Astoundingly obscure American defensive midfielder Anton Peterlin has finally signed with English Premier League heavyweights Everton after a 10-day trial in March… but will he ever do anything to justify his new contract?
A strange set of circumstances has lead to Peterlin’s signature on a one-year contract with the Merseyside powerhouse. Born to a Danish father and Slovakian mother, he was raised in the USA, although he has spent time in both European countries and holds a European Union passport as a Danish-American citizen. His previous soccer club, Ventura County Fusion in the state of California, is in the Premier Devlopment league which is the fourth tier of the American soccer system. The 10-day trial in March was organised after a recommendation from former English star Graham Smith, who now coaches the Fusion.
Several aspects of this deal are raising questions. First: how did he get trials with two Major League Soccer clubs in the San Jose Earthquakes and Chicago Fire and not get picked up when a week and a half was all that it took to convince an EPL manager? The answer to that may lie in the economics of the situation. While Everton is a big club and perennially finishes in the top half of the EPL table with frequent visits to European competitions, it also has a history of being a feeder club to the upper echelons of Europe, such as when it had to sell Wayne Rooney to Manchester United. Everton’s player budget does not compare to the Big Four of United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, which means that it has roster spots open at the bottom end of the wage scale to take punts on longshots like Peterlin. Meanwhile, MLS clubs like the Earthquakes and Fire operate not only on a completely different pay scale given the relative size of the leagues, but also have to deal with a salary cap.
Another question is: if he proves to be good enough to compete at a national level, will Peterlin’s move to a European club see him align himself with Denmark as his national team instead of his native US? The 22-year-old reportedly has a strong affiliation with his father’s homeland, and Denmark is ranked within three places of the US in the latest FIFA national rankings at #15 and #12 respectively, so he may not be able to choose one or the other based on better opportunities.
As a holding midfielder, if the early reports on Peterlin match Everton coach David Moyes’ faith in the Californian, he will become a valuable commodity as players in his position are tasked with organising and controlling entire games in the pivotal spot on the pitch. Peterlin’s heroes are Ireland’s Roy Keane, Marcos Senna of Spain, and Frenchman Patrick Vieira, all holding midfielders who possessed that rare quality of going forward at the right times to attack with great effectiveness.
In some ways, American fans of Peterlin may want him to fail at Everton, as it may discourage him from further European sojourns and allow him to return home to an MLS club, strengthened nonetheless by training and playing alongside players like Tim Cahill.
Everton visits the US in July as part of its preseason preparation, and this issue will only get more heated the better Peterlin plays, especially if he dithers on choosing a national allegiance.
Picture (c) Ventura County Star.