JAMIE HILL - Monday, July 22, 2013
The trickle of homegrown academy signings entering into MLS has widened into a steady stream and Csollin Martin is the latest youngster to land a contract after signing with DC United.
Martin, who hails from nearby Chevy Chase, is coming off a successful freshman year at Wake Forest. In signing a contract with D.C., the 18 year old Martin ended his college career after just one season.
"It was a hard decision because I really liked my time at Wake Forest," Martin told Full Volley. "I loved my teammates, my coaches were awesome, I grew as a player, and I grew as a person as well. It was tough because I only had one year there and I would have liked to have at least two, maybe three. I'm just following my dreams and I really want to be a pro, so I'm excited about it and happy."
For an academy player signed via the Homegrown Player rule, the transition to the first team is not as much of a culture shock as the transition to a foreign club or even what one experiences as an MLS draftee. Most elite academy players have had prior opportunities to train with the professionals and Martin, an attacking midfielder, was no exception.
"I've been fortunate that I grew up in the academy," remarked Martin. "I started training with [D.C. United] two years ago, so I'm very familiar with the coaches and I've played in reserve games. It helps because I felt more comfortable than I would if I had gone to a random club in Europe."
Martin is the sixth D.C. United academy player to sign with the league, following in the footsteps of Bill Hamid, Andy Najar, Ethan White, Conor Shanosky, and Michael Seaton. All are still with D.C.'s first team with the exception of Najar, who was sold to Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht over the winter. The remaining group of homegrown players are part of an emerging American youth movement at the club, which also includes the likes of Perry Kitchen, Luis Silva, Nick DeLeon, Jared Jeffrey, and Conor Doyle.
Having landed his first professional contract, Martin's next task is to break into D.C.'s first team. However, the player is aware of the challenges that lie ahead and is approaching the challenge with a cautious mentality.
"As much as I would like to play, I'm not thinking about it yet," he said. "I just want to develop right now. I still have a long way to go physically and in terms of fitness. I'm pretty sure I'm not ready to play 90 minutes at that level."
Martin's road to playing time with D.C. United will first take him through Richmond. On July 17, the midfielder was loaned to the Kickers, D.C.'s USL Pro affiliate.
While some academy players are plucked from Development Academy obscurity, Martin will enter the league with a slightly higher profile thanks to his involvement with the US U-20 program. Martin was a regular feature in Tab Ramos' training camps, although he was not selected for the World Cup or the regional qualifying tournament.
"Of course I was disappointed," admitted Martin. "Any player wants to make it, but I was one of the youngest guys on the roster, I had a great experience with the U-20s playing overseas and training with those older guys, so I look at it as a positive."
Martin's youth national team career is far from over, as he will be among those vying for a chance to help the US qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
Like many young players, Martin spoke of his dream to play in Europe one day. But having passed on an opportunity to join Hoffenheim's youth system in favor of Wake Forest last summer, it's clear that Martin also sees great opportunity in D.C.