In 1998, D.C. United made history as they became the first American club to be crowned champions of CONCACAF after beating Mexican side Toluca in that year’s Champions Cup Final.
Nearly 20 years later, a younger crop of players will represent the Black and Red as the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s representatives to the inaugural U-13 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League beginning Tuesday, Aug. 4 at the Mexico City-based Academy facilities of Liga MX club Cruz Azul.
“It’s a great honor for our club to be selected and represent U.S. Soccer in this tournament,” said D.C. United U-13 Academy head coach John Bello. “Our players were all very excited when they got the news that they were going to go down. They’re really proud of it and want to put their best foot forward in this tournament.”
When CONCACAF approached U.S. Soccer about who should represent the Development Academy at the tournament, they went in search of a club whose first team had some history in the regional championship. Along with winning the 1998 title, United’s 10 appearances in either the CONCACAF Champions Cup or Champions League, is an MLS record.
Beyond first team history, CONCACAF also looked for a club that had developed a good track record of developing players and the D.C. United Academy was a perfect fit according to U.S. Soccer’s Director of Scouting Tony Lepore.
“United has a strong history of player production,” he told ussoccer.com. “The D.C. area is a hotbed for developing talent for youth and senior national teams.”
The numbers back it up. Since 2007, the club has placed 38 players on U.S. Soccer Youth National Teams from the U-14 to U-23 age groups and has helped develop many notable professional players, including Bill Hamid, Andy Najar, Romain Gall, Jalen Robinson, Michael Seaton and Conor Shanosky. Still just 24 years old, Hamid has also played twice for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Clint Peay, the Development Academy’s Technical Advisor for the Mid Atlantic region and a former D.C. United player, was familiar with the club’s player pool and with a tight timetable, pushed quickly to get the side involved in the tournament.
“Clint had worked together with the D.C. United Academy on a number of initiatives and felt good about what they had,” continued Lepore. “We immediately contacted Academy Director Nolan Sheldon and with the support of the club, Nolan immediately jumped at it because they value international competition and knew what an experience like this could mean for their young players as they continue with an eye towards developing more professionals.”
The tournament schedule is tight, with clubs playing three group matches in three days from Tuesday to Thursday. D.C. United will face fellow MLS Academy, the Montreal Impact, Jamaican club Harbor View FC and a club TBA from Liga MX. Should they finish in the top two in their group, they’ll play a semifinal on Friday with the final and third place matches coming on Saturday.
Bello admits that the trip to Mexico City will be the first time many of his U-13 side will play outside of the country. Now in his third year with the United Academy, he hopes the experience will keep his players focused on continuing to improve as they prepare for the fall Development Academy season.
“For them it’ll be a real eye-opener,” Bello said. “I remember back to when I was growing up playing and went on an international trip, it was really eye-opening to see where the level was in other countries. Sometimes because these guys play for an MLS Academy, they’ll think they’ve already achieved everything, when the reality is they need to keep working really hard on their development in order to compete at an international standard, which is what their overall objective is.”
“Seeing where they stack up internationally should give them a good gauge of where they stand and what they need to build on.”
Photos from the 2015 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Championships at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California. In the U-15/16 Finals, FC Dallas capped an incredible season with a 4-0 win against New York Red Bulls, and in the U-17/18 Finals, the Chicago Fire also finished strong, beating Real Salt Lake AZ 3-1.
CHICAGO (July 20, 2015) – On Saturday, July 18, the 2014-15 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season came to an end in Carson, California, with a pair of championship matches. FC Dallas U-15/16 and Chicago Fire U-17/18 came out victorious in their respective games to take home the title of best in the Academy and wrap up another successful season.
FC Dallas U-15/16 earned its crown with a dominant 4-0 shutout performance against New York Red Bulls. Despite heading into the championship match with a 13-game winning streak, there was little the New York side could do against the offensive attack the Texas side was displaying.
Weston McKennie began the scoring for FC Dallas in the 11th minute with a beautiful header following a perfect cross from Giovanni Montesdeoca into the middle of the box. McKennie saw the ball coming his way from the right flank and jumped over his defenders to head it to the upper left corner of the net for his side’s first goal of the game.
Montesdeoca, one of three FC Dallas players to net more than 18 goals this season, added to the scoreline with a tally of his own in the 31st minute with a powerful shot from eight yards out into the far post to put his team 2-0 at the halftime mark.
Less than a minute into the second half, FC Dallas continued its control of the game when Central Conference Player of the Year Devin Vega found himself alone in the box to confidently send a right-footed strike towards the near post, making it 3-0 to guarantee his team victory., Juan Ramirez added a goal in stoppage time to make it 4-0 with the game already in the bag.. FC Dallas finished the season with an unblemished 8-0 record and outscored opponents 26-0 during that span.
Chicago Fire U-17/18s 3-1 victory against Real Salt Lake AZ was a battle featuring several nationally recognized players. Michael Jimenez opened up the scoring for his Chicago side in the 13th minute, after a long driven cross that shot off of the right post. Jimenez was in the perfect position to meet the rebounded ball with a well-timed header that sailed into the back of the goal to give the Fire an early lead.
Andrew Gutman made it 2-0 just before the halftime break, intercepting a loose ball on top of the opposing third, bulldozing his way past two Real Salt Lake defenders, and eventually challenging the on-rushing RSL net-minder Luis Barraza to finish his solo break. The momentum created by the late first-half goal inspired a blazing solo-attack from the Fire’s top goalscorer Ryan Sierakowski early in the second-half. Sierakowski juked his way past the last man of RSL’s high defensive line and dribbled his way into the opposition’s box to find Luis Barraza between him and certain victory with a three-goal lead. However, Barraza stood his ground and pounced on Sierakowski’s chip deflecting it away keeping the scoreline to a two-goal deficit in the 46th minute.
- Photo Galleries: U15/16 and U17/18 Champions Crowned
Three minutes later, Real Salt Lake struck back with a sensational long distance goal from Amar Sejdic. Sejdic, powered the strike past the outstretched hand of Chicago’s goalkeeper Sawyer Jackman and into the back of the net. With RSL AZ’s newfound momentum, the game intensified as RSL aimed to find the equalizer. An own goal in the 85th minute however, shut down any chance of a comeback for the Arizona based side making it 3-1.
The 2014-15 Academy Season came to its conclusion for four other clubs with both Philadelphia Union U-15/16s and San Jose Earthquakes U-17/18s claiming the third-place prize for their age groups. The Union defeated a very strong Georgia United side that dominated the majority of the first half in both possession and tempo, however, Tiger Graham was able to sneak a goal in before halftime to give the Union a one-goal advantage. Graham’s goal proved to be enough for the Union, but Anthony Fontana added a second goal forty minutes later to end the game 2-0. The San Jose Earthquakes U-17/18s end their season on a high note with a victory over the Montreal Impact. The Quakes led at halftime thanks to a 38th minute goal from Rory Birse. Zachary Penner added to San Jose’s one-goal lead in 64th minute. Montreal fought back with Heikel Jarras scoring five minutes later, but that was not enough for the Canadian side as the game ended 2-1.
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