DAVID SMITH - Thursday, June 9, 2011
University of Virginia forwards Brian Ownby and Will Bates are set to spend ten days training at Swedish club Mjällby as the Allsvenskan team examines options to bolster its front line.
"They are going to stay here for ten days here at Mjällby," team sporting director Thomas Andersson Borstam told YA, adding "They will be training with the first team."
With Mjällby already one-third through their season, the two Virginia Cavaliers standouts will spend most of their time in practice sessions with the first team, however Andersson indicated that there could be an opportunity to see them in action in a competitive setting.
"We didn't talk about any test games with them yet," Andersson continued. "If they are allowed to, then maybe they will play with our second team since there are rules which prevent them from playing with the first team."
The arrival of Ownby and Bates continues an ongoing relationship between the southern Swedish club and the American university system. Former Seton Hall player Samuel Petrone is currently on the first team roster, and a number of other former US-based college players have spent time at the club in previous years.
"This is the third year that we are bringing players over the summer from college so we can get to know them and they can learn Swedish [soccer]. We think it is a quite good way to [recruit players]. I think there is a lot happening with [soccer] in the US so it is interesting to have a knowledge about these players."
"We found out about them through a connection we have in the US," he continued. "[They] came to us through a Swedish guy who lived in the US and has an agency, so he knows some players."
Fairly relaxed rules in the Swedish leagues regarding foreign players have opened up avenues for young Americans to ply their trade in the country, with current senior US national teamers Charlie Davies and Alejandro Bedoya having both found their way onto the international stage while playing in the country.
This has prompted clubs such as Mjällby to maintain connections to the US in hopes of uncovering any potential gems which are willing to start their careers at the club.
While the club is actively searching for a replacement for Moroccan forward Moestafa El Kabir who will leave the team later in the summer to join Italian Serie A club Cagliari, Andersson views the ten-day session at Mjällby with Ownby and Bates first and foremost as a way to evaluate the skill level of the players rather than with an aim to have them join the team immediately.
Both players have participated on various levels with the US youth setup in previous years. Ownby was a part of the U-20 squad which participated in the 2009 U-20 World Cup, scoring one goal in their lone group-stage win over Cameroon, while Bates was selected to play for the US in the 2009 Milk Cup in Northern Ireland.
"We are looking for new forwards since we just sold one to Italy," Andersson explained. "I think they are available to sign, but first we want to look at them and see which qualities and skills they have."
"I don't think so much that we're going to sign them but it's quite interesting to see how good they are since they have played in the youth national teams for the US," he concluded. "It's going to be nice to see the level they are playing on and compare it with our Swedish players."