CHICAGO (Jan. XX, 2010) -- The transition from a youth club to U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Men’s National Team and Residency Program can be a lot of things to a young player – exciting, intimidating and an excellent opportunity to improve in a highly competitive playing environment.
Nearly 300 players have made the move into Residency en route to successful college, professional and Men’s National Team careers. It has become a bit easier for some players since the inception of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, a program designed to mirror the Residency Program in 77 clubs across the country.
The Residency roster for the Spring 2010 semester was announced this week, with more than half of the 40 players joining U.S. U-17 MNT head coach Wilmer Cabrera and his staff from 16 Development Academy clubs. Cabrera is only beginning to reap the benefits of the nationwide player development initiative, but knows that some of his young players have already been exposed to an improved training environment.
“Because Development Academy clubs are trying to develop young players, it’s more possible for us to find them,” said Cabrera. “It’s not the only way to find very good players of course, but we find that players can be developed quicker and at a higher level when they come from within the Academy environment.”
Miami FC Kendall’s Alessandro Mion is one of 26 players who are in the beginning of their first semester in Bradenton, Fla.
“Residency is great,” said Mion. “It’s a big step up from the club level but the transition has been smooth, and not as difficult as I thought it would be. I guess working hard has paid off and the Academy is getting us more ready. A lot of us came from the Development Academy so it’s pretty easy to see that it’s making an impact.”
Joe Amon, a South Carolina United defender, is another one of 14 new players to join the U-17 MNT from an Academy club. The Summerville, S.C.-native has made 15 appearances in his team’s 19 games in the fall, helping South Carolina United to an impressive 10-1-1 record in the Southeast Divison.
Amon, one of six players born in 1994 on SCU’s full-time roster, has benefitted from the improved training environment that the Academy provides, with three mandatory training sessions per week that in line with national team trainings. Teams also are limited to no more than one game per day in a limited number of games, which provides fewer, more meaningful games throughout the course of the nine-month season.
Amon also took full advantage of the chance to play against older, more experienced players during training.
"We train a lot with South Carolina United and it helped me get used to training everyday here,” Amon said. “Training there was always good, and played at a high level, which gave me a lot of confidence. I was also able to train with the U-17/18 team back home, which helped my technique because I knew they will punish my mistakes. Players here are the same way not because they’re older, but because everyone here is a good player.”
Mion, who scored four goals in his 16 games as a defender on Miami FC Kendall, says that his time in the Academy program has given him the best opportunity to succeed with the youth national teams.
“From the way I used to play with my club to the Academy was a big step up,” he said. “Playing in the Academy is a very high level comparatively, and it’s much closer to what Residency is like. The transition from the Academy to the national team was far easier than it would have been in the old club set up.”
Academy clubs also have access to U.S. Soccer resources and educate players about fitness, nutrition and hydration, among other areas of the Everyday Environment. In Bradenton, the education becomes even more important, but Mion says the groundwork was already laid by his club.
“In Residency, it’s like being a professional, every day and they really emphasize nutrition and what to eat and how much water to drink,” Mion said. “We got a lot of that education already at our club, here is just emphasized a lot more. Everything is really in depth.”
The depth of U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program has been on display since its first players came to Bradenton in 1999. Since then, more than 100 players have moved from Residency on to Major League Soccer or the professional leagues in Europe. Eighteen players have also registered at least one cap with the full Men’s National Team.
Spring 2010 Residency Roster (Academy Players in Bold):
GOALKEEPERS (4): Santiago Castano (NY Red Bulls; Union City, N.J.), Wade Hamilton (Arsenal FC; Murietta, Calif.), Kendall McIntosh (Mustang SC; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Fernando Pina (Houston Dynamo Juniors; Houston, Texas),
DEFENDERS (13): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas Juniors; Plano, Texas), Ive Burnett (Central Jackson Soccer; Brandon, Miss.), Russell Canouse (NY Red Bulls; Lancaster, Pa.), Andrew Chang (Sockers FC; Highland Park, Ill.), Jerome Cristobal (Derby County Wolves; Sterling Heights, Mich.), Holden Fender (North Atlanta SA; Marietta, Ga.), Carlos Grande (Central California Blues; Bakersfield, Calif.), Sagar Jambusaria (West Coast FC; San Clemente, Calif.), Riggs Lennon (Sereno SC; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Alessandro Mion (Miami FC Kendall; Miami, Fla.), Marc Pelosi (DeAnza Force; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Nathan Smith (Cal Odyssey; Clovis, Calif.), Andrew Souders (Columbus Crew Academy; Amherst, Ohio)
MIDFIELDERS (13): Joe Amon (South Carolina United FC; Summerville, S.C.), Atsou Ayah (Fusion FC; Tampa, Fla.), Bryan Celis (Houston Dynamo Juniors; Houston, Texas), Irvin Gijon (Players Club; Las Vegas, Nev.), Eric Gonzalez (LA Galaxy; Corona, Calif.), Alejandro Guido (Aztecs Premier; Chula Vista, Calif.), Brody Hickey (Dallas Texans; Plano, Texas), Ryan Masch (DeAnza Force; San Jose, Calif.), Nico Melo (Florida Rush; Kissimmee, Fla.), Oscar Ortega (Aztecs Premier; San Ysidro, Calif.), Zach Pfeffer (FC DELCO; Dresher, Penn.), Tarik Salkicic (Strictly Soccer; Pinellas Park, Fla.), Kristian Scott (Bristol City FC; Winterbourne, U.K.)
FORWARDS (10): Martin Arrieta (LAFC Chelsea; Pasadena, Calif.), Nicko Corriveau (Bethesda SC; Potomac, Md.), Mikhail Doholis (Eastside United; Vancouver, Wash.), Kellen Gulley (MS Chicago Fire; Clinton, Miss.), James Haupt (Everest SC; Canton, Ohio), Darius Madison (PSC Cobra; Philadelphia, Pa.), Adam Najem (NY Red Bulls; Clifton, N.J.), Andrew Oliver (Westside United; Indianapolis, Ind.), Esteban Rodriguez (LAFC Chelsea; Palmdale, Calif.), Mario Rodriguez (Central Aztecs; North Hollywood, Calif.)