The San Jose Earthquakes have signed the youngest player to an MLS contract since Freddy Adu captured nationwide headlines 15 years ago with D.C. United, the team announced Monday.
The Earthquakes signed 14-year-old goalkeeper Emmanuel Ochoa to a Homegrown Player contract. Ochoa, a Salinas, California native, is 23 days younger than Adu was when he signed with United in 2004.
The Homegrown Player contract is a special kind of contract that allows MLS teams to bypass the MLS SuperDraft to sign local players from their own development academy.
“The work we have done to prepare ourselves for the future at the goalkeeping position gave us an opportunity to offer a contract to Emi, even at his young age,” Earthquakes GM Jesse Fioranelli said in the statement. “We have established players we are going to lean on for 2020 and the years to come, which will allow Emi to develop at his own pace with achievable goals year over year, including ones from an academic and life perspective."
Adu infamously did not grow into the generational prospect that many envisioned when he signed with a professional team at the age in which most children are just starting high school. After three modest — or impressive, given his age — seasons with United, Adu began a career of drifting across the world, playing for a teams in the U.S., Portugal, France, Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Serbia and Finland.
That means little for Ochoa’s future though, and the goalkeeper is just one of several young players the Earthquakes are investing in for the future.
Ochoa will be one of five Homegrown players on the Earthquakes roster under the age of 18, alongside Jacob Akanyirige (17), Gilbert Fuentes (17), Casey Walls (16) and Cade Cowell (16). Per the Earthquakes, no other MLS team as more than two such players.
Ochoa joined the Quakes Academy after a stint with the Santa Cruz Breakers Academy, and has also played for the US national team at the U-14 and U-15 levels.
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