Union Made is a reoccurring series to cover the Union’s Homegrown Players (HGP’s), Academy players, and youth system. With Danny Cruz’s departure imminent, it seems appropriate to discuss his potential replacement – homegrown player Jimmy McLaughlin. Now, I have paid close attention to Jimmy since he debuted for this team in the friendly against Everton. I was impressed by his silky smooth play on the ball and his ability to just ghost around defenders. Let’s take a look at what that young talent has turned into three later. At a glance Date of Birth: April 30, 1993 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o56zz1J1Wg His balance, agility, and touch are fantastic. He can and will shoot from both distance and inside the box. He loves to run at defenders. He plays with tenacity and at a very high tempo. In many ways, he reminds me of a more skilled and less aggressive Danny Cruz and a quicker Justin Mapp that likes to take shots. At best, he can be a very, very good MLS winger. With all that said, I would like to see how he performs as an out-and-out winger. I doubt he will overtake Andrew Wenger on the left. His best option for seeing minutes will be on the right to spell Sebastian Le Toux where he won’t have the benefit of cutting inside on his stronger foot. Can he perform as well on the right as he appears to on the left? Looking forward With Danny Cruz now gone, this could be Jimmy’s time to finally seize some first team minutes on the team. As of now, Eric Ayuk Mbi is his only competition out wide, but Eric is an even rawer talent than Jimmy. Zach Pfeffer has played out wide for the U-20 national team, but I expect him to play more as a backup to Chaco and Vincent Nogueira. This leaves Jimmy as the top available sub out wide. If he starts making the bench now, this could be Jimmy’s breakout year. The rigors of the MLS season will likely see him earn a few starts this season. In the past, I have been hesitant to expect young players to get minutes on this team. However, Pfeffer has seen substitute minutes in both games this year. If Pfeffer is finally seeing time, can this be Jimmy’s opportunity to follow right behind him? I am really excited to see Jimmy develop. He may not have the potential of Zach Pfeffer, but he is simply an exciting player to watch play. If he can put all the elements of his game together, Jimmy may offer us the true out-and-out winger that this team has lacked since Justin Mapp’s departure. More importantly, Jimmy could give us a true successor to a Sebastian Le Toux that is not getting any younger. Zolo fans, be excited but remember that he is still a kid.Hometown: Malvern, Pennsylvania Youth Clubs/College: FC Delco, Colgate University Jimmy signed his homegrown deal on December 12th, 2011. Position Jimmy McLaughlin has spent his time as a winger, and he has shown his ability to play on both wings. His Harrisburg highlights shows he played mostly on the left where he cut inside on his dominant right foot. Union Career Jimmy has not had much of a Union career to date. He played one 17 minutes in 2012 and one minute last year. He has spent most of his time at Harrisburg City Islanders. Last year, he scored six goals and created three assists, notching the second best goals and assists total on the team. This time at Harrisburg is a double-edged sword. Jimmy has gotten plenty of minutes these past few years playing at Harrisburg. Compare this to someone like Zach Pfeffer who has been mostly sitting on the bench both in Germany and with the Union. However, Jimmy has not benefited from practicing week in and week out with this team. It may take him more time to settle in. Why should we be excited? Jimmy has a fantastic skill set that no one else on the team can match. Check out his highlights from last year:
Unfortunately, Kevin Kinkead revealed that Danny will be leaving on loan to FK Bodø/Glimt in Norway. I say unfortunately because Danny Cruz is my favorite player on the Union. I enjoy the sheer beautiful bundle of reckless chaos that is Danny Cruz. You never know what you will get from him: from tripping over the ball, to blowing up someone on the other team, to drawing a hard foul, to scoring the occasional goalazo. Watching D-Cruz play is always entertaining.
More importantly, Danny brought a real skill set to this team that Andrew Wenger and Sebastian Le Toux lack. He hugs the touchline, works his ass off, and runs at defenders. Danny is, also, one of the few players that will try a shot from distance. He is less prone to the back passing that has become far too common with this team.
Plus, Danny plays with an intensity that only Seba and Vincent Nogueira can match. When Danny Cruz is in the game, you know he will drive the ball down the field and try to make something happen. He will be a pest to opposing defenders. After watching the Colorado game, that is a skill and mindset this team needs.
My love for Danny aside, this causes a few issues for the Union attack. As I mentioned yesterday, depth out wide may be a real issue for the Union this year. Right now, this leaves our available wide players as Sebastian Le Toux, Andrew Wenger, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Eric Ayuk Mbi. Zach Pfeffer has previously played out wide on the U-20 team. D-Cruz was one of only two true wingers this team has, as both Wenger and Le Toux are converted forwards who still have forward tendencies. Width could soon become a problem for a Union attack that depends on wide play.
That said, I think Jimmy McLaughlin is the answer, and I will explain why later. Until then, I will honor the finest moment of my favorite player, the wonderful Danny Cruz Missile brace against Seattle: