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New Clubs Get First-hand Look at Academy Experience During 2009 Spring Showcase

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 25, 2009) – Six new clubs from around the country were hand selected from more than 250 applicants this winter to join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for the 2009-2010 season. At the 2009 Spring Showcase this weekend, the coaches and managers of those clubs were invited to take an in-depth look at a major Academy event. With an itinerary that included a tour, shadowing current club teams and a coaching education seminar with U-20 Men’s National Team coach Thomas Rongen, the knowledge they gained will be invaluable as they enter into their first season next fall.

One of those clubs is NJSA 04 out of Holmdel, N.J., and run by president and former U.S. Men’s National Team player Tab Ramos. Like the Academy philosophy, Ramos strives for his club to keep the focus on making every single player as good as they can be. Towards that end, coach Tommy Kovacs and manager Tricia McSherry came to Sarasota this weekend to find out exactly what they could expect from the Academy.

“We’re really attracted to separating out all the different levels of youth soccer,” said McSherry. “The fact that it’s structured as one definitive league is what really attracted us to it.”

Coach Kovacs mentioned the training and the skill level of other clubs as the factors that he is most excited about.

“I am very confident we can develop players because we get more training time and fewer games, and those games are quality games,” he said. “They’re not meaningless games, they’ll be against quality opponents. As a coach, I am a little nervous, but I am looking forward to the challenge. It’s a challenge for us, our players, our parents and our community. But we always need a challenge in our lives, because without it we cannot move forward.”

One of the biggest changes Kovacs will have to get his teams used to is adapting to the FIFA Laws of the Game. Unlike most youth soccer leagues, the Development Academy allows only seven substitutions per game, with no re-entry.

“We haven’t played that way yet, and yes, that’s going to be a challenge,” said Kovacs. “We got used to one bad habit of taking a player off and putting him back on after five minutes. So we won’t have that opportunity, but that’s good. It’s going to make our life a little harder at the beginning, but as soon as everyone understands the rules, they’ll understand it’s the right way to go about it.”

Another benefit of playing in the Academy is the level of officiating. With all officials regulated by the U.S. Soccer Federation, coaches and players know they’re getting some of the best young referees who are undergoing extensive training.

Reflecting on the matches he observed this weekend, Kovacs said: “The referees were awesome. It is encouraging to know it’s something we won’t have to worry about.”

Club officials also met with their Regional Technical Advisors, who will be scouting their games and even got to observe a match with them to learn the process. Furthermore, they got to see both the U-17 and U-20 Men’s National Team in action in their respective scrimmages, ensuring all new coaches would have an idea of the level of skill required of players to reach the national team level.

The weekend orientation wrapped up with a question and answer session for all the new clubs. For McSherry and the other new clubs, the weekend was a good first step towards what will be a great Academy experience.

“The entire event is impressive,” he said. “We’re really happy we came, we have a much better picture of what to expect and we have a lot to tell people when we get home.”