GREENSBORO, N.C. (June 27, 2009) – U.S. Soccer Development Academy club Albertson SC of New York traveled to the 2009 Academy Playoffs in Greensboro, N.C., with one goal in mind: get back to California. As the No. 3 seed in the Under-17/18 age group, Albertson is looking to capitalize on the experience obtained during the 2008 Development Academy Finals Week and return to The Home Depot Center from July 10-17 for the 2009 Finals Week.
Albertson hopes to join U-17/18 Carmel United SC of Indiana and U-17/18 Real Colorado in California after the two clubs became the first to earn a spot in the Academy Finals on Saturday.
Carmel United SC currently sits atop Group C with six points after two matches, having claimed victories against Clearwater Chargers and Potomac. With Clearwater and Potomac facing off in the final group match, the winner could potentially finish tied on points with Carmel United, but would not advance after the first tiebreaker, which is head-to-head result. A similar scenario occurs in Group F, where Real Colorado is leading with six points, followed by Virginia Rush AS Monaco with three points. Real Colorado defeated Virginia Rush AS Monaco on Friday. Should Virginia tie Real Colorado on points after the teams’ third match, the head-to-head tiebreaker would favor Real Colorado.
As for Albertson, last year the Long Island based club qualified to the Academy Finals in the Under-15/16 age group by virtue of a first-place finish in the East Conference. The team finished seventh at The Home Depot Center, but returned to New York with a renewed focus on reaching the finals again.
“They treated the kids like they were professionals, beautiful hotels, great accommodations; they all had their own buses, all that food,” said Albertson U-17/18 head coach Adrian Gaitán of the Academy Finals week last season. “The kids felt like they were playing in like a huge event. Being a part of that, as a coach, you don’t have to say anything because they all want to get back to play in that again. And the fact that we didn’t win it, although we got there, for us last year was a success but this year, now, having a taste of it, I think the kids are motivated to go there now and do better than they did last year.”
Gaitán, who coached the U-15/16 Albertson team that participated in Academy Finals Week last year, is now at the helm of that same group who qualified for the 2009 Playoffs as a U-17/18 team. This season, Albertson qualified for the Playoffs in both age groups. According to Gaitán, last year’s trip to the finals not only motivated the older players to want to return to Finals week, it motivated the younger athletes as well.
“We train at the same time and the kids were saying how great it was last year to go to California and see all that stuff,” Gaitán said. “It got them going and saying, ‘We want to do that as well.’ It pushes everybody else in the club. We have our 13s, 14s and 15s with the same idea. They can’t wait to get into the Academy because they want to experience all the things those guys did.”
Albertson U-15/16 defender Justin Cirasola agreed that Academy players who are part of the Academy are motivated by having the opportunity to compete at an elite level. Cirasola has played at Albertson for five years and this is the first time the 16-year-old has played for the Academy team.
“The real reason you join the Academy is that the competition is just unbelievable compared to everywhere else,” Cirasola said, after his team finished a match against Greensboro Youth Soccer that ended in a 2-2 draw. “The amount of college coaches that come and just being able to be seen by more and more people. You want it to be competitive. You want to go out there and you want to go out and win and you want to play for something, you don’t want to just sit back.”
Zach Kupfer was a member of the Albertson squad that traveled to Academy Finals week last year, and this year, he says the team is more motivated than last year.
“It was kind of a disappointment last year to get there and come in seventh place and play in the last place game,” said the 18-year-old Kupfer, who is bound for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas next year. “Then it kind of turned around to this year. It’s just the desire to get back and win it now. We’re 18 years old, we’re all going to college, this is the last thing we’re going to do as friends together and with the club, so that’s kind of the motivation.”
Kupfer scored the lone goal in Albertson’s 1-0 win against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, a victory that gave them six points and kept them at the top of Group G of the Academy Playoffs, followed by PDA with four points. The teams will square off against each other on Monday to determine who wins the group and earns a place at Academy Finals Week at The Home Depot Center in July.
After two consecutive days of matches and in accordance to U.S. Soccer’s Best Practices, Academy Playoff participants will rest on Sunday and return to the field on Monday for their final match. Saturday ended with a U.S. Under-17 MNT intra-squad scrimmage as the team continues preparations for the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held from Oct. 24 to Nov. 15 in Nigeria. The 30-player roster split into two squads, with U.S. U-17 MNT Red defeating U.S. U-17 MNT Blue 2-0 on goals from Carlos Martinez and Victor Chavez.
Under-15/16 Results and Upcoming Schedule:
Under-17/18 Results and Upcoming Schedule: