As it continues to grow, every Minnesota United Development Academy season will have its fair share of firsts across every age group, but that is never truer than at the U13 level. For those players, it is their first exposure to an academy setting and the heightened expectations that come with that.
Year by year, MNUFC is building its pathway with the U13 program as its foundation. Players at U13 learn for the first time what it means and what it takes to represent the badge moving forward. By all accounts, this year’s group has fully embraced that challenge and the responsibility that comes with it.
“How fast the group came together has been the biggest positive,” Academy Coach Andy Seidel said. “They are grasping how we want to play and that has really started to click in the last couple of weeks. They have really started to implement what we are looking for.”
Academy Director Tim Carter has been impressed by the level of talent in the U13 Development Academy this season and noted the importance of the Pre-DA program in both shaping that skill. More than a dozen of this season’s 20 U13 DA players played in the Pre-DA last season and, as Minnesota seeks to build its Academy’s identity, the benefits of that continuity have been noticeable.
“One of the things I have noticed is that our Pre-DA programming is helping us to have a stronger intake group, which is positive for the future,” Carter said. “They are coming in and doing a pretty good job. It is basically a brand-new team, so they are coming together for the very first time as a team.
“Every intake year, the youngest year below is always better than the year before,” he added. “That is a good thing and it is going to continue to happen. It still takes them awhile, but it is a better group than it was a year before.”
Results are the last thing the Academy staff is looking at, but even those are coming along. The U13 Development Academy is unbeaten, including two wins, in its last three games thanks in large part because it is quickly acclimating to its new environment.
Though the Academy is focused on individual development, first and foremost, Seidel said there are three team-based hurdles players need to clear for that to happen: Learning how to play within the MNUFC Academy’s structure, understanding the expectations of what it means to be in an MLS Academy — namely showing up with the right attitude, mindset and effort each day — and adjusting to the level of competition, which is especially important at U13 because it is their first exposure and a significant step up from what they are used to.
“We are getting closer,” Seidel said. “Players are starting to get more comfortable with each other. Right away it is definitely hard for the players in the new environment to express themselves and play how they really want to play, but in the last two or three weeks that guard has been dropped and the guys are really starting to show what they can do. They are realizing how they fit into the system and are able to have a little bit of personality while playing the way we want them to play.”
Now that the U13 Development Academy is checking the right boxes, it is showing promise at both an individual and team level. As they continue their journey on Minnesota’s growing pathway, they will be better for that experience and ready to take the U14, U15 levels and beyond by storm.