The first team began its season four weeks ago, and the Development Academy is trailing closely behind. After a considerable break from competitive play, and training sessions throughout the winter months, the young players are getting ready to finish what they started in the fall. The DA begins the second half of its season this weekend against St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
This time around, the group is better prepared. The coaches have a better idea of the capabilities of the players, and the players have a better idea of the competition they will be facing on the pitch.
The DA spends the year — which is broken up into a fall season and a spring season — helping the players develop individual skills to improve their performance on the pitch. In many ways, the coaches view the year as a year-long tryout for the next level of competition, with players constantly working to improve their games.
As a coach, the concern lies with education, which ranks higher on the importance scale than the team result. If the young athletes are playing quicker, cleaner and their decision making is developing, it’s a win in the Development Academy’s eyes.
While the squad is rusty from the lack of competitive play against other MLS Academy sides over the break, improvements were made tactically. The winter training sessions allowed players to make faster decisions, become more comfortable with the ball at their feet — better executing their first touch and distributing passes — and begin to fully understand their role in the game.
“We’re looking forward to starting the second half of the year and to see how much the players have improved over the past several months,” said Academy Director Tim Carter. “Other than a couple of friendly games over the past couple of weeks, we have been training and playing in mostly small-numbered games. It will take us a couple of games to get our timing and understanding back up to speed, but we’ll adjust pretty quickly.
“The opening weekend of games will be a good challenge for both our U13 and U14 teams,” he continued. “The St. Louis teams are organized, and probably a couple of weeks further along than we are, given their ability to play outdoors in 11v11. We may not have the amount of possession that we want, but we will need to work through these periods of the game and not panic when we recover the ball.”