Former MLS and U.S. Men's National Team striker Landon Donovan, coach of the MLS Homegrown team, was asked recently in a Facebook Live stream about the platform that the MLS All-Star and Homegrown games provided for younger players -- one they wouldn't normally get.
His response: "Absolutely. What I always say to people is, you never know who's watching."
Donovan went on to tell his story of when he was loaned to Premier League club Everton and the reason that then-manager David Moyes chose him as the player to bring in. Everton had been following him for a while and when Everton played in the MLS All-Star Game in 2009, it was the "cherry on top for them." Donovan explained that, "in an All-Star game that didn't really mean anything, a lot of guys go through it; they don't want to get hurt, they want to take it easy. They're worried about their game on the weekend, but [Moyes] appreciated that I took the game seriously and I gave the same effort in a normal game and he knew that was the type of player he could count on."
You can listen to his full comment in the video below.
This all refers back to two of the young Orlando City players that will be participating in these games coming up in a week's time, Tyler Turner in the Homegrown Game and Cyle Larin in the All-Star Game.
Turner has spent the entire season with Orlando City B this year and has gained valuable playing time as he continues to develop. In the Homegrown Game last year, Turner was the only player on either team to play the entire match, including penalties, where he converted his spot kick. This year, the Homegrown team will be taking on the Mexican U-20 National Team, which will bring new eyes to Avaya Stadium and give Turner a bigger stage to perform on, possibly even impressing whichever new coach Orlando City decides to bring in.
In Larin's case, his opportunity will come on an even bigger stage, playing against Premier League team Arsenal. Larin is already being scouted by European teams and is even the target of rumors from Benfica this week, so his talent is already noticed. Depending on how much Larin is able to play and how he does, he could get even more looks from teams in England. Maybe not Arsenal, but possibly a Championship-level team tuning in to watch the match, or even a bottom-tier EPL club like a Middlesbrough or Sunderland. While Orlando City is not expected to sell Larin this year, since the Lions would only get 50% of his transfer fee due to MLS rules, it doesn't hurt for Larin to garner attention and create a buzz for the forward going into 2017.
All in all, the All-Star and Homegrown games are potential proving grounds for Larin and Turner, and if they make the most of it, the chance may do wonders for their young careers.