As recently reported, NYCFC have approached MLS regarding a possible homegrown claim for Wake Forest freshman midfield stand-out Jack Harrison. Whether or not MLS will approve the claim remains to be seen and of course, Harrison would still need to agree to a contract with NYCFC, but it can’t hurt to examine the young prospect and imagine how he’d fit it with the current roster.
Who is Jack Harrison?
Born in Bolton, England and a product of the Manchester United youth system from 2003-2010, Harrison has been a massively productive player in his time both in high school and at Wake Forest. He racked up 24 goals and 33 assists at Berkshire School in Massachusetts while being named both state and national player of the year in his senior season while leading his team to three straight state titles.
The team went 50-6-2 over his reign and was a co-captain of the team. He was perhaps even more impressive at Wake Forest, scoring 8 goals and assisting on 11 while starting all 22 matches. The Deacons finished the year at 17-3-2, good for the top of the national rankings at #1, before falling to eventual national champions Stanford in the quarterfinals. Additionally he lead the team in shots with 63 and shots on goal with 27 , a further testament to his ability to create opportunities.
The most recent Soccer by Ives 2016 SuperDraft big board had Jack listed at the number four prospect in the draft, noting his abilities as a box-to-box midfielder with a diverse range of attacking quality while stating that he has the potential to be an impact player. Needless to say, he is a worthy target for NYCFC to attempt to acquire with a homegrown contract, which would be their first in team history.
Will NYCFC be allowed to sign him?
While it would certainly be a coup signing, it remains to be seen whether it is allowed. The basis of NYCFC’s claim lies in that Harrison has played with NYCFC youth affiliate Manhattan Soccer Club for the last three seasons. MLS requires that a player must have been a part of the team’s development system for at least one year.
While it is possible that his time with Manhattan would qualify him, it remains in the hands of MLS to decide whether or not to accept the claim. It appears that while not certain, there is definitely a chance that the claim is approved, at which point another issue arises. Harrison has been so prolific in his young career and already has ties to Europe due to his United academy time.
It is within the realm of possibility that even if he chooses to forgo school, the draft and sign with a professional club, he may not sign with NYCFC. Indeed, there are rumors that teams in Germany and England are interested in his services. So while it is possible that NYCFC land their first homegrown player, there remains a lot of work to be done. For now, we wait for MLS to make a decision on the claim, but assuming everything turns up NYCFC’s way and they land Harrison, where does he fit in with the squad?
Where would he fit in?
While NYCFC found their scoring groove later in the season, they were uncomfortably reliant on David Villa to finish off opportunities and to create them, as he lead the team in goals with 18 while assisting on eight. While our midfield seems capable of stepping up production, adding a player that could otherwise be a Top 5 draft pick would certainly be welcome, especially in light of the age of core midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.
Harrison has proven time and time again that he is a very capable attacking option, which immediately brings to mind the effectiveness of Kwadwo Poku in the time he received last season. He’s known as a box-to-box midfielder, in the mold of our own Lampard, giving him a significant defensive presence as well, something that surely excited NYCFC fans after a woeful performance in the back last year.
While truly a central midfielder, his youth, pace and attacking quality would allow him to potentially flourish on the wings in a 4-3-3 system, an area in which NYCFC could use some help. Due to the team’s glut of central midfield options, the path of least resistance to the field might very well be out wide.
Beyond the immediate fit, however, it is clear that adding Harrison to the already young midfield talent of Poku, Mix Diskerud and Thomas McNamara would set NYCFC up for life beyond Lampard and Pirlo when that time comes.
Youth development is a key aspect of success in MLS, and signing Harrison would be a wonderful start for NYCFC. Even if the attempt is unsuccessful, nothing is lost by trying and there is such potential to gain that it would be foolish not to put in an effort. With any fortune, Harrison will find NYCFC as brilliant an opportunity for himself as the team seems to believe he is for them. Needless to say, with his potential he’d be a rapid fan favorite and a potential face of the team for years to come.