The FC Dallas youth academy has already set the bar extremely high when it comes to MLS youth development. That trend continued in March, as the U-16 and U-18 teams took a spring break trip to Madrid, Spain.
Set up by contacts in Spain, the week-long trip spanned from March 16-23. A total of 36 players made the journey, including FC Dallas Home Grown signings Jonathan Top, Bryan Leyva and Victor Ulloa.
FC Dallas youth director of coaching Chris Hayden thought it was a great experience overall, especially the games.
“The games that we were in were very meaningful from a development standpoint for our team,” he told MLSsoccer.com over the phone. “And having the 16s and 18s there really afforded that chance to everyone that’s in our academy program.”
The trip doubled as preseason training for FC Dallas’ U-16 and U-18 teams, who are set to resume their USSF Development Academy schedule this coming weekend after a few months of having no games.
[inline_node:330539]Along with matches against the academy teams of Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, the FCD Academy attended Real Madrid’s 3-0 Champions League win over Lyon, and the Madrid derby between Real and Atlético, experiences that were almost as valuable as the games they played.
“The kids got a real flavor of international soccer matches. Some of them had never been to any games in Europe before, so I think it really helps motivate players when they see and smell it,” Hayden said.
This experience marked the second overseas trip completed by FC Dallas’ Academy. In 2010, FCD took one team to the AEGON Future Cup tournament in Holland, where they played against youth sides from Bayern Munich and AC Milan.
Hayden noticed a difference between the two years, especially among the players making their second trip abroad.
“I felt like a year ago, our players were a little less prepared to play against teams of that caliber," he said. "Not from a talent standpoint, but more from a psychological standpoint. Many of them had not played in games on foreign soil against opponents on that caliber.
“I didn’t sense the same tentativeness or hesitancy – players were not in awe of the uniform.”
From a results perspective, both the U-16s and U-18s posted a 2-1-1 record – the U-16s tied Atlético Madrid late, and both the U-16s and U-18s lost to Real Madrid in their last games of the trip.
Results weren’t the be-all, end-all measure of success, however.
“For this trip, the first thing we wanted to do is play well, that we possessed the ball, defended, organized, that we were creative, had opportunities, that the kids played with personality – that was the first goal,” Hayden said. “Hopefully, winning would be a result of that, and we stressed that. We want to play our style and get results, in that order.”
This weekend, FC Dallas will face Lonestar SC Academy, resuming play in the Development Academy league. They’ll see firsthand what sort of strides the Spain trip helped them make.