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Development Academy Scout Tony Lepore Uses Coaching Techniques to Find Talent

When Tony Lepore joined the U.S. Soccer Development Academy staff as a full-time scout, the seasoned coach brought with him six years of involvement with the Under-14 and Under-15 Boys’ National Teams and several years of commitment to Seacoast United (Hampton, N.H.), leading up to the club’s inauguration into the Academy.

For Lepore, the new league addressed issues he had been aware of as a youth coach regarding scheduling and player development.

“We’d been concerned about the elite player in our country,” said Lepore. “We were concerned about cleaning up the calendar and providing a structure where they could get good games week in and week out with a chance to watch them in an environment where they’re most comfortable.”

With over six years of coaching experience, Lepore translated his skills to the sidelines as a full-time Academy scout.

“I think even when I’m scouting a game I’m still watching it as a coach,” said Lepore. “In our role we still have to see how the group does in looking at how they deal with problems and solve problems collectively. It doesn’t feel too much different watching games other than you don’t have a whole lot of control, of course, in terms of making any adjustments or getting the group ready week to week.”

With Academy matches kicking off in various states across the nation on any given weekend, Dave Sarachan, Director of Scouting, and full-time Academy scouts Lepore and Raul Diaz Arce utilize their extensive network of Academy scouts to identify, assign and evaluate numerous matches on a weekly basis.

“We also have a lot of what we call per diem scouts and we give them assignments based on games that we have identified that we need to see in their area,” said Lepore.

As a full-time scout, Lepore watches an average of four games on the weekends, following-up every weekend with a Monday conference call with all the Academy scouts, who convene to discuss issues ranging from player identification to coaching education to club administration. By Tuesday, all scouts submit their forms from the weekend, consolidating all the reviews and evaluations of the teams and players.

While the regular season may entail a weekly routine, scouts also attend the Academy Showcases where they aim to review all teams in a unique environment and provide constructive criticism for Academy coaches.

“At the Showcase, the coaches all get an evaluation from the scout and the idea is to give them objective feedback,” said Lepore. “Most of the coaches value the opinion of someone who is not directly involved. It’s not critical, it’s not threatening and there’s no need to be defensive. It’s just open feedback which is then followed up with a call because the evaluation usually leads to really good discussion.”

Academy coaches benefit from the feedback and constructive criticism while National Team coaches utilize these same evaluations for the purpose of identifying potential players for their National Team pools.

Recently scouted by Lepore and other Academy scouts, Dylan Renna of the Under-15/16 PDA (Zarephath, N.J.) was one of ten Academy players present at an Under-18 National Team camp with head coach Bob Jenkins in New Jersey. As a high school sophomore, the camp served as Renna’s introduction to the unique level of skill and competition with the Youth National Teams.

“Over the course of the first 10-15 games with the Academy there were some scouts there,” said Renna. “With my team doing well I guess they decided I might be a good fit and I thought it was a great experience playing with the best kids in the country in the Under-18 age group and the best coaching staff.”

For athletes like Renna, the scouts have already impacted their development in the Academy and in the Youth National Teams pools. Meanwhile, Lepore and other Academy scouts have seen team development on the field and look to encourage growth in each individual player.

Already, nearly 50 Development Academy players have participated in camps at the U-17, U-18 and U-20 level, as Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Wilmer Cabrera and Under-20 coach Thomas Rongen build toward FIFA World Cups in 2009.

U-15/16 Age Group
Saturday, May 31
Home vs. Away
Arsenal 2 vs. Nomads SC 0
Bridge FA 3 [Watson (2), Belair] vs. South Charlotte SA 0
CASA 3 [Lee, Afsarifard, Hoffner] vs. Ohio Elite SA 0
Colorado Rush 3 [Meyer, Foxhoven (2)] vs. Washington Premier FC 1 [Welsheer]
FC Westchester 1 [Luciano] vs. Albertson SC 1 [D’Antonio]
Internationals 0 vs. Columbus Crew 6
San Diego Surf 3 [Howard, Wolfenzon (2)] vs. LAFC 2 [Kurzon, Serrano]
Virginia Rush 0 vs. North Meck 0

Sunday, June 1
Home vs. Away
Carmel United 3 [Petts (2), Fundenberger] vs. Michigan Wolves 0
CASA 0 vs. Columbus Crew 1 [Garza]
Chivas USA 3 [De Jesus, Ramirez (2)] vs. LAFC 2 [Benitez, Cuadrado]
Colorado Rush 3 [Chapleski, Foxhoven, Hukari] vs. Colorado Rapids 1 [Burfeind]
De Anza 1 [Serrano] vs. Cal Odyssey 0
Empire United 1 [Baker] vs. Vardar 1 [H.Saad]
Internationals 2 vs. Ohio Elite SA 0
Real Colorado 3 [Abdulgasem, Portillos, Rodriguez] vs. Washington Premier FC 0
Virginia Rush 2 [OG (2)] vs. Greensboro SC 3 [Alvarez (2), Rex]

U-17/18 Age Group
Thursday, May 29
Home vs. Away
Chicago Fire 1 [Bartzis] vs. FC Milwaukee 2 [Banks, Surtees]

Saturday, May 31
Home vs. Away
Arsenal 3 [Escobedo, N. Ochoa, Valencia] vs. Nomads SC 1 [Corona]
Bridge FA 2 [Horns (2)] vs. South Charlotte SA 2 [Yoshida, Koslick]
CASA 1 [Mancine] vs. Ohio Elite SA 6 [Rakoczy, Clark, Paras, Fink, Bowling, Dwyer]
Colorado Rush 3 [Delpiccolo, Soumah, Whittle] vs. Washington Premier FC 0
Empire United 0 vs. CASL 3 [Guderian (2), Haglund]
FC Portland 1 [OG] vs. De Anza 5 [Atkins, Pridham, Tonkel, Salciccia (2)]
Internationals 0 vs. Columbus Crew 7 [Catlett (3), Speas, Blevins, Eichhorn, Ryan]
San Diego Surf 2 [Fitzpatrick (2)] vs. LAFC 5
Virginia Rush 2 [Delgado, Thompson] vs. North Meck 0

Sunday, June 1
Home vs. Away
Carmel United 0 vs. Michigan Wolves 0
CASA 1 vs. Columbus Crew 3 [Haught, Speas, Sebert]
Chivas USA 0 vs. LAFC 3 [Franco, Mejia, Orozco]
Colorado Rush 2 [Delpiccolo, Sacco] vs. Colorado Rapids 6 [Paul (3), Tarnoczi (2), Koki]
Empire United 3 [Eberhardt (2), Meier] vs. Vardar 2 [Bega, Verville]
Internationals 0 vs. Ohio Elite SA 4 [Bowling, Dwyer, Paras (2)]
Real Colorado 6 [Rosales (2), Kramcha (2), Talbert, Bell] vs. Washington Premier FC 0
Virginia Rush 0 vs. Greensboro SC 1 [Gerkhe]