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DC development academy braced for stretch run

Following an extremely busy April, D.C. United’s U-16 and U-18 Academy teams are braced for the stretch run in search of a playoff spot in the USSF Development Academy League.

Preparing the two sides for this busy schedule – each team has 10 games left to play over the next two months – were two big trips. Along with two teams competing at the prestigious Dallas Cup in late April, United also sent a U-17 side that finished sixth in the AEGON Future Cup in Amsterdam around the same time.

Those trips have been valuable, and the coaching staff has seen almost two new teams emerge in the past couple of weeks.

“Basically within the last month or so we’ve seen with the 18s and the 16s, a different group,” U-18 coach Judah Cooks told MLSsoccer.com. “Both teams are playing very, very good soccer and also playing for each other which is an important part of the team.”

Both teams began the Division stretch of their Dev. Academy Schedule over the weekend, going unbeaten. Each side suffered through a slow start to the non-division schedule, and will likely need a top two finish in the East Conference’s Mid-Atlantic Division to make the playoffs.

But both will be able to draw on the experiences in April for the push. Cooks pointed out that the U-16 players who traveled to Europe have returned a much more focused group.

“You see a complete difference in their approach as far as the way they play,” he said. “Those games over there versus those big European clubs really helped them see a different level. And they’ve come back a lot more focused for sure.”

Games start to come thick and fast over the next few weeks. Not including this weekend, from May 14-29, every weekend the team plays two games. At the end of that stretch, both the U-16s and U-18s will have a better grasp on their playoff future.

However, according to Cooks, the on field results aren’t as important as moving the program forward.

“For us, it’s not about results at all. Obviously you play to win the game but it’s basically how we play and are the kids doing the right things,” he said. “We’re just looking to continually to get better and collective play the way we want to and get results.”