CHICAGO (July 13, 2009) - U.S. Soccer has unveiled the 2008-09 Development Academy Starting XI honorees as the fourth day of Finals Week is set to kick off at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., today. The awards, which will be followed by Coach and Player of the Year announcements later this week, were voted upon by Development Academy clubs and U.S. Soccer National Staff Coaches.
Finals Week features the top 16 teams determined over the course of a nine-month Development Academy season. Eight teams in both the Under-17/18 and Under-15/16 age groups are battling through group play, looking toward the championship matches on Thursday, July 16 and Friday, July 17, with both televised live on ESPN Classic. For complete coverage of everything happening at The Home Depot Center throughout the week, including daily updates, streamed games, full episodes of Studio 90, photo galleries and game recaps, visit ussoccer.com.
Both the U-15/16 and U-17/18 Starting XI teams are made up mostly of players who have experience at the U-17, U-18 and/or U-20 Men’s National Team level. The 22 players represent 21 different clubs, as only Arsenal FC has two players receiving the honor as Ricardo Hernandez in the U-15/16 age group and Norberto Ochoa, a U-17/18 player, represent Arsenal FC.
The U-15/16 Starting XI honorees include 10 players who were part of the Development Academy Select Teams that matched up with the U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team at the Spring Showcase held earlier this year. Four players from that event, Keith Cardona, Marquez Fernandez, Riley Wolfe and Victor Chavez were part of U.S. U-17 MNT head coach Wilmer Cabrera’s 30-player training camp held in Greensboro, N.C., in conjunction with Development Academy Playoffs.
AJ Corrado is in his second season of the Development Academy U-15/16s and gained fans throughout the country last season when he scored the game-winning goal to lift Carmel United to the inaugural U-15/16 championship game live on ESPNU. Though he spends the majority of his time in his true age group, he was invited by the U-17/18 Carmel United squad to participate in the team’s quest through the 2008-09 Finals Week.
Cardona, a goalkeeper, is the only other U-15/16 honoree present at Finals Week, as he has helped his U-15/16 New York Red Bulls team to an 18-4-7 regular season record and one of the top seeds during Academy Playoffs.
Hernandez, Fernandez (Baltimore Bays Chelsea), Torey McGaw (Mustang) and Bryan de la Fuente (Chivas USA) make up the defenders on the Starting XI squad. Wolfe (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Corrado are joined in the midfield by Joseph Schmid. Chavez, Zak Foxhoven (Colorado Rush AS Monaco) and FC Dallas’ Ruben Luna, who led the entire Academy with an astounding 38 goals in 27 games, round out the 11 player list as forwards.
In the older group, three Starting XI recipients are at The Home Depot Center participating with their teams at Finals Week. Coincidentally, all three players – IMG’s Larry Jackson, Real Colorado’s Taylor Kemp and PDA’s Ryan Finley – have helped their respective teams to one win and one draw through two games so far in Carson.
Dillon Powers (Andromeda), Andrew Wenger (PA Classics) and Matt Wiet (Crew Soccer Academy) recently returned from a trip to Egypt with the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team.
Along with Wiet and Kemp, Anthony Arena (Crossfire Premier) and Daniel Villegas (Miami FC Kendall) earned Starting XI honors as defenders. Powers, Wenger and Ochoa were honored in midfield and Finley, Rodolfo Godinez (Nomads) and Will Bates (Richmond Strikers) make up the forward contingent. Jackson is the team’s goalkeeper.
The Academy program was created to enhance the player development environment for elite youth players in the United States, according to U.S. Soccer Best Practices, with specific focus on increasing the number of training sessions, decreasing the total number of games while increasing the number of quality games and maintaining the highest level of coaching, refereeing and competition available in an everyday environment.
Aside from providing clubs with a soccer-centric environment, the Academy program also provides a platform to systematically improve the player identification and development processes. Over half of the Academy matches are attended by a national team scout, resulting in a comprehensive system to evaluate and develop player, coach and referee talent. Academy coaches and athletes also receive video analysis from ProZone and Interplay, a soccer-specific athletic training curriculum from SPARQ and Nutrition and Hydration recommendations from Gatorade’s Sports Science Institute. The physical capabilities of Academy athletes are measured using SPARQ’s soccer-specific tests and Gatorade’s fluid loss tests.
In its second year, the Academy program has already dramatically impacted the player development process in the United States. In 2008, more than 100 players from Academy clubs were included in U.S. Youth National Teams and almost 800 graduates from the inaugural Academy class participated in college soccer the following fall. Virtually all college programs use the Academy program as a scouting vehicle and the program has received increased attention from professional scouts representing domestic and international clubs.
U-15/16 Development Academy Starting XI
GOALKEEPER (1): Keith Cardona (New York Red Bulls Academy)
DEFENDERS (4): Marquez Fernandez (Baltimore Bays Chelsea), Ricardo Hernandez (Arsenal FC), Torey McGaw (Mustang SC), Bryan de la Fuente (Chivas USA Academy)
MIDFIELDERS (3): Riley Wolfe (Los Angeles Galaxy Academy), AJ Corrado (Carmel United), Joseph Schmid (FC DELCO)
FORWARDS (3): Victor Chavez (Real So Cal), Ruben Luna (FC Dallas Juniors AS Monaco), Zak Foxhoven (Colorado Rush AS Monaco)
U-17/18 Development Academy Starting XI
GOALKEEPER (1): Larry Jackson (IMG Soccer Academy)
DEFENDERS (4): Matt Wiet (Crew Soccer Academy), Taylor Kemp (Real Colorado), Anthony Arena (Crossfire Premier), Daniel Villegas (Miami FC Kendall)
MIDFIELDERS (3): Dillon Powers (Andromeda), Andrew Wenger (PA Classics), Norberto Ochoa (Arsenal FC)
FORWARDS (3): Ryan Finley (PDA), Rodolfo Godinez (Nomads), Will Bates (Richmond Strikers)