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Nathan Klok

MNUFC Development Academy Ready to Take the Next Steps in Second Season

Building something worthwhile takes time and patience but perhaps most importantly, it requires continued learning and ensuing adjustments in order to develop. As Minnesota United’s Development Academy kicks off its second season of competition this weekend in Chicago, it carries with it the lessons learned from its inaugural campaign — lessons its leaders believe have laid the groundwork from which the program’s next steps forward will be taken.

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Coaching academy soccer presents an interesting dynamic. On one hand, competitive sports will always be about wins and losses and as the next generation of Loons continues to advance through the system, the players will have to learn how to cope with that pressure. But there also exists a responsibility to develop the individuals, no matter the circumstance. To that end Academy Director Tim Carter evokes a familiar sports mantra: Trust the Process.

“As we go into this year, we are not about building the killer team,” Carter said. “That is not our goal. Our goal is to help players develop individually. What we have applied this year is more of a process and a curriculum to educate the players as opposed to just coming and coaching the team.”

“We are focused on the process,” he added. “We will have our ups and downs but, at the end, I would like to be able to say the process brought us forward.”

As it moves forward, MNUFC wants to carve out a singular club identity for its three academy sides — U13, U14 and, new for this season, U15. Academy Coach Andy Seidel spoke of building a system that creates an aura of sorts around the Minnesota United badge. He wants it to carry a heavy weight in opponents’ minds. When the Black and Blue walks onto the field, Seidel wants other teams to know exactly what is in store for them.

Minnesota wants to play the faster, execute better and exert more control over games. As you might expect, consistency can be an issue with pre-teen players, but MNUFC is looking to its 27 returners on the U14 and U15 teams and the more than a dozen Pre-DA alumni at U13 already indoctrinated in the club’s methods to lead the way in that regard.

“Now that they have a little bit of continuity, we talked about imposing ourselves on the other teams we play,” Seidel said. “Now we can show this is how we play and this is who we are instead of feeling out every game or not chasing every game. We want to be the protagonist and be making things happen.”

“If we can get these guys to play collectively, it is going to help them shine with the skills that they have,” he added. “If we can get what happens in training to happen consistently on the game field, that is going to be better for the players to showcase themselves and progress to the next level.”

In year one, the Academy players saw better competition both on the field and day-to-day in training than they ever had at their local clubs. The heightened speed of the game required a significant adjustment up to the higher level of play. It took time, and it pushed players to their physical, mental and technical limits each day, but they came out better for the experience. Now that players, coaches and support staff alike all have a season under their belts, the Development Academy feels it is ready to hit the ground running this weekend.

“We had a better preseason, without a doubt,” Carter said. “We had more preparation games in this preseason than we did last year. We are starting off the year with our feet more on the ground and knowing the challenge and I know there is more maturity. They are definitely more aware of what is coming at them and they don’t take things for granted.”

The 2018-19 Development Academy campaign commences on Saturday, September 8 for the U13 and U14 Development Academy sides against Sockers FC in Schaumburg, Illinois and on Sunday, September 9 for the U15 Development Academy against FC United Soccer Club in Waukegan, Illinois.

All three teams have their home openers on Saturday, September 29 at the National Sports Center in Blaine. The U13 and U14 Development Academies will match up against their counterparts from the Indiana Fire, while the U15 Development Academy will square off with the Chicago Fire Soccer Academy.

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