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U.S. Soccer Development Academy

Met Oval Coaches Visit FC Barcelona


As he does before every practice, Giovanni Savarese stood quietly by the team as they warmed up. Observing the players jogging from end to end, the Met Oval Under-17/18 head coach was quite impressed with the athletes in front of him.

He should be. After all, they’re some of the best in the world—Messi, Iniesta, Henry. He was at FC Barcelona’s training ground.

In yet another sign of the opportunity to improve the playing and coaching level of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, Savarese and his fellow coaches, along with Met Oval foundation president Jim Vogt, took a week at the end of October to travel to Barcelona and learn from some of the very best in the world. Set up with assistance from Nike, the chance to meet and learn from the staff and coaches of the European champions was one that will prove invaluable as Savarese prepares his club for the Academy’s third season of play.

With the full team playing a La Liga match during the coaches’ visit, Met Oval staff were able to see how top-flight teams prepare, execute and then recover for their regular matches.

Highlighting the focus of the Development Academy on player development, Savarese emphasized the importance Barça placed on their youth.

“We saw some things there that reaffirmed our belief on the methods of developing young players. One of the best things was seeing the importance they placed on having a fun training environment from top to bottom,” Savarese said.

Met Oval isn’t the only team in the Academy to take some cues from overseas; several clubs are associated with English Premiere League side Chelsea while the Derby County Wolves have sent players to train with Derby County’s youth academy in England. The efforts are all on the part of coaches focusing in on the Academy’s goal of improving player development. Recognizing the high level of soccer played across the pond, it was only natural to study their training methods and adapt them to fit the needs of the American soccer player.

Commenting on the impression of the Development Academy overseas, Vogt stated that the reaction from Barca staff and coaches was positive.

“We spoke a lot about the Academy, they feel we’re going in the right direction as a country by having the opportunity for our young players to train in professional environments,” said the president. With the goal of the Academy to identify future players and coaches for the Youth National Teams, the implication is that as American youth clubs improve their standard of play, the individual players that are chosen for programs such as U-17 Residency in Bradenton will also be better than their predecessors.

“Our future players are only going to be as good as we coach them,” Vogt concluded. “If we’re not educating our coaches in the right way, then you can’t expect your players to reach their full potential.”

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