The Lessons of Anton Peterlin

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | View Comments
Remember Anton Peterlin? The Ventura County Fusion midfielder plucked out of obscurity when Premier League stalwarts Everton signed him out of the seeming blue? Peterlin's story caught everyone's imagination at this time last year, leading to a spate of commentary on what his signing meant for MLS, American soccer, and our top-flight league's ability to find talent right here in the United States.

The conclusion was naturally drawn immediately and categorically: MLS missed on Peterlin. Whether and of the clubs in Peterlin's home state of California or the league as a whole, indictments rained down. If Everton thought he was good enough, why didn't anyone in MLS?

I wrote at the time that Everton's money and situation allowed them to sign Peterlin simply based on his potential. Without salary caps or roster restrictions and operating on a much bigger budget than anyone here, manager David Moyes could bring Peterlin over after an 8-day trial because he had the luxury. No such thing was possible in our domestic league, where every roster spot is precious and money is tightly watched. It's very possible one or more MLS coaches thought highly of Peterlin. They just weren't in a position to sign him if he wasn't ready to play right away.

That is a problem to be tackled, of course, though I suspect things will slowly get better over time. But any criticism of the individual teams and their ability to spot talent should be tempered now, with the news that Peterlin is no longer with Everton and is on the verge of signing with Plymouth.

Plymouth. Late the club of Kenny Cooper and former Revs coach Paul Mariner who "helped" them to relegation last season (I know that's a bit harsh...sorry), Plymouth will play the upcoming season in League One.

I don't know about you, but I find it hard to get too worked up over MLS missing out on a player who might get his first first-team minutes in the third tier of English football at the age of 23.

Again, I'm not glossing over the issues facing American soccer when it comes to scouting and development. By all rights, Peterlin should have been in a system somewhere six years ago, developing his game. If he turned into a quality player, he'd presumably already be in MLS, a homegrown talent brought into the professional ranks by a proper setup run by a club.

The system may have failed with Peterlin, but the coaches and front office staff themselves did not. It looks to me like David Moyes took a shot and missed. That is not a first, it won't be a last, and it happens regularly. Everton can afford to fire wildly in an effort to hit one target. MLS clubs have much less ammunition.

It was easy to go apoplectic last year when it looked like our league had overlooked real talent in its own back yard. David Moyes and Everton seemed to expose all of Major League Soccer's problems in one fell swoop. But the problem wasn't the evaluators of talent on MLS club payrolls, but the system they relied on to bring them players. The league is moving in the right direction in that regard, and while it's easy for the rest of us to spend their money, we should give credit where credit is due.

Maybe Anton Peterlin could have been Tristen Bowen or Andy Najar. Or maybe he was always destined to end up on a League One level. Hindsight and all that.
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