Now Boarding

admin | July 16th, 2015 - 12:48 pm

Airline tickets in hand and bags are almost packed as the excitement builds. Focus 90 Select is training and getting ready to board a flight to Lisbon.

Check back every day during the trip to read how and what the team is doing. Each day, the boys will spend some time to give their point of view, from sightseeing to how they did on the field… and pictures too.

You only have four years of high school

admin | January 10th, 2014 - 11:11 am

HS vs DA debate continues. Here is an article of one player and coach who struggled with the ultimate decision. For each player, the reasons are different but in the end,  was it all worth it. Are you part of the less than 1% of top talent or the more than 99% of everyone else. Are you willing to sacrifice missing out on HS in pursuit of a dream.

Lets keep in mind, there are other avenues… a player can play HS and then play CLUB. Some DA clubs may not allow you to play both but there are many many premier clubs that do.

HS/DA split still a work in progress

Article Written by Will Parchman, ESNN
Published: January 10, 2014

Kyler White was stuck.

The talented young keeper had played for Philadelphia Union Development Academy affiliate FC Delco for years, even moonlighting with the Union’s on-again, off-again academy team at the time in fall exhibitions against other academy sides. He started in Delco’s club setup and then moved through the system, through the pre-academy, then as a cog on the U16 side and then as a starting U18 keeper last year.

But White felt conflicted. In 2012, the USSF split high school soccer and the academy system down the middle, requiring high school-age boys players to choose one or the other barring a waiver. For a large portion of the country, that emptied high school soccer rosters of some of their best players as scores chose the brighter lights and stiff competition offered by the academy. With only one year left of high school, White was now questioning his decision.

“You only have four years of high school,” White said. “Why not be able to play? I think that should be a statement. I feel like U.S. Soccer should take that into consideration. You only have four years to play high school, why not let us play? I’m not angry at the academy because I understand the way they’re going with it now, how soccer’s becoming bigger in America, but you do only have four years of high school. And that factored into my decision.”

After speaking with as many coaches on both sides as he could, White decided to leave his starting post with Delco (now Continental FC) and migrated to high school soccer for the first time. White finished out his high school career this fall with Haddon Township High School, which he says he doesn’t regret. He admits the scouts at his games thinned out – in fact, he said he’s never seen a college scout at a high school soccer game – and the level of play is perhaps more uneven in spots, but he wanted the option to choose.

“Most people from my area don’t understand the whole academy thing,” White said. “They look at it like, why can you only play that and not play high school? Kids I used to play academy with, some of them would complain about not being able to play high school because they realize it’s really fun. Some of them just wanted to play academy, but I think it’s pretty conflicting.”

In its year-plus of implementation, the Development Academy’s decision to force players to choose between its ranks and high school has received mixed reviews. Last September, Dave Verso, a father of two former academy players, lobbed criticism at the academy via the L.A. Times by saying the environment is “ill-suited” to help players solve problems. In late 2012, the New York Times ran an in-depth profile of Montclair High School’s Oliver Murphy, who labored over his decision to choose academy over high school.

A sizable chunk of the nation’s players and coaches voiced concern that the academy’s attempt at consolidating its ranks felt like an unnecessary power grab. But from the academy’s perspective, it was merely good sense that led them to the decision. By better controlling the environment available to players, U.S. Soccer could better control the developmental atmosphere on a macro level and position players better for the next level.

And further, the decision didn’t limit a player’s ability to play high school. It just forced him to choose.

“I think it’s been a very important platform, especially for a club like ours, to get meaningful games,” said Colorado Rapids senior director of youth development Brian Crookham. “That’s been the biggest benefit to us, is it’s a ready-made source of meaningful games. Setting a standard for trying to get clubs with similar mentalities together has been a big positive for us. It’s given us a big platform to compete in matches a lot closer to what we would’ve wanted it to look like than maybe what we would’ve gotten in maybe a traditional US Youth or US Club format.”

Tim Carter is the director of boys soccer and head U18 coach for Minnesota-based Development Academy side Shattuck St. Mary’s. The club is unique in that it straddles the ocean between boarding school and development academy, which has made it one of the most talent-rich youth soccer programs in the nation. He’s spent decades around the game in the U.S., and he helped guide Shattuck to the title game of the U18 playoffs last summer. Some of Carter’s previous experience with the Olympic Development Program led him to believe that players who left for high school didn’t come back as sharp as when they left.

“Kids would come out of the national teams and they’d go back to their high school, and they’d come back in around Thanksgiving and join their national team, and we would see the regression from the players,” Carter said. “Going back to the high school season and then coming back, there was a regression. Things high school coaches are saying is we buy it for the pros, but are you taking too much of the mass? They might have a point there. But the reality is you had to create another functioning environment, and it required the number of clubs that are out there that are willing to do it this way.”

Not everyone at the academy level hopped on board with the decision. One of the most stark examples was provided last fall by Steve Nichols.

Nichols has been coaching soccer for more than 20 years, a good chunk of which was at the head of Baltimore Bays Chelsea, perennially one of the best academies in the nation. He took the club to the national finals in five of his six years there, and his roster of former players stretching back to his early days includes senior national team veterans like Kyle Beckerman and Oguchi Onyewu. Dissatisfied with the way the academy was trending, Nichols opted to leave last year and took nearly all of his players and coaches with him. He formed his own club, Baltimore Celtic, and continued coaching at McDonogh School, one of the nation’s best high school programs.

The Mid-Atlantic region is unique in the sense that the general state of high school soccer is arguably more robust than the academy. Programs like Nichols’ McDonogh, Good Counsel, St. Paul’s, Gilman and Loyola make up the backbone of an area that pours resources into the high school game like few others. It’s one of the few areas of the country where players chose high school over the academy in not insignificant numbers when the split came down.

The way Nichols sees it, that’s part of the country’s vast, unique soccer tapestry that requires greater leeway at the local levels. So he left.

He says his final “wake-up call” came when U18 National Team member Suliaman Dainkeh opted to leave the D.C. United academy his senior year in 2012 to play high school soccer instead. Dainkeh is now a starting defender at Maryland(m), and he isn’t the only high-profile player to choose high school. Cristian Roldan, last year’s National Gatorade Player of the Year, chose his local El Rancho High School over Southern California’s glut of talented academies. Roldan just wrapped up his freshman year at Washington(m) and established himself as one of the most exciting young players in the country.

“I’m just trying to get to the same end using a different means,” Nichols said. “The academy doesn’t work in our region. Kevin Smith (from Dallas, Texas-area academy club Solar Chelsea) is one of my best friends. I think he’d love to go back to the old way too when we were all doing it together in USYSA. But he’s in a region that has FC Dallas, Dallas Texans, Sporting Kansas City, Colorado Rapids. He has like five MLS teams and some great other teams.

“For us, in our region, it wasn’t worthwhile. We played a 28-game schedule last year, and besides DC United and PDA, we didn’t have any special games at all. So you play a 28-game schedule and you play four really good games? That’s not how you get better.”

Further, Nichols was frustrated by what he saw as too much oversight on experienced coaches who didn’t need it.

“Carlos Somoano won a national championship with UNC-Chapel Hill two years ago,” Nichols said. “He was at CASL for 10 years. So he comes out to coach a game and U.S. Soccer tells him they want him to play a 4-3-3. Carlos is playing a 3-5-2. They’re going to tell Carlos Somoano what system to play and how to play? Little things like that.

“You’ve got guys coming and grading your training sessions and giving you grades on training and other things, and if Tab Ramos is coming to do it, or Bob Bradley or Jurgen Klinsmann, I get that. But the guys that are grading you and telling you how to do things really have never been that successful and are yes-men that have worked their way up the system.”

For White and others like him, the decision lacks the finality of the black and white. Few question that the Development Academy is slowly raising the level of youth play in the U.S., and its national events have largely been well-oiled despite the fact that the academy is entering just its seventh year in existence. But questions linger about the value of high school soccer and its place in the game’s firmament in this country. Whether it’s the social side of things or simply the ability of each corner of a vast nation to be able to tailor best practices to its own unique circumstances, the debate ambles along.

White bears no ill-will toward U.S. Soccer but understands the inherent challenges of being scouted and playing at the next level through high school and smaller club leagues, which some players may prefer. As White found for himself, there aren’t any easy answers as the stakes continue to rise.

“I think it’s a high percentage that want to (play both academy and high school),” White said. “I wish I could do both, 100 percent. I can guarantee you most players that do academy now wish they can play both. Playing high school is a lot more fun than when I was playing academy. I think that’s maybe the social aspect. It has its pros and cons, like anything does.”

 

The Toughest Of Decisions: Play For High School, Or An Academy?

admin | November 12th, 2013 - 9:51 am

The debate continues… play with HS or Academy Club?

2 years into the change, is the decision becoming easier or harder?

Nov 9, 2013 Article in The Courant – Click Here

 

“I’m not anti-academy,” said Dan Woog, soccer coach at Staples High in Westport. “The training is solid, the competition is strong. I am, however, anti-academy my-way-or-the-highway. I don’t think 21/2 months of high school soccer will prevent the U.S. from winning the World Cup. I’m also pro-high school soccer, and for the majority of the 80 or so players that can reap the benefit and lifetime rewards from it.”

 

“We’re looking all over the country for the great players,” Clemson University coach Mike Noonan said in 2012 on a panel that explored the issue of high school soccer vs. academy soccer. “The game will find you.”

UConn soccer coach Ray Reid agreed.

“I just want players that come from a good environment,” Reid said. “It is not academy vs. high school. It’s about the environment, where the players can be developed the best.

Ranking U9s? Insanity!

admin | October 18th, 2013 - 9:06 am

Recent SoccerAmerica article on GotSoccer’s decision to begin ranking U9s-U10s teams.

In the insane youth soccer world where teams travel all over the country to attend elite tournaments, in the hopes to do well, to receive points so they can see their team climb the rankings. Clubs, teams or more specifically PARENTS are spending thousands of dollars to travel…not to mention the time commitment… all to get points. Tournaments have become a business, just look at how many ‘event management companies’ now run club tournaments for a piece of the profits.

Let your 9 year old be a 9 year old, not a reserve player on the verge of cracking the Man U lineup, that’s very far away. Let your 9 year old find his/her own friends, not be paired with the ‘elite’ player from 4 towns over. Its ok for him/her to learn from the neighbor in the back yard, not be forced to be on a field in Maryland, a Applebee’s for lunch and living our of hotel room…every weekend.

These rankings are being created because of ‘demand’… is it the kids? doubtful! The coaches? doubtful! The clubs? doubtful!

Who could it be?

As the article says, the parents seem to be where the ‘demand’ came from.

Save the money on all this madness, save it in an account… call it ‘scholarship’ so when your son/daughter is headed to college, you can proudly say they received a scholarship.

http://www.socceramerica.com/article/54328/gotsoccer-insanity-ranking-9-year-olds-really.html?edition=10621

More Red Bull magic

admin | September 24th, 2013 - 11:09 am

What a summer its been for New York Red Bulls… the results just keep coming and as a fan of the NY franchise since day one, this year has been the best ever.

#20- 8/17 Red Bulls vs Philadelphia Union, 0-0 tie – ok a little poor.

#21- 8/31 Red Bulls vs DC United – 2-1 win. Considering DC is the poorest team in MLS, should have been better but a win is a win.

#22- 9/14 Red Bulls vs Toronto FC – 2-0 win. Just keep on rolling. Top of the table battle continues.

#23- 9/22 Red Bulls vs FC Dallas, 1-0 win. Another win…even on a own-goal gift. Tough times don’t last, tough teams do!

People We Met

admin | August 13th, 2013 - 6:30 am

We met many of interesting people with many different backgrounds and personalities on our trip and they made this a very memorable experience for all of us.

A very unexpected group of people we met in Holland was a Japanese soccer team. We had the pleasure of living near them and playing several games against them. Sharing the bus with them made things a little tight but they were a very respectful and nice group of guys.

We were all shocked by the beauty of many of the women that were in the cities we visited. The women in the cities of Cologne, Nijmegen, and Amsterdam gained our attention so much we almost got run over in some of the streets. There were so many donks in Holland our eyes almost fell out of our heads.

The bus drivers we had on our trip were great people. Henk and Martin were probably the most impressive drivers we have ever seen. They were able to pick us up and drop us off in the toughest driveway to pull into. The street was really narrow and the hotel was in the middle of the woods. We thank them for the service they provided us.

There was also a person that reminded us of our home. Remko (aka Mr. Powers) looked like he could be Mr. Powers (a dean of our school). He also helped train Mike in the net, later defeating the team he coaches 4-0 (JVC Cuijk)

Several tour guides also provided us interesting information on different places in Holland. Malte was our tour guide for Schalke stadium and he showed us that amazing stadium in Germany. Joost (#2) showed us the Amsterdam ArenA (Ajax stadium). The most interesting of our tour guides was Maarten Dekkers from the WWII museum. Maarten was from the area during WWII and he told us several amazing stories about that time period. It was very cool how much respect he had for Americans because he remembers how the American troops liberated his home from Nazi control during WWII.

We appreciated the training sessions that the coaches provided us with. Joost trained us twice and those were very solid training sessions that helped us improve our skill. Reymond was another coach that trained us and he had the most spectacular calves we have ever seen (he put Jake’s monster calves to shame). Coach Henk gave us an informative lecture about the Dutch youth system and he also put an emphasis on our communication during our training session with him.

We lived in Eversbosch for about a week and we met a couple of very nice people who took care of us. Astrid was the head of the house and she really took charge. She provided us with meals and even though they were different, they tasted very good. Astrid was very strict but she was a great person. Isabella, Constance, and little Rosie were very nice and friendly and they were a great help. Vincent ( a restaurant owner) also made us two very delicious meals when we were in Groesbeek (close to Evers Bosch). The coolest guest of Eversbosch we met was Chester. He was a beautiful horse that was very friendly. We liked to feed him sugar cubes in our free time. The people of Eversbosch made our stay a great experience.

Last but certainly not least we met the legend JOOST!!!!!!! He was not just a man, he was a god. He was the coolest person we have ever met. He was so funny and very positive. He acted like he was one of us and joked around like he was still a kid. We respected him because of his chivalrous behavior. He made sure that we were set up with tickets to everything we went to and he made our time very enjoyable. He also taught us how to have proper manners at the table and around adults and ladies. He was a great guy and we will never forget him.

Overall, we found Dutch people to be very friendly. Regardless if they spoke English or not, they were always happy to help and make our time in Holland an enjoyable one. The teams we played were joyed to play Americans and all were up for a game. As we leave, we say Thank You!

Written by MI and VC.

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Last Day, It Must be Convery

admin | August 12th, 2013 - 6:08 pm

Final day in Holland. Left our accommodations early and headed to Amsterdam for the day and then to our final game in Aalmeer City.

Amsterdam is a big city, very busy and filled with history. We did a canal boat tour and saw some great architecture. Great mix of old buildings in perfect condition, new buildings with artistic flare, and some areas of ‘recreation’. We did some walking around in Dam Square area, it was busy with lots of tourists.

We did a tour of Ajax ArenA, the stadium looks awesome and would be great to see a game there. Had a chance to sit on the home team coaches bench and be an inch from the grass. Went up to the press boxes, the luxury for the royal family and VIPs, locker room and even saw a former player (Edwin Van De Sar, former goalkeeper of Manchester United).

Later, we played against Jong Aalmeer United. We started a little slow as we were all a little tired but always up for a game. We created many chances but were 0-0 at half. Second half was more of the same, created more changes than we scored. We won 2-1 but could have had many more.

Our final dinner was at a new hotel closer to the airport. Its a nice hotel and the dinner was delicious. Time to rest, heading back to the USA in the morning.

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Soccer, Soccer, Soccer: 3 games and free time (finally)

admin | August 11th, 2013 - 4:34 pm

Today was both the busiest and most relaxed day we had in Holland all trip. It started out similar to every day with a breakfast of cereal and eggs. We all went back to our rooms for about fifteen minutes before heading to the field for our round robin tournament. We played a total of three 35 minute games against three quality opponents. The first game was against SV Orion. They were the local club and a quality opponent. We had a hard fought game but only came away with a draw, 1-1.

The second game was against VV Eldenia. They were a mix U20 team and we could tell, some of their players looked so much older than the rest of us. We played well from the start and got the quick lead. We were able to play well for the entire 35 minutes and get the 2-0 win. The team fought hard and did well in all aspects of the game.

Our final game was against JVC Cuijk. This was the last game of the round robin. If we won then we would win the round robin. Our team got off to an incredible start by scoring in the third minute. We didn’t stop there, scoring another three goals in the remainder of the match. We won the final game and the tournament 4-0.

At the hotel every body prepared for the move to Amsterdam. Between lunch and dinner, we had free time and we played a ping pong and a soccer tennis tournament. They were both a ton of fun. We also played a huge 10 man game of war. Tonight was also our last dinner with Astrid and the rest of the hotel crew. We also enjoyed our long night with many different activities like soccer tennis, a bon fire and some games of poker. The night ended with great fun and hopes of a fantastic final few days.

Day 7 blog written by AW.

Pro Game Saturday

admin | August 10th, 2013 - 7:00 pm

This morning was a typical day in the Netherlands. We woke up and had breakfast at around 9:15. We then readied ourselves for the game. On our way to the game we listened to some tunes and got in game mode. WHile we were on the bus Matt thought it would be funny to scare us and told us that they were u19. As usual the facility was beautiful. The locker rooms were beautiful. Somebody forgot a sock, classic Tbomb. We ended up playing the u17 De Treffers, We were glad to play them but we would have beaten the u19 easily. We all played an exceptional game but we ended up losing 4-3. We had missed quite a few of open opportunities.

Next, we went to get pancakes. EVERYONE loves pancakes. We had a lovely waitress. THere were pancakes with apples, cheese, bacon, and just plain pancakes. From what I know everyone enjoyed the food. After our pancakes we were served strawberry and banana ice-cream, the pancakes were better. When everyone was finished we walked back to our accommodations. Yoost wanted us to walk in single file because it was a very dangerous road. The amount of thorns i got in my arms was ridiculous. We all took quick showers and split into three groups into Nijmegan. My group went into the stores and a few of us bought some nice clothes. Once we were done shopping we went to get food. We ate at Pacches. On the way back we got these heavenly tasting Doner Kebabs.

We traveled to Eindhoven to watch Eredivisie Division match between PSV v NEC. While we watched to go in, tons of fans we arriving by bus, train, bike and walking to the Stadion. Once inside, we got snacks and headed to our seats to watch warm ups. We learned that the PSV team were average age of 20. Their youngest player, #19 Zakaria Bakkali, was 17 years old, he was an amazing player and scored a hat trick. Philips Stadion was filled, a great atmosphere, a fun game.

Day 6 blog written by PB and RC.

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Its Friday, Must Be 1945

admin | August 9th, 2013 - 6:38 pm

It was another beautiful morning in Holland. We woke up at 9am to eat breakfast and then went to training with Henk Schaap from Ajax youth programs (who had done a welcome lecture when we first arrived). He was a strict coach, that only wears one red sweat suit everyday. All the little details mattered to him. He yelled at us a couple times in the intent to help us with our skills. We did a complex passing drill that helped us play more crisp soccer. After that we did a shooting drill that also had to do with passing. It was a pretty successful practice, I think in our next game tomorrow we will play better as a team and that we will win.

After training, back to the hotel for showers and lunch, we went on a tour of a World War II memorial cemetery and museum. The cemetery had over 500 grave stones of Canadian soldiers who fought and died in battles in this area. It was sad to see how many people sacrificed their lives to bring justice to Europe. Each family (from nearby Groesbeek) including Henk adopts a gravestone that they maintain and make it look nice. After the cemetery we went to the Liberation Museum 1944-1945. There we had a tour that started by watching a 12 minute film that had real pictures and voice taken during the battles in the area. The tour was long and interesting, the tour guide (Maarten Dekkers) was the best part – he was an older man, who was born just prior to 44-45 (the war period), grew up and still lives in the area. Mr Dekkers was very passionate about the subject matter and had tons of facts and details about how American soldiers were involved.

We had dinner at Olde Molen again and the food was delicious. After, we went to see a pro game, FC Oss against Ajax B team in the Dutch second division. it was a small stadium with a lot of security. There were not a lot of fans but the ones that were there were pretty passionate about their teams. The game ended with a 2-0 win for FC Oss. When we were leaving the game one of the players sister was trying to climb the fence to see her brother. A security guard grabbed her down and a scuffle occurred between them. One of the women called the security guards a fat f*** they got separated by my hero Joost. The player that they all loved was Danny, a group of fans chanted songs directed to him. Joost explained that they were chanting that he was “tired” because he wasn’t running very much (they chanted that from minute one). He scored the second goal and was praised by everyone. We then took the bus back and went to bed.

Day 5 blog written by SE and PL.