Starboard: Everton & Genk Youth Coaches Discuss Youth Development at Navy Soccer Camp

Peter Reynders from Genk, and John Doolan from Everton, were both at this weekend's Navy Soccer Camp

I’m going to show you a few pictures, and I want you to tell me if you recognize any of these guys.

Seriously, this is the test of your true soccer fandom right here. We’re going to show you pictures of a few players most of you have never heard of, but let’s see if you get maybe one or two.

Here we go.

baines

carrasco

Rooney

Benteke

davies

hi-res-41911fb56078d2e7faca585d41487586_crop_north

Rcourtois

osman

and last one…you had it right earlier…

How many did you get? Okay, so maybe these guys weren’t relative nobodies. They are, from top to bottom, WORLD-CLASS superstars:

  • Leighton Baines, England
  • Yannick Carrasco, Belgium
  • Wayne Rooney, England
  • Christian Benteke, Belgium
  • Tom Davies, England (maybe not world class quite yet, but Everton sound excited about him)
  • Divock Origi, Belgium
  • Ross Barkley, England
  • Thibaut Courtois, Belgium
  • Leon Osman, England
  • Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium

Okay….Cool. Why Do We Care?

You care because we’re about to blow your mind, that’s why.

All of these players have something in common…. they have all played for one of the two best youth academies in the world:

  • Everton F.C., in England
  • K.R.C. Genk, in Belgium

The Everton players are pretty obvious, because once Everton find a player they like, those players tend to stick around. We’ll tell you why a bit later.

But if you’ve never heard of Genk, or if you don’t believe us that all of those players played for them, well we can prove it if you’d like:

benteke genk

courtois genkl

de bruyne genk

Okay I lied, I could only find three photos, but that last De Bruyne pic is worth extra credit.

I was lucky enough to meet youth academy coaches from both teams: Peter Reynders, from Genk, and John Doolan, from Everton, this past weekend. Both coaches spent a few days in Annapolis, helping out with second-year Navy Men’s Soccer head coach Tim O’Donohue’s first of two summer camps.

It became pretty clear to me as soon as I stepped onto Navy’s practice fields that Coach O’Donohue, former associate head coach of a UConn program that reached the NCAA Men’s Tournament four times (three straight appearances in the NCAA Quarterfinals), had something special going on there this past weekend.

Coach O'Donohue prepares to introduce John Doolan from Everton

Coach O’Donohue, in Navy Blue, prepares to introduce John Doolan from Everton

I got there on Friday just before 2:30 and when I looked over, all of the campers (and there were a LOT of them) were just making their way back to the pitch.

Everton Youth Acadademy coach John Doolan, who is in charge of Everton’s U16 team and has a pretty decent playing resume himself, was about to conduct a combination play session, which had the players’ AND coaches’ section at full attention.

The players who were performing the demos weren’t too bad either. Recent Navy recruits Jacob Williams (Baltimore Armour u18’s) and Tyler Collins (Baltimore Celtic/Mount Saint Joe’s) put in some work, along with first-year volunteer assistant coach Zach Bowman. Tomas Potts from UMBC was among the GK’s, but coach made sure the camp GK’s (who made some pretty good saves, to be honest) were in goal for the drill.

DMV soccer legend (for those of us growing up playing soccer in the area around the same time) and Navy assistant Alex Yi walks by and looks ready to go 90 minutes without a problem. DeMatha head coach Andrew Quinn is attendance, along with Northeastern head coach Chris Gbandi, Binghampton Head Coach Paul Marco, Sean Topping from Muhlenberg, former NSCAA Director of Coaching Jeff Tipping, Brent Boone from Pelota Training, and finally, Peter Reynders from Genk in Belgium.

Coach Doolan (grey shorts) conducting his session at Naval Academy

Coach Doolan (Everton top, grey shorts) conducting his session at Naval Academy

Not a bad group, and it’s obvious that the campers are getting a quality soccer education during this week’s camp.

After camp let out for a break, Peter Reynders, from Genk, and Coach Doolan, from Everton, let me sit down with them and ask them some questions about youth development. Obviously, if we have two coaches in town from two of the most successful youth development academies in the world, it would be a pretty cool experience to talk to them, right? Below are some things we talked about.

Developing The Ginger Prince

april

september

october

december

It’s all about mentality.

Kevin De Bruyne is the type of player that would start on any club team in the world. At Manchester City this season, Pep Guardiola has used him at the 10 (CAM), as well as on the wing in big games later in the season, and the fact that he can play either position without a drop in quality or production is nothing short of spectacular. Pep tends to make some pretty radical changes, like Jesus Navas re-inventing himself at outside back, playing Kholorav at center back, Yaya Toure going from his agent having to apologize to get back into the team to starting at the 6 over Fernandinho midway through the season.

The mental toll that it can take on a player when they feel like they’re being played out of position can be underestimated, especially for a world-class talent with, at times, a matching ego. But after learning more about the club environment that Kevin De Bruyne was brought up in during his youth days, it’s obvious why these types of transitions are easier for him to deal with, from a mental aspect, than some other players.

Before I drove to Annapolis on Friday to interview the two youth coaches, I tried to do some research on both coaches and academy programs. Not necessarily an easy task to research a Belgium club, let’s just say Google Translate was used fairly often.

I used this article as a starting point when interviewing Peter Reynders from Genk, which I’ll translate in bits and pieces below, along with his answers and responses. Note: the article was from June 2014, around the time when KDB was recalled from Wolfsburg loan (10 goals in 33 appearances, at the age of 21) to re-join Chelsea, who he had transferred to from Genk’s professional team the season prior.

Peter Reynders: “The scouting knew that Kevin had some problems there (past club Ghent), and his parents were open to a new road for Kevin, who was already someone with exceptional play and football intelligence, but in mental terms, there was still a lot of work. Enthusiasm and the will to achieve his goals were very high. At Genk, the plan for every talent in youth education is identical: making the player better at all levels, and developing his particular qualities well, both technically, tactically, physically, and at a mental level.

Belgium soccer, particularly the Belgium National Team, went through a very tough patch between 2002 and 2012. They missed out on the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, as well as the EURO’s in 2004, 2008, and 2012.

However, their youth teams had a lot of promise, with their U-21 side making it to the semifinals in the 2007 UEFA U-21 Championship, a team that featured young players such as Fellaini, Mirallas, Vermaelen, and Axel Witsel.

belgium

Why do we bring this up? To explain their meteoric rise in past years, similar to that of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA, which is almost a direct result of developing youth talent.

  • In 2014, they made it to the Quarterfinals of the World Cup, knocking out the United States, and finishing higher than ever as a country.
  • In 2016, they made it to the Quarterfinals of the Euro Championships, losing to an under-rated Wales side which saw Gareth Bale at his best.
  • For 2018 World Cup qualifying, they’ve had practically no problem thus far, finishing on top of their group and seeded in first place.
  • Currently ranked #7 in FIFA World Rankings

So what do Belgium youth academies, and Genk in particular, focus on to make their players so successful?

The mental aspect of the game.

Me: “You mentioned in this article that Kevin De Bruyne, when you worked with him….he had the passion to succeed, but maybe something was missing from a mental aspect?”

Peter: “Yes, we knew he was a great player from his time at Drongen and Gent, but he ran into some problems at his prior youth clubs. He was good from a tactical standpoint, his technical ability was superb, but from a mental standpoint, he needed a lot of work.”

Peter goes on to explain.

“He did not trust his teammates at all, and wanted to do too much. We knew he was a good player, he went on to play for our professional team and then made a move to Chelsea, but as a youth player, we really worked hard with Kevin to improve his mental approach to the game”.

In the article that I referenced earlier, this is reiterated.

“The big challenge for him was to use his technical skills in competitions. We talked to him very often and, having seen his exceptional talent, also had a lot of patience with Kevin. We tried to give him a good feeling by making him sometimes important. But that should not be constant either. We are careful in the education to place young people on stage.

We have many talents in our youth education, and it does not help them in their development as we continue to pamper them. In our training, each player must receive 70% of the playing time and therefore will not start the competition even if the larger talents do not even fall out of the competition. It is good to see how youth players deal with it mentally. Disappointments once belong to football, also in youth education. This allows you to recognize the real talent and winners.

Me: “So in this past article about De Bruyne, you mentioned that you worked harder with him on some mental aspects of the game. Do you remember any specifics in terms of what you did to help him realize his potential?”

Peter: “For Kevin, at such a young age, he needed to realize how good he actually was. Yes, we make sure not to pamper our players, or to put them on a pedestal, this is very important. But at the same time, Kevin (and other youth players who we’ve worked with) benefited from positive encouragement.

When he started not only trusting his teammates more, but also working on some mental aspects of the game- maintaining focus, not constantly putting his head down when things went wrong- and to pick and choose the times when he was able to take over a match, that’s when he started to reach his true potential, going on to play for our professional team (at only 17 years of age).”

More from the article, which I read to Peter throughout the interview:

We went on to work with Kevin specifically on his step technique, speed of execution, and timing and choosing his action and fit. In his first years, he played in a central position, in view of his exceptional trapping technique and game insight. Not yet pinned on a fixed pitch, but especially attacking and at times also at 6 and 8 to develop his game and to think about ball loss. His bias has always been a great advantage to play both left and right. Only after the promises, Kevin moved on to positions 7, 10 and 11.

Me: “So, you played De Bruyne out of position at times, to develop certain aspects of his game? Interesting.”

Peter: “Yes, but we did not play him much at the 6. When Kevin bumped back to the 8, ball retention and decision-making improved, but more importantly, the game slowed down for him tremendously. He was a lot more patient when he moved back to the 7/11 or 10, in attack.

Before, both mentally and physically, everything was moving so fast that maybe the end product was lacking. Once he moved back and saw more of the game, he made great strides in terms of his mental decision making and, like I said, the game just seemed to slow down for him”.

Landon Donovan at the 8? Pulisic at the 6? 

landy

Imagine a top youth club in the United States moving their best player, say an attacking mid or wing player, out of position for a few matches, all while risking a few results and/or the other players/parents thinking he (or she) was crazy? Very interesting to hear from a top European youth coach that he helped to develop one of the best players in the world by playing him out of position, and making sure he realizes how important it is for him to trust his teammates more in order for him to succeed.

In terms of mental preparation tools, and some other less traditional methods and exercises that Genk introduce to their younger academy players, Peter explained that it isn’t just about training 8 times a week and the actual game of soccer that they try to focus on.

Me: “In 2003, Genk built a brand new youth training facility next to Cristal Arena. Do you believe that the facilities themselves have helped when it comes to youth development”?

Peter: “Without a doubt. The brand new youth training facilities that we have at Genk have been great for the younger players to develop. In terms of football, between the ages of U7 and U12, the players only play small-sided games. First 5v5, then 8v8. Only at the age of U13 do they start actually playing 11v11.

Between U7 and U12, they typically get 3 training sessions per week. In terms of non-football activities at our facilities, we have a set training regimen for even the youngest players that we implement. At U7, we introduce them to boxing, judo, and gymnastics”.

Peter Reynders, Genk Academy Coach, during Navy Soccer Camp

Peter Reynders, Genk Academy Coach, during Navy Soccer Camp

Me: “That’s interesting, so you’re telling me that some of the best players in the world (De Bruyne, Carrasco, Courtois, etc.) were doing gymnastics and judo when they were younger”?

Peter: “Yes, absolutely. We believe that these activities help with movements and exercises that are not always used when training for, or playing football. These activities help with overall mobility, athleticism, footwork. It also adds variety, new and different ways for younger players to get fitness and exercise other than training on the pitch”.

Me: “Wow, very interesting. And from the mental aspect, which we’ve talked a lot about, are there any specific mental tools or activities that you implement?”

Peter: “Absolutely. We have started introducing virtual reality, and we also have computer-based programs at our facility that all youth players ages 13 and up must complete. These help them to understand certain game situations, and overall perpetration from a mental aspect.”

Me: “Interesting, did you develop these programs in-house or can you share the names of the programs you use?”

This is a topic which Peter wasn’t so willing to discuss, and it becomes obvious to me that Genk has developed some important non-traditional tools and methods that are used to train their younger players from a mental aspect. These tools are essential properties that they are not willing to share with competing clubs like Anderlecht, Brugge, Standard Liege, and other Belgian clubs which hope to gain an edge when it comes to mentally preparing their younger players.

One other thing worth noting: Genk opened their brand new youth training facility in 2003. It was mentioned earlier that Belgium’s National Team drought was between 2002 and 2012. While we’re not saying that that Genk’s new facility was a main reason behind the Belgium team’s meteoric rise (currently #7 in World FIFA rankings), it would be hard not to believe that it played a part in the development of the country’s best players. We bring this up because facilities are a hot topic when it comes to youth development in United States.

One last excerpt from the article, which I read to Peter:

Kevin had an exceptional step-by-step technique and game insight. Because he thought a phase further than the rest, he was always playable.

We have tightened these specific qualities by training with high intensity, and in small spaces, which means that you need to respond quickly and act.

Me: “One last question about De Bruyne. You mentioned in the article that Kevin possessed one particular quality that made him stand out from the rest: He was able to think a play ahead, and predict what would happen in certain situations in a match before they ever happened. Was this a result of Genk’s training or mental exercises, or just something you cannot teach”?

Peter: “It is a skill and characteristic which cannot be taught. As coaches, it is our job for any youth player we work with to train them for certain situations, and to help them realize what they are capable of. But for Kevin, he had one thing that cannot be taught, and not many players possess: the ability to think one play ahead, which can at times be more important than any technical, tactical, or mental exercise we work on.”

Age: More Than Just a Number

benteke

When we found out that so many top Belgium youth players have come through Genk’s Youth Academy (yes, it was a surprise to us as well), we were curious as to what their ages were when at the club.

In the United States, as the US Soccer Development Academy program continues to evolve, certain studies and surveys are published which show what ages are most important when it comes to youth development, and players taking the next steps towards College Scholarships and Regional Training Center invitations.

The ages of 14-16, from almost everywhere I read, are when youth players begin to understand and implement more of what they’re trained on, develop more from a tactical and technical standpoint, and actually implement the skills and tactical thought processes that are coached throughout their youth.

The following players were at Genk’s youth academy, during the following ages:

Kevin De Bruyne:
Genk Youth Academy: Ages 14-17
Genk Pro Team: Ages 17-21

Divock Origi:
Genk Youth Academy: Ages 6-15

Christian Benteke:
Genk Youth Academy, Ages 16-17
Genk Pro Team: Ages 17-19
Sold to Standard Liege, Went out on loan ages 19-21
Came back to Genk Pro Team: Ages 21-22
Went on to Aston Villa for 3 seasons, scoring 42 goals in 89 appearances

Yannick Carrasco:
Genk Youth Academy: Ages 12-17

Thibaut Courtois:
Genk Youth Academy, Ages 7-17
Genk Pro Team: Ages 17-19

Coach Reynders mentioned that Kevin De Bruyne came into the Genk Academy needing a lot of work from the mental aspect, but it seems like once he was at Genk he was able to come into his own.

I asked Peter about another player on this list, Christian Benteke. Currently at Crystal Palace, he came to Genk at the age of 16, which is a little later than players like Courtois, Origi, De Bruyne.

Benteke was sold to another Belgium club, loaned out for a few seasons, and then came back to Genk, which I found interesting. Following another year with Genk, after bouncing around a bit, he made a move to Aston Villa where he scored an astonishing 42 goals in 89 appearances for the English Club.

Me: “It’s obvious that Genk’s training facility and methods, along with youth coaches, are able to mold and develop younger players over time. But for a player like Benteke, who was in the club, left, came back, and then seemed to find himself again, what do you remember about him”?

Peter: “For Benteke, it is true that it was always mental. He was a big, strong, physically overpowering type of player. Unfortunately, for Benteke, he needed to find himself mentally, find his confidence. Maybe not the smartest player in the world, but when we worked with him, we spent more time trying to build him up than the other players. We worked on his mental confidence and belief in himself, his self-confidence, which he always needed help with”.

While Peter wouldn’t say specifically that, if Benteke was in Genk’s youth training program at an earlier age and for a longer period of time, he might have had more of a chance to succeed at a big club like Liverpool, it’s fairly obvious that the work, time, and effort that Genk coaches spend on mental training and preparation are playing a big part in the development of their youth players, for both club and country.

Big John

As English, and Quality, as they come

everton

We mentioned earlier that Coach O’Donohue’s summer campers at the Naval Academy were able to watch and listen to another coach from a top youth academy in the world, John Doolan from Everton, who is in charge of their U16 team.

John was just wrapping up a combination play session which was very impressive. During the session (which progressed into different advanced phases), he was able to demonstrate his technical ability and fitness level at the age of 43, showing the campers what he was looking for at full speed, while explaining from a coaching perspective, all without being short of breath once. He was a very commanding presence, and it’s obvious that this is an ex-professional player who demands commitment and dedication from his players.

We mentioned his playing career earlier. From everything that we found, there weren’t many bad things said about him, all the way up to his later days where there was obvious coaching potential:

doolan coach

John’s Everton youth academy has produced some of England’s finest players, such as Wayne Rooney, Leighton Baines, Leon Osman, Ross Barkley, Tom Davies (a prospect who Coach Doolan is obviously excited about), Jack Rodwell, Richard Dunne. Victor Anichebe….the list goes on.

Coach Doolan was sitting nearby while I was speaking to Coach Reynders, and was more than happy to chime in and discuss the Everton Youth Academy setup, along with what makes them so successful in England, a country where 5-10 different clubs could be competing for a local talent.

Me: “Everton’s Youth Academy was awarded Category One Status in 2012, which brought additional funding (a minimum of £775,000 per year) and resources. Was this a big moment for the club?”

John: “Yeah, absolutely. While it’s true that the bigger EPL clubs like Chelsea, Man United, Man City are all Category One, the additional resources that come with Category One status were a big part of what we’re currently doing with our youth system. Recently, in the U20 World Cup, which England won (John smiles ear-to-ear, proudly), we had more players represented than any other club. Five players: Jonjoe Kenny (20 years old, Everton Youth Academy), Callum Connolly (19 years old, has been at Everton since he was 9), Ademola Lookman (19, recent Evertonian), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (19, recent Evertonian), and Kieran Dowell (19, has been at Everton since he was 8).”

Young Lions Roar

england u20

Four of the five (Kenny, Lookman, Dowell, Calvert-Lewin) started in the U20 World Cup Final, a 1-0 victory over Venezuela. Calvert-Lewin scored the game’s only goal, his second of the tournament after being the first to score in England’s first match in a 3-1 victory vs Argentina.

Kieran Dowell scored the only goal in England’s third match, a 1-0 victory vs South Korea.

And Ademola Lookman, who Everton swooped up from Charlton earlier this month, scored 2 goals in their Round of 16 Matchup, a 2-1 win versus Costa Rica, and added another in England’s 3-1 semifinal win versus Italy.

Finch Farm

Finch Farm, Everton’s Training Facility

Me: “When it comes to identifying youth talent in England, you’re competing with a number of top EPL clubs- Man United, Liverpool (John cringes), and other English youth academies. Talk to us about your facilities, and what about your club or day-to-day activities that you think help younger players succeed”.

John: “We believe our facilities are top notch. 10 full-size pitches, one that’s lighted for night games and later sessions. A few small-sided pitches as well for the younger players. But one of the best parts of our facilities is that the young players have regular interaction with the professional players, since both teams train there. So a U16 player running into a player on the first team like Barkley or Lukaku on a daily basis is very special, and the first team players make an effort to interact with the youngsters”.

Me: “Speaking of small-sided, Peter mentioned earlier that their younger teams play almost exclusively small-sided games”.

John: “Ay. We are also big fans of futsal, we introduce it to the younger players almost immediately. They get more touches on the ball in futsal, and it helps a lot more from a technical standpoint when the ball isn’t flying every which way. It also brings the players back to the streets, there’s something about futsal that makes it seem authentic at times, brings out that fight and toughness”.

Me: In terms of additional training methods or exercises, similar to what Peter mentioned at Genk, does Everton implement any of those for youth training”?

John: “No, not really. Their parents send the kids there to learn how to play football, so the atmosphere at the club is almost 100% football. We obviously focus on the things which we believe are vital for young footballers to develop- proper nutrition and diet, training, we do also implement yoga so that might be one of the less traditional training methods. But the parents are sending us there kids to learn how to play football, not how to be gymnasts. They can do that stuff on their own time”.

Me: “In terms of typical training schedule, what’s that like for your U16 team?”

John: “The players train every day, and twice on Mondays. Sessions usually go from 6-8pm, but there will be times where they’re shortened to an hour and a half if we have a match coming up, or if a session the day before was more intense. So if we train twice on Monday, Tuesday would be a yoga day. Regular training sessions Wednesday to Friday, a game on Saturday, Re-gen on Sunday”.

Me: “How many hours would you say your u16 players spend, per week, playing soccer? There have been some studies here in the States that a typical u15/16 player is best if he spends 20 hours per week playing”.

John: “(counts it up) Typically, we spend only 15-16 hours per week playing. We don’t want to over-train the players, but it also depends on the players in the group. 3 years ago I had the best team I ever worked with, and they had to ask me to make the sessions harder because the players were so advanced (laughs).”

Me: “So in terms of scouting a player, there’s a page on the Everton Youth Academy website that says specifically not to send in Youtube video clips, and that you still receive thousands per week. Tell me more about how you scout and identify local talent”.

John: “We only scout players in the Liverpool area, within say a 50-mile radius. We want local players who are going to feel comfortable at the club- their families are nearby, they aren’t coming in from different parts of the country or from outside of England. That being said, we still compete with the big EPL clubs- Liverpool, United, City, the list goes on. So our scouting network is very important when it comes to identifying talent. In addition to our training facility, we also have Everton Soccer Schools setup, where young players can come play and be coached by our youth academy coaches. All of these are practically free. While we do have some talented players coming through the Soccer Schools, most of our talent is identified early on by our scouting network throughout the country”.

USA?

When interviewing both coaches, I asked them about what they knew about US soccer. Neither have spent much time here in the States, in fact I believe it was both of the coaches’ first trip to USA. Their responses are similar:

Coach Peter Reynders from Genk: “I have heard that soccer is developing in the United States. I have been very impressed with Navy and Coach O’Donohue’s camp setup, it’s a beautiful facility and the players are all eager to learn.

But it becomes very confusing to me when you start talking about things like ‘Universities and Colleges and Drafts'”.

Coach John Doolan from Everton: “I’ve been really impressed with everything I’ve seen here at the Naval Academy. The young camp coaches are eager to learn as well. One thing I would say to anyone reading this is- get your coaching badges as soon as possible. For our younger players, starting at U18, the players are actually required by the FA Category One clubs to start working on their coaching licenses and badges. It’s something you cannot start doing too early, to learn more about the game.

Aside from that, you have to realize that, from a soccer standpoint, USA is catching up. We have youth academy programs that have been in place for years, so I would say trust the process, but also realize that you’re catching up to other countries who have had Development Academy processes and facilities in place for a long time”.

Takeaways

One thing that will always come up when it comes to Youth Development in the United States is: money, which is responsible for a number of things, including facilities.

Back in 2012, when Everton was awarded Category One Status, they were awarded a MINIMUM of “£775,000 per year in funding from the Premier League’s youth development pot”.

As of 2015, the list of Category One youth academies in England:

Category One

So if there are smaller clubs on this list (at least when compared to Everton)- Reading, Derby, Norwich, Brighton & Hove Albion F.C., etc.

If the minimum allotment from the EPL development lot was £775,000 per year in funding, it’s more than likely that Everton’s youth academy is receiving over $1 million/ year JUST for being Category One.

Genk and Everton can afford to build and maintain top training facilities for their youth players.

Meanwhile, here in the States, US Soccer Development Academy clubs are responsible for providing and maintaining training fields (expensive) and game fields (expensive). The clubs who already have multiple fields at their disposal, like SAC (where Baltimore Armour trains), also have to schedule field times for all of their other youth teams to train on. So then they have to utilize additional local training options, such as Loyola University and Poly High.

For DC United’s Youth Academy teams, training on the RFK Auxiliary Fields and having different home fields (throughout VA and MD) every other game would probably be unheard of in England or Belgium.

The clubs have to pay the coaches and trainers as well.

In addition to the money and resources that USSDA Clubs are required to provide (with each USSDA club being graded among accordingly), the parents of youth players who are good enough to play at the Academy level are also required to come up with what can be looked at as EXTREMELY large amounts of money each season, depending on the club.

This can be upwards to $2,000-$3,000 per season depending on the club (or at least this was the number in the season before last when coaching in USSDA, we welcome feedback from others involved is USSDA), which doesn’t even include travel arrangements (flights, hotel rooms, meals, etc.) for the players or parents for Showcase events, and away games (DMV teams travel to Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania for regular season games, Florida and Indiana for Showcases and playoffs).

While most USSDA clubs will offer scholarship opportunities to the better players, a lot of the time the fees are covered by the players who are on the roster because they can afford to play.

Without getting into more specifics, the reality is this- USSDA is expensive. The Baltimore Bays lost USSDA status after Celtic was formed and they couldn’t keep the best players around. There were also financial reasons, and it took 4 clubs merging (Bays, Thunder, Pipeline, and SAC) in order to keep Development Academy soccer in Baltimore. The US Soccer Development Academy grades local clubs based on their facilities, coaching, and other factors such as player start percentages, but at one time one of the grading criteria were how self-sufficient the USSDA clubs were from a financial aspect.

That being said- like Coach Doolan said, we are catching up, but we are still WAY BEHIND. Yes, the Development Academy is producing top players.

Yes, the Development Academy is great for US Soccer.

But don’t even start to compare our youth development to those of Belgium or England, because we still have a long way to go. For youth development to continue to flourish and be compared to development efforts in other parts of the world, US Soccer or MLS need to figure out ways to assist Youth Development clubs in improving training facilities. The question is, how do we change this? We’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below.

Special Thanks

Special thanks to both coaches Peter Reynders of Genk, and John Doolan of Everton, for their time.

Also, a special thanks to Navy Head Coach Tim O’Donohue. The Navy camp staff and setup were all VERY impressive. For anyone interested in checking out their second camp session (June 30th-July 4th) you can find out more on this page, we have heard that one of the higher-up Rangers FC (Scottland) coaches will be there, among others.

navy coach

 

Christos FC: Underdogs? Maybe to everyone else

christos

Christos FC: Underdogs, at least to everyone else.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Cinderella story of Christos FC, and their outstanding run in the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup which came to an end last night after an outstanding effort by the team in a 4-1 defeat to DC United.

If you haven’t heard about Christos or last night’s match by now, here are a couple of the typical headlines:

This amateur soccer team, headquartered in a liquor store, never practices and rarely loses

Liquor Store Soccer Team Scores First Against D.C. United

A team based in a liquor store that never practices scored a stunning goal on DC United

Fear The Beer: The Christos FC Story  

No Practice, No Problem For Christos FC Ahead Of Match Against D.C. United

How a Maryland amateur soccer team sponsored by a liquor store got its shot at DC United

And so on.

The stories that we’ve read all talk about the amateur trophies, the liquor store sponsorship, and the GoFundMe page that Christos had to setup in order to raise funds for travel arrangements. And while someone over at Adidas, who recently provided Christos with brand new lime green kits, and others who closely follow soccer in the DMV area understand that Christos is more than just a “pub team” or “a group of guys who will be back at their full time jobs on Wednesday”, there’s no doubt that the story lines write themselves.

What has seemed to fall through the cracks during the past couple of months of Christosmania is the actual quality of the players on this Christos team, who held their own against DC United for the first 70 minutes on Tuesday night in Germantown, before falling victim to the brutal heat and MLS-quality subs that DC United were able to bring off of the bench in Lloyd Sam and Ian Harkes.

Pete Craingi III, Christos’ captain and main danger man throughout the season, has a profile on the MLS website. Why? Because he was invited to the 2014 MLS Combine after a successful career at UMBC. These days Pete is usually spotted at the major youth soccer tourneys and matches, recruiting for UMBC. They have a pretty solid freshman class coming in next season made up of a few guys who can play a little.

If you see what we did there, “a few guys who can play a little”, hopefully you’re picking up on a theme.

This team has thrived on everyone else’s perception, some of it self-inflicted, as the humble underdogs, or in the words of Washington Post’s well-respected local sports journalist Dan Steinberg….”the beer league guys”.

The stories absolutely write themselves, there’s no doubt about that. And just as a note, Steinberg embraced the story and wrote a really cool piece on Washington Post about how “sometimes sports are good”.

Christos “the beer league team” was even featured on two different versions of ESPN Sportscenter last night, once by soccer buff and regular Sportscenter host Max Bretos (who else remembers the days of Max Bretos on Fox Soccer Channel?):

And once again by DMV’er and University of Maryland alumni member Scott Van Pelt:


The story was even on the front page of ESPN at one point!

Others who have gotten in on the story/clicks/views of the little pub team that could include:

Chicago Tribune: Christos FC continues storybook run in U.S. Open Cup, beats FC United

Sports Illustrated: Watch: Amateur team named after a liquor store scores on D.C. United

Denver Post: This amateur soccer team, headquartered in a liquor store, will take on D.C. United in U.S. Open Cup

and so on, you get the point.

Local Pub Team Does Good. We Get It. But Why Does Christos Embrace It?

We mentioned earlier that some, if not a lot, of the “beer league guys” persona is self-inflicted, liquor store sponsorship excluded. When your team is warming up against an MLS team in US Open Cup wearing #alldaysoff shirts:


It’s both hilarious, and genius. Find me someone who doesn’t love free publicity, and I’ll raise with someone who hates the sound of Morgan Freeman’s voice. Christos loves adding fuel to the media fire, but we don’t get the impression that the primary main objective is creating publicity.

While it may be true that the Christos don’t train together on a regular basis, and have full-time jobs that they had to be back at this morning at 7:30 am:


Everyone in that Christos camp, and everyone in the DMV area who is aware of their quality, knows that these guys are more than just your average “pub team”. This is a group of guys who, I believe, add fuel to the media fire for one main reason: the internal “let’s go show them” mentality which every great team possesses.

Write your stories. Do your interviews. Tweet your thoughts. We’ll happily answer your questions, ride the wave, and we’ll do something good with it…. like help donate 300 tee shirts to the crowd at Maryland Soccerplex last night, or look into starting youth soccer programs next season for kids who can’t afford higher-level club programs….and then we’ll go show you we can play.

And yes, this a group of guys who know how to play the game, both on and off the field.

Cody Albrecht, University of Maryland and DeMatha, does some private and group training on the side.

Phil Saunders, former UMBC GK, coaches in the area and very involved in the game.

Mamadou Kansaye, former UMBC captain, coaches at Ellicott City Soccer Club and scored a great free kick against DC United last night.

We know Christos is more than an average pub league team, we’ve seen the trophies and some of us have had to play against their teams in Over-30 ball. But what gets you more fired up and motivated on the field than when EVERYONE, opponents included, is under-estimating you before the game even starts?

Beer league bros to you, underrated to us. Speaking of underrated, aka the title of this piece…

The 6.

The position of CDM, aka the 6. Most of the time, the guy who makes everything look simple and does the dirty work which almost always goes unnoticed. Many will say that defensive midfielders, as a position, are no longer underrated with the emergence of guys like N’Golo Kante, Ander Herrera, or Naby Keita at Red Bulls Leipzig.

When you have a good 6 who can protect the back line, who can read the game quickly enough to be in position to cut off passing lanes, and who doesn’t give away possession, whatever you get offensively can sometimes be the cherry on the top.

Chrstos went 4-2-3-1 last night:

starting xi

With 2 guys, Kaoru Forbess and Mamadou Kansaye, in front of the back line.

20 minutes in, watching via DC United live feed, it seemed like Forbess had a license to get forward more offensively, with Kansaye dropping deeper whenever DCU were in possession. There were 3 or 4 times when Kansaye was able to read the build-up and break up DC United attacks, yet the announcer didn’t really mention his name much.

Pete Carringi, Cody Albrecht, Phil Saunders, seemingly every other Christos player is mentioned by now at least once. And to the DC United announcer, if you’re reading this, no shade thrown your way, great job last night. We’re just trying to set some context here.

Then comes a foul at the top of the box, free kick Christos. Announcer mentions DCU goalkeeper’s name, and then, after previously referring to him as “Christos FC”, Mamadou Kansaye, who actually called his shot (see interview below) scores a free kick goal, somehow managing to get the ball up and over the wall from such a short distance.

It’s what everyone wanted to see, after reading all of the stories. The beer guys scored.

The neon green shirts flocking to the corner flag to celebrate.

People running from the bench area in full sprint to join them.

Want to see the “Beer league guys THAT!” face?

this guy

You’ve probably seen at least 3 different live videos from the goal by now, and that’s because almost everyone in attendance last night was holding up their phones, hoping to capture that one brilliant moment of passion that every soccer player, coach, and fan lives for.

Did they lose 4-1? Sure. But that one moment, the moment when the “beer league guys” scored against DC United, that’s what was on full National display last night in Germantown at Maryland Soccerplex, during a time when many in our country are looking for a feel-good story.

You Said Something About the 6 Guy?

He Can “Play a Little”

Once again, just setting some more context here. I’m in the process of completing my ‘D’ Coaching License, and met Mamadou (below, in Chelsea jacket) for the first time during the course.

mamadou

Some really quality guys who love the game and are fun to be around, including a great instructor in Rob Ryerson, and an up-and-coming DC United Academy youth coach in Jason Boxx.

I’d never seen Mamadou play at UMBC. Heard he was a good player, but when we started playing during field demos that weekend and he told me he was a 6, I didn’t actually believe him at first. Shorter guy, skinnier frame, quick…he looks like a winger at first.

Then he steals the ball from you, smiles, and goes about his business and you’re like…”oh, okay, he’s a 6″.

Since becoming friends with Mamadou, a few things that I’ve learned about him: A very good coach with a great understanding of the game. Very generous with his time when it comes to teaching others, with a sincere desire to see others succeed.

But I’ve only known the guy for a few months. What do some others have to say about him?

Long-time UMBC assistant Anthony Adams, who coached Mamadou at UMBC, gave us a detailed description of what it was like working with Mamadou that left me with the impression that not many have asked him about such an integral part of the “beer league guys'” success:

Mamadou is one of the smartest soccer players I have ever had the privilege of coaching. He is also a general on the field that holds every player accountable. Along with his high character and integrity as a person, I can’t say enough positive things about him.”

Adams, who has coached at UMBC for 21 years and is as respected of a soccer coach as you will find, goes on about a player that he obviously holds in such high regard:

“After Levi created the free kick and Mamadou scored, it was a huge rush of emotions for me in all aspects. As a former coach of Mamadou, at the club and college level, and in my 18-year history with Christos FC…to be up against D.C. United in that setting, on that stage, it was just incredible. I couldn’t be happier for those players and the Christos FC organization.” –Anthony Adams

Someone else who knows a little bit about Mamadou’s quality: former Borrusia Dortmund player and DMV’er abroad Joe Gyau. Through his time playing overseas, and at Youth National Team camps, Joe is a guy who has been around hundreds of players, but was more than happy to talk about his close friend and former teammate:

(laughs) Yeah me and Mamadou go way back! We played together and won State Cup and Regionals together during our youth days with Potomac. Great player, very intelligent on the field. One of the smoothest natural lefties I know. –Joe Gyau

The Day After, How Does it Feel to Score Against DC United and Get on SportScenter?

Hear it from the man himself.

mamadou1

I spoke to Mamadou earlier today, asked him a few questions and it’s obvious from his responses that the moment itself hasn’t really phased him.

Me: “Hey man, congrats on the performance last night. Your goal was on SportsCenter, your phone has probably been blowing up all day, and you can probably barely walk. What’s the craziest thing to happen to you since last night’s goal?”

Mamadou: (laughs) You’re right, I can barely walk. My legs are killing me! It was a great game, and I thought we played really well as a team up until late in the second half. DC United, bringing on subs like Sam and Harkes….who was great by the way, I really like his passing range and a very smart player….but they were just too much for us there at the end.

I was really happy to score the goal, but we were all hoping for a better result so I haven’t really been paying too much attention to Twitter or Facebook.

The craziest thing that happened was, after the game I said hello to a lot of the Christos fans, looked around but couldn’t find my mom anywhere! I called her, and said ‘mom where are you’?

She told me she left early to beat traffic! She was like ‘well you guys weren’t going to win, so why would I stick around?!’ (starts laughing)”

Me: “Haha she sounds like a tough mom to impress! What do you remember about the goal, and the celebration afterward? Christos players supposedly don’t practice, did you used to practice free kicks a ton?”

Mamadou: “I’ve been working on free kicks from that position for the past few weeks, actually. I’ve taken a ton of them. I told the guys before the game, ‘if we get a free kick from the left side of 18-yard box, nobody touch the ball. It’s all mine’, and (laughs) this might sound a little arrogant or whatever, but I told the guys before the game I would score from there!

Levi did great to win the free kick, and before I set it up he actually said to me “don’t forget, you said you’d score from here” so he added some extra pressure. I remember the ball going into the back of the net, and from that moment on I basically blacked out. It’s all still a blur!”

Me: “Great stuff man, and a great story! So in terms of memorable moments in your soccer career, this has to be up there, right? I mean, dude, you were on SportsCenter!”

Mamadou:  “I’ve been really fortunate to have some great soccer memories. This is up there, but isn’t number one”.

Me: “I gotta ask, what’s number one then?!”

Mamadou: (laughs) Meeting Zizou! I met Zinadene Zidane in 2009 at an Adidias Youth event in Denver, that guy was the best player ever! I’ll never forget meeting him”.

Me: “Okay, that’s really cool. But in terms of playing moments, what would trump scoring vs DC United in front of all of those people?!”

Mamadou: “My senior year at UMBC, we beat Maryland at Maryland. That’s number one for me. Yes, I’m happy about the goal, and being on SportsCenter is cool. But like my mom said, we lost, which is all I care about. Beating Maryland, at Maryland? That was special.”

Underdogs

It’s obvious after speaking with my buddy Mamadou that Momma Kansaye did a pretty good job, and that he is a great example of what made this Christos story so memorable, both on and off the field.

The mainstream media coverage and feel-good story about the “beer league team” that scored against DC United is one that everyone enjoys. But at the end of the day, this wasn’t a bunch of average guys who got lucky, “drank regularly”, never trained and rolled out of bed one morning to beat professional teams. This was a group of guys who have played all of their lives, believed in themselves, stayed together as a team, did what they had to do, and made the DMV proud.

Underdogs?

Maybe to you.

Local Boy Makes Good-son

clarence goodson

It’s story time, ladies and gents!

Rewind way, way back to the end of summer, August, 2002. I’m home from college, looking for something to do on a beautiful August Wednesday night in the DMV. My younger brother asked me earlier in the day if I wanted to head to College Park, MD that night to check out a scrimmage between DC United and University of Maryland men’s soccer team. So I call a few friends (this was way before the days of text messaging), pick them up after work, and we all head to Ludwig Field.

This is far from our first Terps or DC United soccer match. My brother, Mark Murphy, and I both grew up as huge soccer fanatics in PG County, and our dad took us to a ton of DC United games in the early days of the club. We both attended and played soccer at DeMatha Catholic High School, which was only a few minutes up Route 1 from University of Maryland, so we attended our fair share of matches at Ludwig Field.

But this evening was different.

DC United, enjoying early success after winning the MLS Cup in 1996, 1997, and 1999, was going through a tough time in 2000 and 2001, but they still had plenty of quality on the roster. They had just signed a new center back from New Zealand who everyone was buzzing about, and the overall quality of players on the pitch this evening made it a match, despite being a friendly/preseason scrimmage, that I’ll never forget.

Me: “I remember being at Ludwig Field on a Wednesday night for a friendly, DC United vs MD Terps. Maybe your sophomore year?

Anyway, with as much quality that was on the field that night- Jaime Moreno, Marco Etcheverry, Roy Lassiter, Santino Quaranta, Richie Williams, Eddie Pope I believe was there, Ben Olsen, the list goes on…. I remember coming away with 2 things from that game:

1) Ryan Nelsen is really freaking good! and
2) That big tall center back from Maryland is a beast!

I told my buddies who I was at the game with…and obviously this is no offense… but you looked like a big ol T-rex out there tackling and heading away everything that came your way!”

Clarence Goodson: (laughs) “That’s funny.

Thank you.

I agree, Ryan Nelson was really good. Excellent pro too.

Funny enough, that was my first college game at center back. I was recruited as a forward/midfielder, but we were in desperate need of a center back for that game and I just wanted to play anywhere I could get on the field. Full credit to Brian Pensky- an assistant at UMD at that time (currently head soccer coach at University of Tennessee)- to bring the idea to Sasho Cirovski, and for Sasho to agree to it. That decision helped me become a professional.”

Time at University of Maryland

A Transition for the Best

Clarence Goodson Maryland 2002Goodson, listed on the University of Maryland website as 6’4 his sophomore year, played as an attacking player throughout his youth career with Braddock Road and at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, VA. But his rather late transition to center back during his sophomore year at Maryland would see the Northern Virginia native launch a successful college and professional career, going on to earn 46 caps for the United States Men’s National team. Goodson would stand out for professional clubs, both domestically in MLS for Dallas Burn/FC Dallas, and overseas, playing for IK Start in Norway and Brøndby IF in Demark, respectively. He has since returned to MLS with his current club San Jose Earthquakes.

Only a month after being converted to center back (imagine transitioning from striker to center back and, for your first match, as only a sophomore in college, you have line up against Jaime Moreno and that DC United squad), he was named to Soccer America’s team of the week in September, 2002. Goodson would continue to develop as a defender, helping the 2002 Maryland Men’s soccer team, under head coach Sasho Cirovski, to go on to win the 2002 ACC Soccer Championship in a 3-0 win over Virginia.

Maryland soccer 2002

It would be Cirovski’s second of six ACC titles, also leading the team to the semifinals of the 2002 NCCA Men’s Soccer Tournament before losing to eventual National Champions UCLA.

Goodson, as a junior, would continue to flourish as a center back at Maryland in 2003-2004 before deciding to forego his senior season to turn pro and enter the MLS Draft. He would go on to be selected number 7 overall in the 2004 MLS Draft, one spot ahead of fellow USMNT player Clint Dempsey.

Me: “What do you remember from your time at Maryland? Memorable goals, teammates who your usually hung out with or still speak to….”

Clarence: “My time at Maryland as a soccer player overall was fun. However, it was not without some difficulties. It took time to get used to the expectations of a higher level of soccer, a different coaching staff and different players. Sasho is a great coach and I am very appreciative for all he has done for me. We have a good relationship to this day but he’s intense and demands excellence. It took me a bit to get used to that. Once I understood the expectations, I flourished.

I had so many wonderful teammates at UMD. We were a very close team, and everyone truly enjoyed being with each other away from the field. My two best friends to this day, Abe Thompson (who is still involved in the game and currently serves as a head coach of Braddock Road u16 girl’s team), and Jason Arnold (who is currently the General Manager at the Wilmington Hammerheads), both of whom I played with on Braddock Road, joined me at UMD. We speak almost daily. We won the ACC tournament, regular season championship and went to two final fours while I was there. However, what I remember most is the camaraderie we had. Each one of us didn’t want to let the other down. We cared about each other too much not to give everything we had. It was a special time.”

Me: “When you say that it took you some time to get used to the expectations as a student athlete…for the younger guys who are going into college, or currently playing soccer at that level, what advice can you share with them?”

Clarence: “As student athletes we have two duties- our studies, and then our sport. I think it is important for younger players to understand it can be a difficult balancing act, but that universities have many teachers willing to help, you just need to ask for the help.

Early DMV Memories

Braddock Road Youth Club, 1999 National Champions

Before talking about Clarence’s successful professional career which saw him on the 2010 World Cup roster, it’s important to take a look at where it all started.

Goodson grew up in the DMV, hailing from Alexandria, Virginia. He attended Annandale High School for his freshman and sophomore years, before transferring to WT Woodson where he and Abe Thompson would lead the Cavaliers to a Virginia State title in 2000.

For his club ball, Clarence played for Braddock Road Youth Club, helping to lead the Warhawks to a National championship in 1999.

Me: “So you grew up in Northern Virginia, and you played your youth ball for Braddock Road. What can you tell me about any memories you have growing up as a player in the Northern VA area?”

Clarence: “Youth soccer has always been highly competitive in the DMV area. I felt blessed to be able to compete against so many wonderful players without having to travel very far. The DMV area has produced many successful pros over the year and numerous from my age group. National team players at the youth or senior team include myself, Kyle Beckerman, Oguchi Onyewu, Abe Thomson, David Stokes, Kelvin Jones and Shawn Kuykendall just to name a few. I was fortunate to play with all of them at one time or another. Those experiences only make you a better player.

In NOVA specifically, we would often train at Pine Ridge Park in Annandale, WT Woodson High School, and I have many memories of playing games at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville.

For indoor we would play in Manassas. Not sure if those fields are still heavily used the way they were in my youth, but they were top notch facilities in the 90’s and 2000’s.”

Me: “You’ve obviously played for a number of coaches throughout your career. A lot of times, players say that coaches who worked with them in the early years are the ones who influenced them the most. Do you remember any of your old youth, high school, or any other coaches who you’d like to recognize?”

Clarence: “The two most influential coaches from my youth were Joe Dougherty (who currently coaches for Arlington Soccer)  & (longtime VA youth soccer coach) Gene Mishalow. Both coached me at different times for the Braddock Road Warhawks, and both helped me grow at different periods in my development. I am very grateful for both of them. I’m 34, and still keep in touch with both to this day. I honestly feel indebted to those men for the time and the grace they gave me as a youth. Top men.”

Life as a Professional

A “Tall” Order

Clarence was drafted seventh overall in the 2004 MLS Draft, but in his rookie season he only registered 247 minutes over 5 regular season MLS games. While he did see extended time in Cup matches, the Burn failed to make the MLS playoffs for the second straight year in manager Colin Clarke‘s first full season.

The following season, iclarence goodson fc dallasn 2005, club owner Lamar Hunt announced that the club would be re-branded as “FC Dallas”, a decision which was coordinated with the opening of their new soccer-specific stadium in Frisco, TX.

That same season, FC Dallas signed Carlos Ruiz as part of a trade that sent Landon Donovan to the LA Galaxy. The team made it to the Western Conference Semifinals, losing to the Colorado Rapids 3-2 after a penalty shootout, a game in which Goodson recorded an assist.

FC Dallas also made it to the final of the US Open Cup, losing to the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 in what was basically a home game for the Galaxy in Carson, California.

It would appear as if the new FC Dallas name, jerseys, logo, and stadium all serve as a breath of fresh air for the Dallas MLS club, but the 2005 season was also a breakthrough season for Goodson. He led the team in minutes (2,488), games played (29), and games started (28) despite being used primarily as a substitute the prior season.

Settling in during his rookie season obviously played a role in his standout sophomore campaign.

Me: “So then you’re drafted 7th overall in 2004 by the Dallas Burn. You had some familiar faces with you there…Abe Thompson was a former Terp, Michael DelloRusso, and I’m sure you knew Alex Yi from VA.

Then you have some quality established players like Denilson, Shaka Hislop, Kenny Cooper was hot around that time.

How did you feel about making the jump from college to the pros, what was different in terms of how you prepared yourself as a professional that maybe rubbed off on you from some of those veteran guys?”

Ronnie O'Brien

MLS Standout Ronnie O’Brien helped Clarence settle in when he came to Dallas

Clarence: “Each level I have stepped up to has created new challenges. The game is faster, the margin for error is much smaller, and of course the players are bigger, stronger and faster. We had great players in Dallas.

From day one, Ronnie O’brien took me under his wing. We happened to live in the same apartment complex and I am forever indebted to him for his friendship and mentorship at that time. It makes a huge difference for a young player to have an older professional care about your development. I was also able to watch Ronnie and other guys train like Bobby Rhine, Steve Jolley, Greg Vanney, Jason Kreis, and Richard Mulrooney to name just a few. I listened as much as I could to try to learn something new. You look at those names, and not only were they fantastic players, they’re great men. Those experiences and conversations have helped me in my professional life and my personal life.”

A few years later, in 2007, Clarence would be selected second overall by the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2007 MLS Expansion Draft, but the Northern Virginia DMV native had bigger plans.

Yank Abroad

Looking for a fresh “Start”

Instead of returning to MLS, Goodson decided to take his talents to Scandanavia, signing for IK Start in Norway in what could be looked at as a bit of a “trailblazer” move (see: “Who is Clarence Goodson and why MLS should care“). Between 2008 and 2010, Goodson would make 69 appearances for the club, scoring 10 goals and starting to pop up on Bob Bradley’s USMNT radar.

Clarence after signing for Brøndby IF in 2011

Clarence after signing for Brøndby IF in 2011

Me: “You get a move to Europe, to Scandinavia of all places. IK Start in Norway for 3 years, followed by a move to Danish club Brondby. What do you remember going from MLS, where you were a standout at FC Dallas by the time you left, to Europe?”

Clarence: “At the time, San Jose Earthquakes had just come back to San Jose as an expansion team after previous moving to Houston. They became the Houston Dynamo, and now MLS was having an expansion draft to help fill out the new Earthquakes roster. I was out of contract, and FC Dallas knew of my desire to move abroad. So FC Dallas decided to leave me unprotected (teams could protect 11 of 23 players), and thus able to be picked by San Jose. I was of course picked. I thought it was a really stupid decision by Dallas, but it is what it is. After I was drafted, I felt the contract offer from MLS was poor, and I left to play in Norway. It was one of the best decisions of my career. I also believe coming back to MLS when I did in 2013 was one of the best decisions I have made. Each player is different and each players path is different but I’m happy the route mine has gone.”

Representing his country

Stars and Stripes

Clarence GoodsonGoodson made his first US Men’s National Team appearance against Sweden in a friendly on January 19, 2008. He would go on to earn a total of 46 full caps for the US Men’s National Team, and was selected as a member of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The Americans were in the same group as England, Algeria, and Slovenia.

Come on, you remember.

easy

They were favored to come out of their group along with England, but Algeria made it very difficult in a landmark game versus Bob Bradley’s Yanks.

Me: “Bob Bradley calls you into National Team camp in 2008. You’re involved in World Cup qualifying in 2008-2009, and you play in the 2009 Gold Cup. Later on, in 2010, you get to live the dream. You’re going to the World Cup!

Is being involved in a World Cup squad the most memorable experience of your soccer career?

wcClarence: “Representing my country has been the ultimate achievement. Its an amazing feeling that is the culmination of countless hours of training and lifestyle choices off the field. Especially in a country that is so large, and with such a massive player pool. To be considered one of the best players we have and have a chance to represent our national team is amazing. It is something I wanted to be able to do just once. I was blessed enough to do it close to 50 times.

Then of course the World Cup is another level all together. That is the really something special. At one moment in time, I was one of the 23 best players in America. The entire process of pre-World Cup training, and a World Cup tournament is extremely draining. Mentally and physically, you cannot afford to take any breaks. If you do, you could lose your spot, or let your team down.

Training sessions were extremely intense, in all the right ways. We encouraged each other, and gave everything we had to make it a successful World Cup. The group stage went very well, and we finished in first place. It wasn’t without stress though. As many may remember, we were tied late vs Algeria and needed to win to advance or we would be out of the WC.”

Me: “Of course I’m going to ask you about that! Landon Donovan’s late goal against Algeria, which sealed the win and sent shock waves throughout the world, especially back home in the States. What do you remember about that amazing moment in US Soccer history?”

world cup goal

Clarence on the left, Jozy coming in strong

Clarence: “Tim Howard caught the ball, threw a quick outlet to midfield and we went end to end with Landon Donovan scoring the winner in extra time. Before I knew it, I was at the corner flag hugging and kissing Landon! It was a massive dog pile I’ll never forget. Amazing time with amazing teammates!”

2014 World Cup

Disappointment

Landon Donovan wasn’t the only name that was omitted from Jurgen Klinnsman’s 2014 World Cup roster. Despite being used in World Cup qualifying and playing in almost every United States win during the qualifying campaign, head coach Jurgen Klinnsman decided to go a different route and select younger, less experienced center backs for his World Cup roster.

Clarence, on missing out on being selected for the 2014 World Cup:

Soccer is the beautiful game, but it isn’t always a fair game. Missing out on the 2014 WC was very disappointing, but things don’t always go the way you envision them. I think its very important for players not to put too much stock in how good or bad one coach thinks you are.

 

 

Coaches are very important, but they are not always right. Jurgen was wrong to leave me off of the team, but it was his decision to make. Just because I didn’t make the team didn’t mean I was suddenly a bad soccer player. For me, it was important to get back out and play again, and not allow someone else’s thoughts of me to define me. I’m proud to say I believe 2015 was the highest level I’ve played at in my career. I honestly believe I was the best defender in MLS in 2015.

San Jose Earthquakes

“Heading” off into the sunset

Goodson returned to MLS in 2013, after 5 successful years abroad, to play for the San Jose Earthquakes. He’s made 49 appearances for the San Jose side, and recently, has embraced a veteran role in which he’s able to provide guidance and tutelage for some of the younger players on the team.

goodson vs rooney

Me: “You mentioned earlier that some of the veteran guys in Dallas were able to help you settle in when you first arrived. Do you see yourself in a similar role now in San Jose at all, maybe showing the younger guys a few things? If so, what do you try to teach/show them what they need to do to be a quality professional player?”

Clarence: “Absolutely. I try to teach others like I have been taught. Just like the older pros I played with at a young age, I’ve always given 100% in training. I have absolutely no time for players who train at 50% effort. That comes down to the individual’s mentality and character, though.

I’ve never been able to give less than 100%. I don’t have it in me. I believe that my 100% effort rubs off on others, and in every club it’s up to the older pros and coaches to set that standard. But the on field stuff is only part of it. A massive part of being a professional soccer player is the choices you make off of the field. Proper nutrition, weight training and sleeping habits are just as big. If a player doesn’t understand that, then they can never truly reach their full potential. Those are just some of the things I try to share with the next generation.”

Life as a Professional

How Clarence has played professional soccer for 13+ years

Me: “You’re now 34, still a professional athlete. To be able to do this, you obviously have to look after yourself.

Give us an idea of what you’ve done to be able to have such a prolonged career (diet, training regimen, anything you can share).

Clarence: “Being a pro athlete is a 24/7 thing. Especially at 34, if I eat the wrong thing or don’t get the rest my body demands, I suffer for it.

I try to eat well-balanced meals, organic if possible, little to no sugar, defiantly no soda or fast foods. We start training at 10am everyday, and I arrive between 8 and 8:20am. I eat, and then prepare for training. I get in the hot tub to warm the muscles, do PRI exercises to help my back and hips. I stretch in the gym, and get taped up to be ready to train. Depending on the day, I might lift weights.

This routine has drastically increased over the years. But at 34, it’s what I need to be able to continue to compete at this level.”

Me: “Okay, one last question. Do you ever return to the DMV area to visit family, etc.?”

HTTR!

“My family and many friends still live in the DMV area. I love being in the DMV area. I have countless memories in the DMV area. I try to get back every winter to see family, and It’s always a very special time.”

Clarence Goodson, truly one of DMV’s finest.

 

DMV’S Finest: Joe Gyau

Not Your Average Joe

Borussia Dortmund, US Men’s National Team, and DMV’S Finest Joe Gyau shares some fond memories of playing in the DMV, and sheds some light on his rehab progress

Joe Gyauby George Murphy

While current US Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinnsman may, for some, be on the hot seat following his team’s failure to reach the Gold Cup Final on home turf this past summer, one thing is for sure: he has no problem giving younger guys a chance to shine.

The German-born head coach and all-time great striker has no problem giving younger players the chance to prove themselves at the International level, which has resulted in a deeper pool of players to select from. Want some examples? Just take a look at guys like DeAndre Yedlin, who is poised to feature for Tottenham this season, Gyasi Zardes, and a host of others.

DMV native Joe Gyau is no exception. The Borussia Dortmund II standout received his first full USMNT cap on September 3, 2014 against Czech Republic, 13 days before his 22nd birthday. He was able to showcase his speed, willingness to run at defenders, and all-around game which excited USMNT fans everywhere.

Gyau, who is from Silver Spring and grew up playing for the Bethesda Roadrunners, came through the US Youth National Team system, representing the Stars and Stripes at the u17, u20, and u23 age groups. He’s been playing in Europe since 2011, enjoying success at the youth level at German clubs 1899 Hoffenheim and FC St. Pauli, before making his move to Dortmund in 2014.

Not many young American players draw interest from a club like Dortmund. But for those who are familiar with the Gyau name in the DMV area, it’s not much of a surprise.

Joe’s Father, Philip

More Than Just a Soccer Dad

philip gyau

Philip Gyau during his time with the Maryland Bays

 

Joe’s father, Philip, is the current head coach of the Howard University Men’s Soccer Team. As a player, he made 6 caps for the United States Men’s National Team, between 1989 and 1991. Philip had stints playing for the Baltimore Blast, Washington Warthogs (for those fellow Warthog fans who can remember going to games at USAir Arena, or the Capitol Centre, whatever it was called back then), and a number of other clubs in between.

He transitioned into coaching in 1998, managing the US Men’s National Beach Soccer Team, Bullis High School Girls’ team, St John’s High School, and a number of other club teams. His successful coaching career has helped him develop 20 players who have represented the United States at the Youth National Team Level, and he was inducted into the Maryland Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007.

That all being said, it is obvious that Joe was exposed to higher-level soccer at an early age. He recalls memories from when his dad was coaching, which helped shape his career and work ethic at a young age.

“I would do soccer camps with my dad for 10 weeks in the summer, every day, from 9 to 5” says the Silver Spring native. “My dad was working camps all summer, so I was there all day. Then he would have clinics after camp, where I would train after. Some days, we would be out from 7 in the morning, and not come home until around 9-10pm. So we were touching the ball literally all day, every single day.”

At the youth level, while still playing in the DMV, Joe played for the Bethesda Roadrunners club team which challenged for National titles. He has some very fond memories of playing soccer in the the DMV area, and says that he still stays in contact with a number of his teammates and friends.

“We played against all of the Maryland teams. The guys I remember playing against the most are from MSC United, guys like Julio Arjona and Peabo Doue. I still stay in contact with my old Varsity teammate Rodney Wallace from the Timbers, Bill Hamid from DC United, Jalen Robinson. Paul Torres, who is currently playing in Norway, Dallas Sikes, who is in Luxembourg. And of course Lester Dewee, my best friend, who is currently playing in Sweden. All the guys.”

Joe also has fond memories of watching Maryland Terps and DC United games live, and of course, of watching his father on the pitch.

“When I was still living in MD, I always watched University of Maryland play, and we would also go to a lot of DC United games. My father was also playing in a Caribbean Mens’ League. Those games were the most fun to go to, just because I got to see my dad play! There were a lot of old Jamaican Internationals playing, old friends, and I remember the food was always good. The one guy I remember watching play when I was younger, though, was Isreal Sesay, we called him Issy. Man, that dude was a beast back in the day, he played for our older Bethesda team. And Chris Agorsor (who went on to University of Virginia), who was playing in the Baltimore area. He was definitely a force to be reckoned with as well.”

Joe’s DMV memories also extend off of the pitch, but he says that there is one thing in the DMV that he doesn’t miss that ALL of us can relate to.

“The main thing I miss when thinking about the DMV is my family and friends…just hangin’ at home, and being around my loved ones all the time. That’s what I miss the most. I come back to Silver Spring around twice a year, winter and summer. I miss the Chinese Food carry outs there, my Barber Shop, Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s house, pickup basketball, neighborhood football, and pickup soccer games of course, haha. I miss a lot of things. I don’t miss the traffic though, at all!”

Hard Work

How It’s Helping Joe Through Adversity

Joe Gyau rehab progress

Joe while in action for Dortmund, doing what he does best…terrorizing defenders.

There’s no doubt that Joe’s constant early exposure to the beautiful game, along with the strong work ethic and passion instilled in him by his father at a young age, has helped him to become one of the most promising young prospects in Klinnsman’s USMNT selection pool.

 

But having to look adversity square in the eye is something that every great athlete has to go through, and Joe is no different.
Joe Gyau vs Ecuador

Joe in his second USMNT cap vs Ecudor

Joe was able to impress Jurgen Klinnsman and the USMNT coaching staff enough during his first full cap that he started his second match, just over a month later. On October 10th, 2014, Joe started a friendly against Ecuador. After just 15 minutes, he had to be subbed off with what was initially thought to be a sprained knee.

However, it was later announced that Joe had torn his lateral meniscus, and was likely out for the 2014-2015 season for his club, Borussia Dortmund.

Recently, reports have been surfacing that Joe has been suffering setbacks during his rehabilitation. He was hoping to be ready for the 2015-2016 season, but rumors continue to surface that there is a chance that he could miss a big chunk, or possibly all, of this next campaign.

Joe was kind enough to let us in on how his rehab is going.

“Rehab has been going really well, I’ve actually recently arrived in Munich and I’m doing some work down here. Things are going well, and I’m always improving. Yes, it is true that I had some cartilage damage, so the surgeon had to do a transplant procedure. They extracted some of my existing cartilage, grew it in the lab, and then 3 weeks later put it back in the damaged spot. I’ve been doing work each and every day, which is tough sometimes, but it’s what has to be done for me to come back stronger. The facilities, physios, and doctors at Dortmund have been with me every step of the way. As for me being out for the whole season, that’s not true. I’m definitely going to be back much sooner than that. But I have to be patient, and keep working hard.”
Joe has confidence that, in the end, his work ethic and love for the game will prevail, and that this small bump in the road will make him a stronger player, and person.
“Personally, I’m not trying to rush back into anything and hurt myself again. I’m still young, and my main goal is to fully recover because I know that, once I do, I’m going to pick right back up where I left off.
Before this injury, I never really had to do the rehab components of life, I was just a pure athlete. Being given the chance to work with so many trained experts, I’m definitely going to come back stronger and faster.
This time away from being on the pitch has also given me a chance to study the game a bit more as well, and to train my mental state of mind. Believe it or not, the professional game is much more mental than a lot of people think, you have to be mentally strong and prepared if you want to play consistently at a high level, and very confident of your abilities. So I have definitely grown during this period, and can’t wait to see how it all translates on the pitch.”
Joe is able to lean on his family, club doctors and physios, coaches, and teammates when he’s in need of motivation. But when we asked him which players he watches and tries to model his game after, it’s obvious that he also looks to a couple of legendary forwards when seeking inspiration.
“I wouldn’t say that I try to model my game after anybody in particular, but I do have players that I’ve always looked up to. First, obviously, I’ve always looked up to my father, because he was a really direct forward.
I admire Maradona, he has so much passion for the game and he never gave up. Also, Ronaldo Lima. Those two guys are my all-time favorites, but Ronaldo has become more of my favorite lately, because he had 2 or 3 potentially career-ending injuries that could have seen him never player again. But he was never deterred by all of the outside talk and speculation whether he would ever be the same or not. He came back from each injury through hard work, and performed on a World Class level, so I admire his resilience. I also admire both players because they both had that one-on-one ability, and could leave players behind with speed, which is one of my main qualities.”
If you’re a fan of DMV soccer, it’s hard not to know the Gyau name. Joe and his father, up to this point, have been a model of what can happen if you work hard, and are passionate about soccer.

 

Yes, it helps to have world-class speed, and quality coaching at a young age. But there are examples of players, not just in soccer, but every sport, who give up and fold after an injury or other setback.

 

To be hearing things from such a young player like “I’m working on becoming stronger mentally”, and “I’m continuing to study and use this time to make myself a better all-around player”, in addition to Joe’s obvious knowledge of the game and respect for those who have come before him, should make all of us hopeful that he will return to the field a better all-around player, and get back to his old ways. A player who will return to the field at the International level, continue to make defenders worry about his next move, and make all of us in the DMV proud to call him one of our own.

 

Good luck Joe, and keep working hard!

 

A few notable photos from Joe’s Instagram account:

Amazing coach … Sad day. #ThanksKlopp #BVB

A post shared by Joe Gyau (@joegyau36) on


Being embraced by former BVB manager Jurgen Klopp

2009… Life changes quick.. Stay humble and don't forget who your fam is… #301 #240 #Rack

A post shared by Joe Gyau (@joegyau36) on


On the playground is where he spent most of his days


His father, Philip, in action for the USMNT

Late night gym session #Work 💪

A post shared by Joe Gyau (@joegyau36) on


Taking a selfie break<

#Throwback #TheBeginning #BVB

A post shared by Joe Gyau (@joegyau36) on


Coming on as a sub, alongside captain Mats Hummels

#Preach

A post shared by Joe Gyau (@joegyau36) on


A quote that gives him inspiration during his rehab process

DMV US Soccer Development Academy Recap 9/19-9/20

USDAAll three DMV-area US Academy teams endured long road trips up North this weekend, facing off against tough opponents in the Northeast conference.

DC United traveled to New York to take on BW Gottschee and Albertson SC,  while Bethesda-Olney and Baltimore Armour both took weekend trips to Connecticut to square off against Oakwood Soccer Club and Beachside SC.

Baltimore Armour

Baltimore ArmourBaltimore Armour vs Beachside

Baltimore Armour’s u17/18 side took on Beachside SC on Saturday at University of Bridgeport. They were able to get on the board against a competitive team, but the home team prevailed in a 3-1 victory. Goal scorer for Baltimore Armour u17/18 has not yet been reported.

Also in action on Saturday was the Baltimore Armour u15/16 side, coming off of a victory last week against division opponents Bethesda-Olney.

After allowing 2 first half goals to Beachside, and an early goal in the second half, Armour was down 3-0 early, but continued to fight. They were able to make it 3-1 after defender Ben Detweiler saw his deflected volley find the back of the net. A few minutes later, Matthew Bailey was able to put a left-footed shot in the back of the net to make it a 3-2 game. Armour continued to pressure Beachside’s goal throughout the second half, but were unable to find the tying goal despite a hard-fought effort.

Baltimore Armour vs Oakwood Soccer Club

On Sunday, Armour continued their journey up North to Portland, CT to square off against Oakwood Soccer Club at Oakwood’s beautiful soccer complex.

Baltimore Armour u17/18’s were up first, putting in a hard-fought effort but unable to produce a result despite pressuring the Oakwood goal throughout the game. The match finished 1-0 in favor of the home team.

Up next, Baltimore Armour u15/16’s tried to keep the momentum going after nearly coming back from a 3-0 deficit the day before. Armour was able to get on the scoreboard in the first half, thanks to an excellent finish from Olufela “Fela” Osifeso who collected a flick-on from Baltimore Armour striker Brady O’Connor, dribbled around the goalkeeper, and finished the goal from a tough angle. Armour were able to preserve their 1-0 heading into halftime, despite a number of efforts from Oakwood striker Kamer Nuhiu nearly finding the goal. A second half which can only be described as complete insanity would follow in one of the craziest halves of soccer that you could imagine in a USSDA match.

Baltimore Armour striker Brady O’Connor hit the post early in the first half, unlucky not to give his team a 2-0 lead. Oakwood was able tie the match soon thereafter, with Oakwood striker Kamer Nuhiu, who was very impressive throughout the match, finding the back of the net five minutes into the second half to make it 1-1.

However, Baltimore Armour was able to shift the lead back in favor of the visitors, thanks to Olufela “Fela” Osifeso following up a rebound and finding the back of the net to make it 2-1.

Kamer Nuhiu wasn’t finished however, as he was able to find another goal eleven minutes later, tying it up at 2-2 with 24 minutes left in the match. Game on.

Nuhiu was then somehow able to find 2 more goals in the second half, in the 66th and 68th minutes, to take his goal tally in the match to four and putting his team up 4-2. A resilient Baltimore Armour side, coached by head coach Frank Assaro, continued to battle. Matthew Bailey found Armour’s third goal after a spectacular volley from 25 yards out found the back of the net in the 69th minute, and it was sure to be an intense final 10 minutes of the match with the score being 4-3.

Armour conceded a fifth goal two minutes later, when Simon Becher scored for Oakwood. However, Armour continued to battle, and made the game 5-4 in the 79th minute thanks to Kamso Onwumechili getting on the end of a ball bouncing in the box and finishing for Armour. It was 5-4 heading into extra time, but the Baltimore Armour u15/16 side weren’t able to equalize and were left with a long bus ride home after a roller coaster of a match.

Next weekend, Baltimore Armour travels to Pennsylvania to take on PA Classics on Saturday.

Bethesda-Olney

Bethesda OlneyBethesda-Olney vs Oakwood Soccer Club

Bethesda-Olney u17/18’s came into their matchup vs Oakwood with a perfect 2-0 record so far this season, after defeating Baltimore Armour the week before and Everton FC Westchester in Week 1. The visitors were able to keep their perfect record in tact on Saturday, after defeating the home team 1-0 at Oakwood’s soccer complex in Portland, CT. Bethesda-Olney’s goal was scored by Justin Lobe.

Up next was Bethesda-Olney’s u15/16 side, taking on a tough Oakwood u15/16 side who only lost to New England Revolution’s u15/16 team in week 1 by one goal in a 1-0 defeat. The home team prevailed this time out, with Oakwood winning the match 2-0.

Bethesda-Olney vs Beachside SC

On Sunday, Bethesda-Olney were in Bridgeport, CT to take on Beachside SC before a long journey back to Maryland on Sunday night.

Bethesda-Olney u17/18’s were up first, looking to keep their perfect record in tact. However, they ran into a Beachside team who were able to produce a 3-0 victory and improve their record to 2-1 on the season. Bethesda-Olney’s u17/18 side are 3-1 heading into next weekend’s away matchup vs NJCSA.

In u15/16 action, Bethesda-Olney looked to rebound from 2 straight losses to Oakwood and Baltimore Armour, respectively, and were able to do so after securing an impressive 3-0 away victory versus a quality Beachside opponent. Goals were scored by Jerry Zouantcha, Alex Debayo-Doherty, and Gabe Segal. Bethesda-Olney u15/16’s will travel to NJ next weekend to take on NJCSA.

DC United

DC United AcademyDC United vs BW Gottschee Academy

With the other two DMV-area Academy clubs traveling to Connecticut this weekend, DC United had a Northern road trip of their own this past weekend when they took the road to New York to take on BW Gottschee and Albertson SC, respectively.

DC United u17/18’s were coming into Saturday’s matchup with BW Gottschee- who is historically competitive at every age level- with a perfect 2-0 record after beating NJCSA in week 1, and earning an impressive 5-0 away victory in their last match.

Heading into halftime scoreless, DC United u17/18’s took a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from Gerson Umana. However, the home BW Gottschee continued to battle and were able to secure two second-half goals, handing DC United their first loss of the season.

DC United’s u15/16 side, who allowed 5 goals in the week prior in a 5-1 defeat to New York Red Bulls, also dropped to the home BW Gottschee side by a score of 1-0.

DC United vs Albertson SC

Both DC United Academy clubs were looking to rebound from losses on Sunday, when they took on Albertson SC at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY.

The DC United u17/18 side were up first, and managed to improve their record to 3-1 after defeating the home Albertson SC side 2-0. Miles Robinson scored in the first minute of the match, and Jose Carranza scored DC United’s second goal in the first half to secure the 2-0 victory.

In u15/16 action, DC United made short work of Albertson SC thanks to Colin Brezniak, who netted a brace within 20 minutes of the match. Alexis Cerritos scored in the second half, as did Casimir Zekoua, to secure a 4-0 victory for the DC United u15/16 side who travel to Pennsylvania next weekend to take on PDA.

USSDA Atlantic Division Standings

U17/18

U17/18 Atlantic standings

DC United are currently in third place in the U17/18 Atlantic Standings, followed by Bethesda-Olney who are in fourth. Baltimore Armour u17/18 are in last, with a lot of time to improve.

U15/16

U15/16 Academy Standings Atlantic

In the u15/16 tables, DC United are in fourth place through 4 matches, Bethesda-Olney in 6th place, and Baltimore Armour in 8th.

Congratulations to all of the local DMV Academy teams, and keep up the good work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

College Soccer Recap: #12 Georgetown hosts #1 Team in Country, UCLA

UCLA vs Georgetown

I took a trip to DC yesterday to watch the #12-ranked Georgetown Hoyas take on #1 UCLA, in what was a heated contest both on and off the field. Shaw Field, located directly on the Georgetown campus, was sold out, and the home crowd was absolutely electric. In terms of the weather, it felt like the sun was directly on top of everyone in attendance yesterday, and lets just say that there were probably more sweaty bodies in the crowd than there were on the field.

Both teams are coming off of tough losses from the weekend. UCLA, coming into the weekend ranked #1 in the country, suffered a 3-2 overtime defeat to the University of Maryland on Friday night in front of a record crowd at Ludwig field. Georgetown lost to an Akron team over the weekend which actually defeated Maryland last night. So, needless to say, both coaches would be doing all they could to come out of the weekend avoiding a pair of losses.

UCLA seemed to start off in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Georgetown Hoyas coach Brian Wiese favoring a 2-striker system with a 4-4-2 formation. Wiese got a ton of effort out of his entire team, especially up front through Senior striker Brandon Allen and Junior Alex Muyl. Allen is a big body, listed at 6’1″ but appearing much bigger on the field through his play. He was strong in hold up play, and worked his socks off throughout the match to make dangerous runs with and without the ball. Muyl, his striker partner, was no slouch either. His work rate and creativity, combined with his close touch in traffic, provided a number of opportunities against a UCLA defense that struggled to contain both forwards.

For UCLA sophomore forward Abu Danladi, who was voted the Gatorade National Player of the Year in his senior year of high school, was voted Freshman of the Year by Top Soccer last season, and looks poised to be a top draft pick if/when he enters the MLS Draft, absolutely terrorized the Georgetown defense throughout the match, especially in the second half. The Ghana-born striker was also strong in hold-up play, but also possesses the speed and strength that would have any defender in the country shaking in his boots once he’s coming at him. At 5’10”, 170 pounds, his physical presence and athletic attributes, combined with his excellent work rate, make him look like a combination of Obafemi Martins and Loic Remy. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but needless to say, I was impressed with the young man and expect big things from him once he takes the leap to the next level.

Anyway, on to the action, which started off with Alex Muyl for Georgetown finding himself behind the UCLA back line and going to goal, only to be fouled and taken down from behind by UCLA’s Michael Amick who was extremely lucky to escape with only a yellow card. Amick appeared to be the last man, and the referee’s decision to not asses a straight red wasn’t exactly met with open arms by the home student section. The free kick was taken by Georgetown’s Brendan McDonough, which was kicked directly into the wall.

I decided in the 20th minute to take my chances with the concession stand and go hunting for a bottle of water. After 20 minutes in line, only to find out that they ran out of water, I missed the first Georgetown goal which was scored by junior Brett Campbell. From what I gathered from my friend sitting next to me, it was a ball which bounced around the UCLA box, and put in by Campbell aka Johnny on the Spot. Either way, a goal is a goal, it just would have been nice to see it. Word on the street is that Georgetown is a pretty decent school, you would think they would have more than one person taking money at the concession stand, and that they’d have more water available during a holiday game against the #1 team in the country which felt like it was being played in Dubai somewhere, but what do I know.

I returned to my seat with 5 minutes left in the first half (yes, seriously) which ended without much to write about. Okay, I’m ready for an action-packed second half, let’s do this.

UCLA vs Georgetown

At some point in between my concession stand journey and the start of the second half, UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo decided to switch to a 2-striker formation, which appeared to be a 4-4-2 from the naked eye. This is where Abu Danladi was at his most dangerous, and he absolutely gave the Georgetown defense nightmares in the second half.

While the weather may have cooled off a bit in the second half, the play on the field was more heated than before.

Georgetown was able to get a quick goal in the 46th minute when they were awarded a free kick in the middle of the field from 30+ yards out. With the free kick being in the middle of the field, and a right-footed Brandon Allen taking the kick, it didn’t appear to be a dangerous situation. However, the UCLA defense was unable to deal with a ball played directly in the middle of their box, and Georgetown sophomore Arun Basuljevic, who was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season, got on the end of Allen’s free kick and played a looping header over 5’11” UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes who watched the ball sail into his net.

2-0 Georgetown.

UCLA came out firing after the second goal, desperate to keep working for a result. In the 48th minute, UCLA’s Jackson Yueill, who is a member of the USMNT U-18 team and who was dangerous throughout the match, found himself with an opportunity in Georgetown’s box, only for his shot to find the outside of the net for a goal kick. A few minutes later, Danladi had an open shot at the top of the Georgetown box, only for his shot to find the hands of Georgetown freshman goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski, who is also a member of the U-18 National Team pool. Needless to say, there was talent on display at all positions on the field, in a heated #1 vs #14 matchup.

Abu Danladi continued to assert himself on the match in the 52nd minute when he was involved in some hold-up play in the box, laying it off to a teammate whose shot resulted in a UCLA corner. A few minutes later, Danladi had another opportunity of his own, a wide open header in the Georgetown box which was another easy save for Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski. UCLA was starting to threaten, against a Georgetown back line which looked a bit shaky.

It is worth noting, actually, that both back lines looked shaky in possession throughout the match. There were a number of unforced turnovers, bad passes, and both goalkeepers were guilty of kicking the ball out of bounds in back to back possessions despite not being put under pressure.

Anyway, back to the action, and guess who? In the words of Marc Jackson, “momma there goes that man again”, Abu Danladi finds the ball in the 56th minute and runs directly at the Georgetown back line, only for the ball to be cleared away. It’s only 11 minutes into the second half, and I already need another water break. Oh wait, I didn’t get the first water break. Well hopefully these guys are staying hydrated when they have the chance, because the pace of play is electric, thanks mainly to the Georgetown students and fans who lined the field and provided an excellent atmosphere.

Georgetown soccer fans vs UCLA

Georgetown students adding to an electric atmosphere at Shaw Field

Danladi was given another opportunity on goal, this time being set up by strike partner and fellow Ghanaian Abdullah Adam, but Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski was once again cool under pressure.

UCLA’s freshman sensation Jackson Yueill was once again able to assert himself on the match in the 68th minute when the ball was crossed to the left side of the Georgetown box. Yueill’s teammate found him on the top of the 18, and Yueill was able to take a touch and set himself up for a right-footed shot which deflected off of a Georgetown defender and smashed off of the crossbar, with Georgetown keeper JT Marcinkowski this time appearing to be beaten. The ball stayed in play, and Marcinkowski was forced to make a save directly in front of the left side of his goal, which resulted in a UCLA corner kick. Needless to say, UCLA was pounding on the door.

Following the corner kick, Georgetrown strikers Alex Muyl and Brandon Allen were given a much-needed break, with both of them working hard to keep the ball and work extremely hard in the severe heat.

From a tactical standpoint, both teams were able to get wide play out of their outside backs in the 4-4-2 formation. UCLA’s Chase Gasper, who is from Alexandria and attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC, was able to make a darting run up the left side of the field in the 70th minute. The hometown sophomore’s run up the field resulted in UCLA winning a free kick from around 25 yards out. The free kick was taken by Jackson Yueill, which was initially cleared by Georgetown, but the ball eventually found its way to Abu Danladi, deflects and bounces in the Georgetown box, and is finished by Jackson Yueill to make it 2-1. UCLA grabs the ball out of the net, and game on.

Two minutes later, Abu Danladi is played in behind the Georgetown back line off of a punt from UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes, but instead of going to goal himself, he opts for the unselfish option and lays it off for a teammate, who was ruled to be in an offside position.

Another two minutes go by, and somehow Abu Danladi is able to create yet another scoring chance, this one being probably the most important of the match. Danladi finds the ball outside of the box, runs into the heart of the Georgetown defense, and appears to be taken down for a UCLA penalty kick. No call, however, and the traveling UCLA fans go ballistic. Following the ensuing corner kick, play is stopped and UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo is spoken to by the referee, with the head coach visibly upset at the referee’s decision. In all fairness, he did appear to have an argument, with this being a crucial point in the match which could have resulted in the game being tied.

With 15 minutes left, former Loyola player Larry Ndjock, now playing for UCLA in his senior season, has a ball sit up for him which he crushes on the volley, only for JT Marcinkowski to push it over the bar in an amazing reaction save.

With Georgetown strikers Brandon Allen and Alex Muyl being reintroduced to the match, things started to turn in favor of the Hoyas. UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes was starting to be put under pressure, and not just by the Georgetown players. The fans behind his goal were harassing him throughout the second half, including a pretty clever Finding Nemo Seagulls chant of “Juan Juan Juan Juan”.

UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes hears it from the home Georgetown fans

UCLA goalkeeper Juan Cervantes hears it from the home Georgetown fans

The rest of the game involves an impressive (and probably unnecessary) flip throw from UCLA’s Seyi Adekoya which ended up going out of bounds. This ends up being the last notable threat on the Georgetown goal, with the Hoyas’ back line and goalkeeper being put under pressure throughout the second half. UCLA actually appeared to have three forwards with 8 minutes remaining in the match, and possibly as a result, Georgetown ends up getting their third goal (and the proverbial “nail in the coffin”), with junior Brett Campbell getting his second goal of the match. Both Georgetown forwards who were reintroduced, and whose hard work and skillful play had such a positive impact on the match, were involved in the goal. Alex Muyl and Brandon Allen were both credited with assists on the goal.

Okay, now I really need a water break, time to find a 7-11. And to top it off, as the game is winding down, Georgetown fans serenade the UCLA players, coaches and fans with a chant that they’re sure to remember on their long trip back to the West Coast.

“OOOOVVVVEERRRRRRAAAAAATED!”

 

 

 

DMV US Soccer Development Academy Recap

USDA

The 2015-2016 Fall USSDA season has kicked off. A few clubs had matches last weekend, but with this weekend being the first matches for many clubs in the area, this will be our first USSDA recap for the 2015-16 season. Below are the results and recaps for each club, in alphabetical order. Please note- we will likely only be covering u15/16 and u17/18 action for the new future.

Baltimore Armour

Baltimore Armour

This weekend was the first time Baltimore Armour, the new Development Academy club made up of Pipeline, Sac, Bays, and PSA, was in action during the regular season. Their u17/18’s and u15/16’s hosted Philly Union at Covenant Park in Columbia, a tough first test for the new club.

Baltimore Armour’s u17/18 side dropped its first match of the season, 6-0 to a tough Philadelphia Union squad who have been together for some time. Philadelphia goals were scored by Tiger Graham (2 goals), Joseph DeZart, and Yosef Samuel who had a hat trick.

The u15/16’s also had a tough match, dropping to the Union 5-1. Armour’s u15/16 side had a penalty kick saved in the first half, and also hit the crossbar. They turned in a much better performance in the second half. Philly goals were scored by Brenden Aaronson, Anthony Fontana, Justin McMaster, and Darius Lewis who had a brace. Baltimore Armour goal was credited to Jacob Williams.

Things don’t get any easier for either Baltimore Armour side. They travel to Bethesda-Olney next, followed by two away games in Connecticut against tough opponents, another away game against PA Classics, only to return home to face New York Red Bulls.

Bethesda-Olney

Bethesda OlneyBethesda-Olney’s u15/16 and u17/18 teams both traveled to Purchase, New York to take on Everton FC Westchester on Saturday. It is both team’s first games of their 2015-2016 season, after impressive campaigns last season.

The u17/18’s were able to earn a 0-0 away draw.

Correction: According to Bethesda-Olney’s Twitter account, their u17/18 team were able to earn a 3-0 victory. Goalscorers yet to be confirmed.

In u15/16 action, Bethesda-Olney drew Everton FC Westchester 1-1. Goal scorers have not yet been reported on the USSDA website.

Both clubs will host Baltimore Armour next Saturday at Richard Montgomery High School.

DC United

DC United AcademyIn their second games of the season following opening victories for both teams against NJCSA, DC United‘s U17/18 and u15/16 teams squared off against New York Red Bulls at the NYRB Training Facility in Whippany, NJ in an intriguing pair of MLS club matchups.

In u17/18 action, DC United earned an impressive 5-1 away win against their NY rivals thanks to goals from Nicolas Brown, Chris Durkin, Carson Jeffris, Lucas Mendes, and Miles Robinson.

DC United’s u15/16 team was not as lucky, falling to NY Red Bulls 5-1. DC United’s goal was scored by Colin Brezniak, formerly of the Philly Union.

Next up for DC United, they travel to New York where they face BW Gottschee and Albertson SC in back-to-back away games next weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

Recap: Navy vs Ohio State

 

Glenn Warner Soccer Facility

We took a trip to Annapolis on Sunday to watch Navy soccer take on Ohio State at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility, located directly on the water in downtown Annapolis at the United States Naval Academy.

Coming off of a 3-2 overtime loss to a tough opponent in Oakland this past Friday, Navy head coach Dave Brandt and his team were hoping to put in an impressive home performance to improve their record to 2-1-1, going into two straight away games against Longwood and University of Maryland, respectively.

The Midshipmen were dominant throughout the match, and the only thing more beautiful than the waterfront background surrounding the pitch was Navy’s tactical and patient play. In what appeared to be a 4-2-3-1 formation with Senior Derek Vogel leading the line as the lone striker, very rarely was their back line left unprotected against an Ohio State team which preferred a more wide open attacking formation, made up of 3 and sometimes 4 attacking players.

Navy’s 2 holding mids stayed disciplined and patient throughout the match, and could usually be found directly in front of their back line whenever Ohio State was able to win the ball. Navy was also able to drop 10, and sometimes 11, players behind the ball during most of Ohio State’s buildup.

From a defensive standpoint, Navy’s back line- made up of freshman Ericson Bean, sophomore Dylan Struthers, sophomore Thomas Moore, and senior standout right back Michael Parker (from Owings, MD and who attended DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville)- looked strong, compact, and disciplined throughout most of the match. Their outside backs had no problem flying up the wing and joining the attack whenever necessary. Defensively, they were able to deal with whatever Ohio State threw at them, anchored by Senior goalkeeper Jackson Morgan who posted 2 saves, one of them being at point blank range from a wide open Ohio State player within 15 yards.

Navy’s defensive efforts from their back line and holding mids was paired with tidy play from their center attacking mid, sophomore Daniel Zaremba. Very rarely did Zaremba turn the ball over. His vision, movement, decision making, and close touch in traffic frustrated Ohio State for the final 2/3 of the match, after coming on as a sub in the first half.

Things got started off in the 17th minute when striker Derek Vogel was almost handed an opportunity. Ohio State’s center back played a poor pass out of the back, directly to a Navy player, who laid it off for Vogel whose effort failed to test the goalkeeper.

11 minutes later, senior Thomas Shiiba had a wide open look from the left edge of the 18-yard box after a Navy midfielder was able to drive at the center of OSU’s defense and lay it off to him, but his effort sailed over the goal.

In the ensuing buildup for Ohio State, in the 29th minute, #19 Marcus McCrary of Ohio State, who was active and very dangerous throughout the match, found himself with an open opportunity in front of goal. He tried to beat Navy goalkeeper Jackson Morgan near post, but his shot found the outside of the net.

Things started to get chippy around the 34th minute. Senior right back Michael Parker was able to keep the ball while under pressure from an Ohio State player, and was able to win a free kick after some heated physical play. A minute later, Daniel Zaremba, who had just come on as a substitute, drove into the box and appeared to have an argument for a penalty, but the referee deemed the OSU player’s tackle to be a clean one.

It didn’t take Navy long to get on the scoreboard after things heated up. Sophomore Aubrey Jones found the back of the net for Navy’s first goal, after he was played in for an open shot on the left-hand side of the box by sophomore Brock Dudley.

Ohio State was able to earn a free kick in the 43rd minute, but the effort resulted in a routine save by goalkeeper Jackson Morgan. The Buckeyes were then almost able to level the score right before half when #21 Jacob Duska found himself open in front of the Navy goal, but senior Michael Parker was able to deal with it and preserve the first half shutout through the same physical play that he asserted throughout the match.

1-0 Navy at halftime.

In the second half, Navy continued their dominating performance. In the 57th minute, Daniel Zaremba was able to dribble into the box and find himself with a clear opportunity, but Ohio State goalkeeper Chris Froschauer was able to make the save.

Jackson Morgan was able to make a save of his own three minutes later, and an impressive one. Danny Jensen from Ohio State found himself with a wide open shot from 15 yards out, which Morgan stoned from point blank range to conserve his clean sheet. This was a clear opportunity for Ohio State to level the score, one which Morgan denied to give his team a boost in confidence and lift the home crowd.

In the 71st minute, Ohio State were reduced to 10 men when junior defender Tyler Kidwell was sent off after being given a second yellow card on a play in his own box, which appeared to be either an intentional hand ball, or a push on a Navy player.

Navy, as a result, was awarded a penalty kick. Senior Derek Vogel stepped up to take the spot kick, but shot it right at the OSU goalkeeper in a poor effort.

Daniel Zaremba was unlucky to not find the back of the net a minute later, after having a shot in the box which deflected for a corner kick.

In the 76th minute, Vogel made up for his missed PK and converted an open header for Navy’s second goal, assisted by Brock Dudley who posted his second assist for the Midshipmen.

Navy soccer vs Ohio State

Navy was able to finish off the visiting OSU side in the 82nd minute, when Thomas Shiiba dribbled through a pair of OSU defenders and finished his shot past the OSU goalkeeper to complete a dominating performance by Dave Brandt’s Navy team.

For more information on the victory, including a video interview with Thomas Shiiba, visit the official recap over at Navy’s website.

Up next, Navy will head to Farmville, VA on Friday as they take on Longwood, followed by a tough opponent the following Monday- the University of Maryland Terrapins, in College Park.

 

 

Weekend Academy Recap April 18 and 19, 2015

Another weekend in the books for the local DMV 2015 Spring Academy season, a weekend which saw hot temperatures on AND off of pitches as local Academy clubs continue to fight for points which are coming harder and harder to come by.

Baltimore Bays Chelsea vs DC United

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On Saturday, Baltimore Bays’ u13/14, u15/16, and u17/18 teams squared off against DC United at Hammond High School in Columbia.

First up was u17/18 action, with DC United taking control early in the match. DC United and future University of Maryland Terp Eryk Williamson got an earl goal in the 9th minute, and 2 minutes later Stephane Kouama put United up 2-0. Williamson added his second goal of the game, and 18th of the season, in the 23rd minute as DC United went into halftime with a comfortable 3-0 lead.

Things got worse for the Bays when defender Gregory Andreou was sent off for a second yellow card, and the floodgates opened. DC United were able to cruise to a 9-0 victory thanks to braces by Jorge Calix (goals in the 73rd and 88th minutes), Lucas Mendes (53rd and 69th minutes), and Daniel Reeves (56th and 66th minutes).

In u15/16 action, the temperature heated up on the field during a match which was a lot closer than the 5-0 scoreline reflected.

DC United forward Raheem Lawal got DC United off to an early 1-0 victory, and the Bays conceded a second early goal in the 9th minute when Carson Jeffris put the visitors up 2-0. However the Bays continued to fight back and saw a goal disallowed on a questionable offsides call right before the half, when Matt Bailey followed in his own shot for a goal off of a corner kick.

Things got worse for the Bays in the second half when Olufela “Fela” Osifeso appeared to be fouled in the box for a penalty, but the referee decided to swallow his whistle instead of pointing to the spot.

DC United went up 3-0 in the 53rd minute through a goal by Luis Rodriguez-Luna, and a second half brace by SahrFelix Sandy saw the visiting DC United rebound from their 1-0 defeat last week to Philadelphia Untion with a 5-0 victory.

In u14/15 action, DC United defeated the Bays in a 7-0 victory. Goals were scored by Dan Benevides (2), Ryan Jones (2), Noah Nwosu (2), and Jonathan Godette.

Bethesda-Olney vs Everton FC Westchester

Elsewhere on Saturday, Bethesda Olney’s u17/18 and u15/16 teams squared off against visiting Everton FC Westchester at Richard Montgomery High School.

The u17/18’s were able to secure a 4-0 victory thanks to goals from Ibrahima Kouyata (2 goals), Stephen Harlan IV, and Alex La Noire.

In u15/16 action, Everton FC Westchester was able to escape with three points thanks to a first half goal from Shane Devine.

Bethesda-Olney’s u14/15 team defeated Lehigh Valley 1-0 thanks to a goal from William Tichy.

Baltimore Bays vs Everton FC Westchester

The Bays’ u15/16 and u17/18 teams played a double header this weekend, facing off against FC Westchester at Harford Community College on Sunday.

The Bays u17/18 team had their best showing of the Spring season, going up 1-0 early thanks to a goal from Randy Rowe. Everton FC Westchester leveled the scoring right before halftime thanks to a goal from Colin Furlong.

In the second half, Frank Assaro was able to get on the end of a set piece for a late goal (82nd minute) that put the Bays up 2-1, but the home team wasn’t able to hang on when Everton FC Westchester scored a late counter-attack goal through Simeon Okoro to escape with a draw.

In u15/16 action, the game remained scoreless through the first half. However, things livened up in the second half when Olufela “Fela” Osifeso put the Bays up 1-0 with an incredible individual effort and his first of the season.

Everton FC Westchester forward Dantae Greer, who came into the match with 13 goals on the season, was able to score the tying goal in the 48th minute. Greer also scored the game winner in the 63rd minute, taking his goal tally to an impressive 15 goals on the season as the Bays were unable to hold onto the second-half lead or earn any points in a 2-1 defeat.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Academy Recap

USDA

Another weekend is in the books for DMV area US Soccer Development Academy teams, with a few teams having the weekend off.

 

Baltimore Bays Chelsea

Baltimore Bays’ u14, u16, and u17/18 teams hosted visiting FC Delco teams at Troy Park in Elkridge on Sunday. The u17/18 team kicked things off, struggling to deal with an FC Delco side whose spirits were high after a win last weekend against Seacoast United. Delco was able to squeek by with a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal by CJ Smolyn. Bays goalkeeper Chase Vosvick (Twitter) was sent off in the second half after a very questionable red card for a foul outside of the box.

Next up was the Bays’ u15/16 team, who was able to get a result at home against FC Delco’s u15/16 squad which was 1-1 coming into Sunday’s match. Matthew Bailey (Twitter) was able to get an early goal in the first half, with Brady O’Connor (Twitter) scoring the second first-half goal. In the second half, FC Delco had a player sent off and the Bays were able to close the game out against the short-handed FC Delco squad, with Bays Goalkeeper George Taylor (Twitter) securing the clean sheet.

The Bays’ u14 team had a tough day, dropping to FC Delco by a score of 10-1.

All three Bays teams will have a 2-week break, picking things back up on April 18th against DC United.

Bethesda-Olney

Bethesda-Olney’s u13/14, u15/16, and u17/18 teams all hosted PA Classics over the weekend, with all three squads playing the traveling PA Classics teams at Richard Montgomery High School on Saturday.

The u17/18 team kicked things off on Saturday, securing a 3-2 victory thanks to a hat trick by Sam Sergi (Twitter). Sergi got a first-half goal in the 31′, and scored the remainder of his hat trick in the second half in the 51st and 69th minute. His last goal proved the be the winner, after PA Classics scored two goals in the second half- Aaron Robinson and McKinley Curran netting in the 47th and 85th minutes, respectively.

Next up was the u15/16 team, who were also able to secure a victory with a 4-0 win versus PA Classics’ u15/16 team. Goalscorers were not yet reported on the USSDA website, match report can be found here.

And lastly, Bethesda Olney’s u13/14 team was able to earn a 2-1 victory against PA Classics’ u13/14 team, with goals scored by Alessandro Allen (3′) and Gabe Segal (43′).

Bethesda Olney’s three Academy teams will travel to PDA on Saturday, April 11th.

DC United

DC United were not in action in academy play this weekend. Their u17/18 team reportedly played against Baltimore Celtic in a friendly (3 30 minute periods), with Celtic coming out on top 2-1 thanks to goals by Tyler Gabarra and Connor Smith.

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