Months of hard work and massive time commitments will boil down to a five-day stretch in Frisco, Texas, for some of the country's most promising teenagers.
USSF Dev. Academy players to watch
FW Brandon Allen
New York Red Bulls (U-18s)
The U-18 leading scorer joined the academy last summer, and it’s been a tremendous benefit as he tallied 24 goals on the year. The junior has committed to play for Georgetown in 2012.
MF Diego Fagundez
New England Revolution (U-16s)
|The Revolution’s first Home Grown signing will be a part of the playoff effort in Frisco after a starring role in the regular season. He registered 15 goals and 10 assists for New England U-16s.|
DF Jack Coleman
FC Dallas (U-18s)
|Amid whispers that Coleman might one day become the next in a long line of Home Grown signings for Dallas, the tidy center back gets one last crack at the playoffs before taking his talents to Indiana University in the fall.|
MF/F Patrick Foss
D.C. United (U-16s)
|He spent this past year at the US Soccer Residency Academy down in Florida. After he wasn’t picked for the World Cup, he joined DC’s academy team and went on to score seven goals in five games playing up front in the 4-3-3 system.|
MF Aaron Kovar
Seattle Sounders FC (U-18s)
|The Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Washington was a member of the US U-18 pool. Kovar will be a senior in the fall and will look to continue his steady ascent into the spotlight.|
MF Wil Trapp
Crew Soccer Academy (U-18s)
|Generally regarded as one of the nation’s best prospects for his age, the Akron-bound Trapp is a revelation in the midfield for the Crew and a candidate to sign with the club one day.|
FW Lorenzo Salazar
Houston Dynamo (U-16s)
|Between playing in the Dallas Cup and the Amsterdam tournament, it’s been a hectic spring for one of the Dynamo’s strongest attackers. He finished second on the team with eight goals and has showed the ability to carry Houston’s U-16s at times.|
The 2011 US Soccer Development Academy Playoffs are scheduled to begin for the U-16 and U-18 age groups, on Friday, June 24. A total of 32 teams in each group will compete in eight groups consisting of four teams apiece, with each team aiming to win the group and qualify for Finals Week.
A total of 18 MLS academy teams will be present at the playoffs, and each is gunning for an impressive showing in Frisco.
“We want to show our best at the playoffs,” Real Salt Lake assistant coach Miles Joseph told MLSsoccer.com, whose club is sending both their U-16 and U-18 academy teams. “I think in the weeks building up to it, we’ve been playing some really good soccer. I’m excited to see how we do.”
RSL are one of six MLS clubs that will have representation at both the U-16 and U-18 playoffs (Seattle, Columbus, FC Dallas, D.C. United and Chicago are the others.) The occasion will be particularly special for FC Dallas' two squads, playing on familiar turf in front of friends and family.
“They know that it’s a great event. It’s here at home at our complex, in front of their families, representing the club that developed them,” said Oscar Pareja, FC Dallas' director of youth development. “It’ll be a big event for all of us.”
Some of FC Dallas’ Home Grown signings will get a chance to lead their U-18 squad, as the likes of Jonathan Top and Victor Ulloa remain age-eligible for the older side.
“We thought that it would be a good opportunity for them to have more games and compete for a championship with the club,” Pareja said.
One MLS side that will be represented at the playoffs for the first time is the Seattle Sounders. Fresh off a strong first season in the Development Academy — the Sounders won their division in both age groups — the expectations are high.
“Our kids have done very well over the course of a long season, so we expect more of the same,” said Darren Sawatzky, Seattle’s director of youth development. “They’ll be very competitive. They haven’t played against the teams they’re playing against and you expect teams in the top 32 to be good.”
Seattle are led by US U-18 pool players Aaron Kovar and Sean Okoli, but Sawatzky expects a difficult stretch for the Sounders burgeoning program as they seek to further player development.
“The teams that are in the playoffs are the teams that are organized and have done well this year, which means you’re not playing any teams you’re going to beat up on,” Sawatzky said. “Getting better, you’ve got to play with and against the best.”
Along with the playoffs, every team in the Development Academy will descend on Frisco, with the non-playoff teams taking part in a series of showcase games in an effort to get players a chance to play in front of college and pro scouts.