April 28, 2018
I made the quick drive up the Turner Turnpike today for some errands and decided to catch the Development Academy doubleheader against Sporting Kansas City’s academy teams. For those not familiar with the usual DA game day, the U16/17 group and U18/19 group will play a doubleheader typically with the younger group playing first.
Today, the matches were at the University of Tulsa’s soccer complex, which serves as an alternate home for Young Sporks. The home amenities included a branded locker room for the hosts, a heavily partisan crowd in the vicinity of 100 people, and a gorgeous sunny day with an atypically light breeze for a state which produces the 3rd most wind power in the US.
SKC’s U16/17 team parlayed that advantage into a good first half performance where they frequently challenged for the opener. If it wasn’t for an impressive performance from backup keeper Zachary Schawl, SKC probably would have led at halftime, but it remained scoreless at the whistle.
The field tilted in the 2nd half with the attack pushing through US youth international Beni Redzic, 2nd half sub Luis Pacheco, and David Rodriguez. Rodriguez was brought down in the box for what looked like a sure penalty, but the ref waved play on. If the name sounds familiar, indeed it is the younger brother of Arturo who you may remember for the winning goal at last year’s Dallas Cup Supergroup championship.
The game ended as it started at 0-0, and the U16s earned a road point against one of the tougher teams in the Frontier Division. “We’ll take the point. I think Sporting Kansas City was better in the 1st half, but we were better in the 2nd half,” said Luchi Gonzalez, who coaches the U16/17 group in addition to his duties as Academy Director. Since his promotion to Academy Director, the FC Dallas Academy has won USDA championships at both older age groups as well as its first Dallas Cup Supergroup Championship. Here’s a few of the other things we discussed during the break between games.
On the Bayern Munich Partnership- “(FC Dallas Academy) players aren’t just going to train. They’re going to play. Our players have been rated and have the quality to play in Germany. In some cases, Mexico will be an option. It’s building our network out.” Gonzalez mentioned that Thomas Roberts and Chris Richards would be traveling to Munich for a similar stint as Reggie Cannon, Paxton Pomykal, and Bryan Reynolds had gone on in December.
On Jamie Dunning (who recently moved to Feyenoord)- “Good player, he played on our U16 team pre-academy team (part of the National Premier Leagues, which is separate from the US Development Academy system) , and we think he had a future here...The U16/U17 team is highly competitive. We wish him well.”
On signing future players that come from the Academy- “Our goal isn’t just to sign players from the academy (for squad depth) but to produce and sign players that will make an impact with the first team.”
Gonzalez also mentioned that next year, the academy would be adding teams for U-8 through U-11, some of which will participate in leagues with a promotion/relegation system. We also discussed the increase in the number of players playing up an age group and the kind of players they would challenge in such a fashion.
Aside from the kids who had developed physically at their age group, the academy staff is looking for kids who excel at their age group and to see how they thrive or founder within a more challenging group but also to see how they adapt and mesh with their older teammates. He also stressed that these assignments were dynamic, and that it wasn’t necessarily indicative of a player being fast tracked (noting that Cannon, Cano, and Reeves had all pretty much always had played with their age group coming up). It does seem that it’s something the academy is committed to do more going forward.
As it turned out on this day in Tulsa, the U16s had 4 age-eligible players playing up with U18/19 team as well as missing Dante Sealy (international callup) and leading scorer Johan Gomez (injury), so a draw on the road (only the 2nd time they’ve dropped points in USDA play) really was a pretty good result. The U18/19 team was not similarly handicapped, and it showed.
From kickoff, the senior group came out like a buzzsaw peppering SKC’s goal with shot after shot forcing somewhere in the vicinity of a half dozen saves in the first 25 minutes. Through an error, SKC almost got on the board on a breakaway only for Michael Collodi (one of the aforementioned U16-eligible kids) to come up with a massive save. Shortly after that, Thomas Roberts (again, U16er) broke the deadlock with a cool cut inside at the top of the box and an even cooler curled finish. The onslaught on SKC’s final 3rd didn’t let up, and FCD finally added a 2nd from Haitian international Ronaldo Damus (his 4th goal in 3 games).
SKC was able to pull one back shortly after intermission, but 3 minutes later Dallas added a 3rd through Gibran Rayo (another U16er) on a quick counter. Edwin Cerillo rounded out the scoring with a great individual play, beating one defender off the dribble on the wing, another with a fake cross which had the poor SKC defender leaping out of the way, and a sharp near post finish from the corner of the 6 yard box. The 4-1 victory was a fairly reasonable scoreline for the performance delivered by the U18/19s.
If you didn’t get the word, the U19s will play the back end of a doubleheader this weekend after the first team plays LA Galaxy. Given the level of play I saw in Tulsa the weekend before last, you’ll be in for a treat if you stick around. There’s definitely a few future pros in this group, and the speed of play was surprisingly good.
Additionally, it’s a vital part of your club that will only grow in importance during the coming years. FC Dallas’s commitment to being a producer of talent is no joke, and their footprint is expanding. If you can’t make it to Frisco or can’t handle an extra 2 hours of soccer, they’ve got a game in Farmers Branch and a game in Dallas at the end of May/beginning of June, too. Those are generally free to watch as well. If you’re a fan of the team, you’re missing out if you don’t ever catch the academy play.