The plan has seemingly been in place for months, but with the recent purchase of Arsenal FC by American billionaire Stan Kroenke, the Arsenal invasion into America is finally taking legs.
The first stop may be the youth game as Arsenal sent its U-19 side to Dallas Cup this week to take part in the exclusive Gordon Jago Super Group. The team is off to a great start with two commanding victories in pool play, 5-1 over Dallas Texans and 6-0 over Chorrillo FC (Panama).
The American involvement is not likely to stop there as Arsenal is actively looking to tap into the American talent pool.
“The long-term goal for us is to find some players here in the States,” Arsenal’s Supervisor of International Relations, Steve Morrow, told Goal.com on Sunday about building relations and partnerships in America.
Arsenal has already established a partnership with one club, Richmond Strikers, and Morrow said that the Londoners are looking at two or three more American youth clubs to add to the same development program.
“We will be announcing one shortly,” Morrow added about the potential clubs, but declined to provide any specific details about the club.
The program with Richmond has allowed Morrow to fly over and work with the coaches personally at the Virginia club. Also, the Strikers club director Bob Jenkins has visited the London club a few times to see how the operation is run on the other side the pond.
“That is the idea, for them to come learn from us, and for us to implement a training program to hopefully improve what they’ve already got,” Morrow said. Chelsea has a similar system setup in America where it helps with training at a handful of clubs across the states.
However, the difference between the two has been brand management. Chelsea has blasted its logo, name, and affiliation on every club that it has partnered with over the last few years. Arsenal has been more reserved in its role as Richmond Strikers do not wear the Arsenal kit or carry the name. The lack of brand visibility is less of a concern for Morrow, as he emphasized more about the potential of finding players.
“We do believe there is a lot of talent in this country,” the former FC Dallas coach said.
He was not the only one complimentary to the players from America. Academy coach and former Arsenal defender Steve Bould highlighted the play of Dallas Texans' forward Caleb Richardson from the game on Sunday.
“He was very athletic and gave us all sorts of problems,” Bould said to Goal.com about the speedster from Texas, who had a brief part in the match though as he picked up two yellow cards in 47 minutes and was sent to the locker room early.
The red card was the turning point in the game, as the Gunners exploited the man-advantage with three goals after his dismissal. Bould recognized the host team put up a good fight when it was full strength from both sides in the first half. He was also impressed with the discipline of the Texans defensively.
Although, the Texans were not the only local club to catch his eye on Sunday night as Bould caught a glimpse of some of the earlier action inside the stadium on opening day.
“I saw FC Dallas play Barcelona and the level looks like it is getting better,” Bould said about the quality of play from the domestic teams in Super Group. “They’re technically getting better, and I think the American teams will give everybody a bit of a surprise.”
FC Dallas defeated Barcelona 3-1 in the game prior to Arsenal’s in the stadium.
Even the Arsenal youth players recognized the strength of the opposition despite what the final result may have indicated.
“The quality of the opposition was surprising, to be honest,” Arsenal midfielder, Conor Henderson said to Goal.com about the play of Dallas Texans. “They aren’t far off the sides we come up against in England.”
With the positive first impression on the staff and players plus the new American majority owner at Arsenal, the trip to Dallas Cup probably will not be the last time an Arsenal side comes stateside for a game. In the more immediate future though, Morrow will look to solidify the partnerships with a few American youth clubs and continue to build those relations.
J.R. Eskilson is the Youth Soccer Editor at Goal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NCAAsoccer
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