Photo by Keith Nordstrom/New England Revolution
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The compressed fall schedule presents several challenges for the New England Revolution academy program as the 2011-2012 US Soccer Development Academy season commences.
The technical staff must cobble together a group mixed with familiar faces and fresh options in short order. After making all of the necessary introductions, the coaches must then attempt to eradicate poor habits picked up during the high school season and lay the tactical foundation required for this five-game mini-season prior to the holiday break.
Early returns suggests the efforts have paid dividends. The New England U-16 and U-18 academy sides swept a pair of games against Met Oval and New York Cosmos on Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 to start the new campaign in style.
“It's a great start in regard to results,” Revolution U-18 coach John Frederick told MLSsoccer.com at the club's academy media night on Tuesday. “I think any time – I don't care when it is in the season – you can win two games in one weekend in the Academy, it's a good weekend. It's hard; the teams are good.”
The four victories represent the perfect start a pair of sides hoping to challenge for playoff spots out of the Northeast Division when play kicks off in earnest next March.
“It's a confidence builder,” U-18 defender Mitchell Taintor said. “In the past few seasons, we haven't done as well as we would want to do.”
Although the Revs primarily focus on developing players like Diego Fagundez for first-team action and giving talented players like Taintor and Dominik Machado the opportunity to train with the first team, they also want to experience consistent success at the academy level. The U-16 side has advanced to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, but the club wants to expand that success to its U-18 ranks as the players progress toward their college careers.
This weekend's trip to the US Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase in Sarasota, Fla., should provide an early measure of how well the Revs stack up heading into next season.
Both clubs will face three high-caliber opponents – MLS foes Chicago Fire plus North Carolina stalwarts Charlotte Soccer Academy and North Meck SC – over the long weekend. The tests presented by those opponents will prove helpful on the field, but the players may learn more about themselves and their teammates by dissecting those matches and spending plenty of time together off the field.
“We've looked at this phase of the season as an acclimation phase for the new guys,” Revolution director of youth development and U-16 coach Bryan Scales said. “We're establishing some chemistry and figuring out what the personality of the teams will be like. So far, we've gotten off to a good start. This will be a big weekend for us.”
Results remain an important piece of the puzzle, but the Revs academy players will hope to use this trio of matches as a way to eliminate some of the errors from their games and mold together two working units that can compete when Development Academy play resumes next year.
“We're getting the sloppy play out of the way [now],” U-16 goalkeeper Matt Mozynski said.