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2012-13 Season Preview: Central Conference


The U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s Central Conference will have a slightly different look to it for the 2012-13 season.

The conference realigned into two divisions while maintaining the 26 teams that participated in 2011-12. Last season consisted of the Frontier Division, Great Lakes Division and Texas Division. For 2012-13, the alignment includes a 13-team Frontier Division and a 13-team Mid-America Division.

2012-13 Team Breakdown

  • Frontier Division (13): Andromeda FC, Classics Elite, Colorado Rapids, Colorado Rush, Dallas Texans, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Lonestar SC Academy, Real Colorado, Solar Chelsea SC, Sporting Kansas City, Texans SC Houston, Texas Rush
  • Mid-America Division (13): Chicago Fire, Chicago Magic PSG, Crew Soccer Academy, Crew Soccer Academy Wolves, FC Milwaukee, Indiana Fire Academy, Internationals, Minnesota Thunder Academy, Shattuck-Saint Mary’s Soccer Academy, Sockers FC, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Metro, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri, Vardar SC Freiburg

2011-12 Development Academy Rewind: The big highlight for the Central Conference last season was the first U-17/18 Academy crown for FC Dallas, which became the first MLS-affiliated team to win at this age group. FC Dallas defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3-2 on July 22 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. On the U-15/16 side, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri advanced to its first Finals Week and was a runner-up finisher to 2011-12 champion New York Red Bulls.

Technical Advisor’s Take

Development Academy technical advisor Dave Santesteban covers the Texas Region of the Frontier Division and Carson Porter covers teams in both the Mid-America and Frontier Divisions. Both TAs provide their insight within the Central Conference:

Overcoming some significant roster changes:

  • Santesteban: “Solar Chelsea SC will have some change graduating Alfred Koroma, Zach Mathers and Colton Missimo among others, while losing up-and-coming talent Alan Winn to the U.S. U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla. FC Dallas is losing key players in Danny Garcia, Jonathan Top, David Robledo, Flavio Guzman, Jose de la Tejera, Michael Ambrose, Aaron Guillen, Nicholas Rochowski and Eduardo Cortes.”
  • Porter: “Colorado Rapids will have the difficult task of replacing Shane O’Neill who signed a professional contract with the club in June and Dillon Serna, a current member of the U.S. U-20 team. A core of St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri’s U-15/16 team will be moving up an age group.”

Noteworthy coaching changes:

  • Santesteban: “Classics Elite has added coach Thomas Woolley and Brian Monoghan, and the hope is that improved performance will follow in this club.”
  • Porter: “Former MLS defender and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisor Tim Regan begins his first year working with the Scott Gallagher Soccer Club. He will be the head coach of the U-17/18 team.”

How training four days per week instead of three will help improve their play:

  • Santesteban: “The more touches and time on the ball, the better. However, quantity does not always equate to quality, and therefore it is our job as technical advisors to help insure and monitor that the clubs are providing high quality training environments where improvements can be made in all four pillars of the game.”
  • Porter: “Very simply, if the training is right – there are clear goals of the practices, there are technical and tactical demands, and the intensity, professionalism and approach create the right environment – then this extra day is an extra opportunity to improve your team and improve each individual player.”

The benefits of one-game weekends versus two-game weekends in past seasons:

  • Santesteban: “I think the fatigue and burnout factor won’t come into play as much. Also, teams will be able to focus tactically on facing one opponent like it’s done in football countries across the globe.”
  • Porter: “At the highest levels throughout the world, coaches prepare their teams for a weekend game, coaches make substitutions and lineup decisions and changes based on a one-game-a-week structure. It will help in the preparation and it will take the idea of meaningful games to another level, which will create an even better playing environment for our players and coaches.”

Academy teams that have a good base of YNT players and how they adjust to call-ups:

  • Santesteban: “FC Dallas has had consistent numbers called into the Youth National Teams and has made good adjustments in dealing with those absences. The FC Dallas academy format and support from its ownership is a great example of how our future academies should look.”
  • Porter: “For most teams in my territory, it is one or two players in the group and all Academy coaches look at a Youth National Team call-up as a great honor for the player and the club and they are in full support of anytime they will be away from the club. This is also a great exercise for the team that a YNT player is leaving because it forces them to adjust to playing without a very important player from their team. Maybe a younger player gets called up and is asked to perform at a higher level than he is used to or a reserve steps into a starting role, or maybe even a position change is needed and the coach gets to look at a player in a spot that he hasn’t played in before. The entire process is a huge positive for clubs not only because one of their players is representing the U.S., but also because they must work and adjust without, what we can only assume, is a very talented and very important player to their team.”

Academy teams that benefit from players playing up:

  • Porter: The Columbus Crew does a nice job playing players up. Ben Swanson is a ’97-born player who has just moved to Bradenton, Fla., and joined the U.S. U-17’s and he benefitted from being a starter for the entire year last year with the U-15/16’s despite playing up an age level. He also was rostered for the U-17/U-18’s when they made the playoffs. These are great experiences that helped prepare him for the YNT system.”

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