Historic Development Academy Finals Week Comes to a Close With Thrilling Championship Matches at The HDC
The Development Academy Finals Week ended on a high note late Saturday evening as the historic inaugural season came to a close at The Home Depot Center with Carmel United taking home the U-15/16 championship behind a goal from A.J. Corrodo, just one day after 2008 Gatorade Player of the Year Chris Agorsor came off the bench to lead the Baltimore Bays to a thrilling 4-2 overtime victory against LAFC in the U-17/18 final.
July 20, 2008
While excitement was at full tilt during the 32 games, the more than 350 players, coaches and referees involved were also exposed to a number of experiences in a continuing effort to provide the best possible environment to develop and commit them to a higher standard.
During the week, players and coaches heard from U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley and midfielder Landon Donovan to gain a better understanding of the top level of the sport and the national team environment, learned about health strategies to improve hydration and nutrition, had in-depth sessions with ProZone to objectively evaluate their performances through video and statistical analysis and received individual team media training sessions.
“The entire week here at The Home Depot Center was a remarkable success,” said U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy Technical Director John Hackworth. “We couldn’t have asked for better competition on the field, including two fantastic championship matches on Friday and Saturday, but along with the games there was a substantial number of experiences off the field that we believe were extremely beneficial to coaches, players and referees.
“From the beginning of the Development Academy, our goal was to do everything possible to provide players, coaches and referees with an environment to help them develop and we definitely accomplished that during our inaugural season. The next step will be to continue to improve our system and provide experiences that will allow everyone involved to get better on and off the field.”
The Development Academy is also designed to provide a closer connection to the U.S. national team programs, with the specific goal of identifying talent to bring into the national player pools. In the first year alone, 98 players from Development Academy teams were identified by U.S. Soccer scouts and brought into participate in camps and games at the U-17, U-18, and U-20 Men’s National Teams.
In terms of the competition, coaches and players across the board cited the quality of opponents and meaningful matches as one of the most important aspects of the new program.
“This program is the best thing we have ever been a part of, “said Scott Nichols, head coach of the U-17/18 champion Baltimore Bays. It’s the best clubs, the best teams, and an unbelievable environment. I think this is well on the way to being the best league in the country.”
ON THE FIELD
Carmel United exuded class in their 1-0 victory against PDA, claiming the 2008 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week U-15/16 Championship on Saturday night. The Indiana club was unbeaten for 16 games coming into Finals Week, and with four strong games in Carson rode the streak into a victory under the lights on Saturday. After a scoreless first half, Carmel took the game to their opponents early in the second period, and in the 52nd minute A.J. Corrodo's perfectly placed shot proved to be the difference.
“It’s something you look forward to all year,” said Corrodo. "We believed that we should be in L.A. and that we could win. It seems like it always happens to somebody else. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I feel like I haven’t even woken up yet.”
The Baltimore Bays twice overcame deficits en route to a thrilling 4-2 overtime victory over LAFC to win the 2008 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week U-17/18 Championship on Friday night. Development Academy U-17/18 Player of the Year Chris Agorsor started the match on the bench for the Bays, nursing a knee injury that was thought to keep him out of the title bout, but, after LAFC took a quick lead on a seventh-minute goal by Kevin Mejia, he came on and was the catalyst for his team’s victory – earning Man of the Match honors. He also drew the penalty kick that was converted by Andrew Bulls to send the game to overtime. Bulls scored the game winner in the 97th minute on a 35 yard rocket that dipped into the top corner of the net.
“We worked really hard to get here, and it was a total team effort,” said Agorsor. “LAFC were a strong team. You have to keep believing in a tight game. The entire game we had the mentality that if we got chances we were going to score. We’re really proud of ourselves. We have been together for three years, and we went out on a high. Nothing else I can say other than we are proud the Baltimore Bays are national champions. There’s no feeling like this.”
Academy Awards Announced
U-17/18 Baltimore Bays forward Chris Agorsor and U-15/16 Vardar forward Soony Saad were named the Academy Player of the Year for their respective divisions as the end of year awards were announced this week for the 2007-08 season. Each player headlined a Starting XI team from each division, as well as a Starting XI from each conference. U-15/16 Met Oval’s Giovanni Savarese and U-17/18 LAFC’s Rafa Moran were named Academy Coaches of the Year, while Conference Coach of the Year awards were also announced.
OFF THE FIELD
Connecting to the full Men’s National Team
Before the opening eight games were played during the first two days of the Finals, all 16 teams took part in an orientation on Friday night that included an appearance by Donovan. The all-time leading scorer for the U.S. Men talked to the Development Academy players for an hour about a wide range of topics, including the process of becoming a professional player, how to consider options about your career, and some of the successes and failures in his personal journey.
Bradley and Hackworth also spoke to Academy players about what it takes to succeed at the professional and international level. During the hour discussion, Bradley engaged the players by asking them to think about their strengths and weaknesses, and to find role models amongst the top professionals in the world.
With numerous media outlets covering Finals Week and ESPNU conducting live interviews after matches, the U.S. Soccer Communications staff conducted media training sessions during the first two days of Finals Week to help prepare players for the increased exposure. Providing positive and negative real-life situations that have occurred with players from the Men’s and Women’s National Teams, the staff members explained the best ways to handle a myriad of different situations and conduct themselves in the most professional manner.
With the majority of U-17/18 players preparing to take the next step towards the college level, Wake Forest head coach Jay Vidovich talked to all 160 players about the recruiting process for universities, how to position themselves in order to get recognized and what to expect in the fall when they enter their college season.
Development Academy Director of Scouting Dave Sarachan and numerous other National Team scouts were on hand during the week to serve as a liaison between the National Team program and the Academy clubs. Individual scouts worked with specific teams, speaking with coaches before and after games, and during training session, to create a instant connection to provide feedback directly on the field. The connection also allowed the scouts to focus on development over winning and continue to locate possible players for the Youth National Teams.
Continuing to train elite referees was a key component to at Finals Week. Paul Tamberino (Director of Referee Development), Brian Hall (Manager of Assessment and Training) and Alfred Kleinaitis (Manager of Referee Training and Development), along with U.S. Soccer’s Full-Time referee Terry Vaughn, were on site working with top young referees. Considered some of the best young referees in the United States, the referees at Finals Week were hand-picked to gain valuable experience while overseeing competitive games in a tournament setting. During the week, each referee worked directly with a member of the U.S. Soccer Referee Department for critical analysis and evaluation to help them develop and improve their future performances.
ProZone continued to be a vital video analysis tool for the coaching staffs of each Development Academy club during Finals Week. During the inaugural season, ProZone provided individual sessions to clubs to help them analyze individual player and team performances and at the Finals teams were able to learn new ways to critically and objectively evaluate their performances in order to improve.
Hydration and Nutrition
Gatorade was once again an essential partner, providing an unlimited amount of Gatorade bottles to teams and educational programs about hydration to allow Academy players to perform at their optimum level. Working with the Men’s National Team nutritionists, the players were also provided with information on the correct diet for pre and post-match.
Nike Cool Vests
At halftime of Finals Week matches teams got the opportunity to experience one of Nike’s latest innovations, the Nike PreCool Vest. Designed to keep athletes cool specifically for the Beijing Olympics, the vest has multiple triangular cavities filled with frozen water inside. Acting as a thermos, the vest prevents the cold from escaping and keeps the body cool while lowering the core body temperature of the athlete.
Development Academy Finals Week U-17/18 Final Results
1st Place Baltimore Bays 4, LAFC 2
3rd Place Columbus Crew 4, Colorado Rush 0
5th Place Concorde Fire 3, Chicago Fire 2
7th Place FC Westchester 1, CASL 1 (FC Westchester wins 5-4 on penalty kicks)
U-15/16 Final Results
1st Place Carmel United 1, PDA 0
3rd Place Schulz Academy 2, Real Colorado 0
5th Place Chicago Magic 0, LAFC (Magic win 4-2 on penalty kicks)
7th Place Albertson 2, CASL 0