will help the franchise any way he’s asked, but would like to stay and help the academy grow so that across the country, people recognize the academy.

For the players that don’t immediately make it into DCU2, he acknowledged that there’s still a place for college players due to late bloomers and internationals who come to the US for college and playing time. “College coaches do a great job,” though there are limitations to the college development game. Despite any limitation, he was clear that there are great programs and coaches who players can benefit from, particularly the late bloomers who historically have contributed greatly to MLS.

High energy, tactically inclined, and promoting high character, Ryan Martin represents a great outlook for the future of DC United.

Next: New CONCACAF Champions League Format Announced

This is part three of a three part series discussing the culture, tactics, and future of DC United through an interview with Director Ryan Martin. Parts one and two can be found below: