FRISCO, Texas — As if needing a win against the Houston Dynamo in the final qualifying match to clinch their spot in the Champions Division of the Generation adidas Cup wasn’t a tall enough task, Montreal Impact’s U-17s then drew a group with reigning Champions Division champions Flamengo from Brazil as well as Spanish power Valencia.
But based on their performances to begin the tournament Sunday, the Impact –– making their first appearance in the Champions Division and second appearance at the GA Cup overall –– looked anything but scared.
After an opening play with a point in their 1-1 draw to Flamengo before losing in penalty kicks, the Impact followed gave a solid effort against Valencia, who bested them 2-1. Despite going winless on day one, coach Nicolas Gagnon saw plenty to appreciate from his side –– and things they can grow from.
“I think we started well against Flamengo,” Gagnon said. “It was a pretty intense game where we caused them a couple problems with and without the ball.”
The first half was a bit disappointing against Valencia. We should've been better at closing them down and getting more density around the ball. We did a bit more in the second half, but if we'd have done that in the first half, maybe the game would've ended differently.”
As a whole, though, Gagnon understands the opportunity this competition provides.
“The GA Cup is a tournament, but more importantly, it's a tool,” Gagnon said to MLSsoccer.com.
It's a tool for a player to gain experience with what they see during games to have them prepare to be a pro one day. And to have that level of competition at that age is really important.”
It’s important for his players to see the larger picture GA Cup provides, soaking in every aspect for their own benefit.
“The experience they gain in those 6-7 days is huge. Tactically, technically, but also how they approach the game and how they approach their preparation. So it's a good package, it's a good tool to work on all these things for the project of becoming a pro one day.”