US Soccer Development Academy Kicks Off 2017-18 season

FCD Academy Photo-Dallas Cup 2017

FC Dallas U18 Academy-Dallas Cup 2017 (Courtesy of FC Dallas)

Earlier this month the US Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) began the 2017/2018 season throughout the country.  The Boys Development Academy was started in 2007 and this year has begun a girls academy that follows similar philosophies and competitive structures as the boys program.

The USSDA currently has 197 total clubs, comprised of teams across six age groups in the boys program: U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16/17, and U-18/19 and four age groups in the girls program: U-14, U-15, U-16/17, and U-18/19. New clubs, and age-group team extensions within existing clubs, are being added every year.

There are eight Texas youth clubs that participate in the Development Academy at various age levels (the Houston Dynamo, Dash and Dynamo Youth-formerly Texas Rush-are grouped as one club for this discussion).

The U12 boys play in a stand alone Texas Division.  The remainder of the clubs and teams play in the Frontier Division, which includes other clubs from the Midwest and Colorado. Each team plays home and away games against the other teams in their division, plus games against non-division opponents from across the country during the 10-month season.  Playoffs, culminating in a National Final Four, are held at the conclusion of the regular season.  Last year the semifinals in the older boys divisions included both the U16/17 and U18/19 FC Dallas teams and Texans SC from Houston, who won the national championship in Carson, California at that age level.

Listed below, with links to the individual club page on the US Soccer Development Academy website, are the Texas clubs who are part of the Academy.

Texas Boys USSDA Clubs: (Play at all age levels unless otherwise noted)

Dallas Texans

FC Dallas

Houston Dynamo

Lonestar SC Academy

Rise Soccer Club (U12 only)

San Antonio FC  (U12/13/14 only)

Solar Soccer Club

Texans SC Houston

Houston Dynamo Youth

Texas Girls USSDA Clubs: (All clubs play at all age levels)

Dallas Texans

FC Dallas

Houston Dash

Lonestar SC

Solar Soccer Club

Texas College Soccer Overview

Related image

By Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography (Athletics-Soccer vs TWU-4689.jpg) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Now that the non-conference schedule has come to an end for most Texas College Soccer programs, it is a good time to discuss the state of college soccer in the state before conference play becomes the focus.

College soccer has a history in Texas that extends much further back than any professional league.  In his 2011 book Distant Corners, David Wangerin wrote about early attempts to establish the sport in Texas universities and others around the country.  SMU, Baylor and the University of Texas had soccer programs as far back as 1913.  Unlike many other programs in the Northeast these early Texas soccer programs, largely created and played by immigrants, were unable to gain traction and disappeared shortly thereafter.

Scope of the College Soccer landscape in Texas:

That is certainly not the issue now.  After collecting data over the last few months, I have identified a total of 132 NCAA/NAIA/NCCAA/NJCAA (junior college) soccer (Men’s and Women’s) programs active in 81 universities and JC’s in the State.  These schools play in a total of 17 different conferences and divisions.  The number of colleges playing soccer certainly surprised me, especially given the almost complete lack of interest in college soccer statewide.

  • NCAA Division I:     22 schools-26 programs (22 Women’s-4 Men’s)
  • NCAA Division II:   12 schools-21 programs (12 Women’s-9 Men’s)
  • NCAA Division III:  15 schools-29 programs (15 Women’s-14 Men’s)
  • NAIA:                        12 schools-24 programs (Both Men’s and Women’s)
  • NCCAA:                      1 school-2 programs (Both Men’s and Women’s)
  • NJCAA:                      19 schools-30 programs (17 Women’s-13 Men’s)

A complete list of all Texas college programs can be found in the link below. I encourage anyone who is aware of other programs I have not listed or identifies any mistakes to please let me know at jeff@txsoccerjournal.com as I plan to try and keep this list current.

Texas College Soccer Programs

More Women’s than Men’s soccer programs in colleges, especially Division I:

Far more Women’s than Men’s college soccer programs exist in both Texas and the rest of the United States.  There are a number of complicated reasons why this disparity exists. I will not attempt to discuss the rationale for the current balance of Men’s and Women’s soccer in colleges today in this post, though it is certainly a controversial issue.  I have linked to a couple of reference sources below if you are interested in this topic.

First, the Men’s Club Soccer team at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has recently raised a ruckus on Social Media in an attempt to get the Athletic Department to create a Men’s Division I program there.  Below is a link to an article on Top Drawer Soccer about this UTSA situation and the state of soccer talent identification in Texas in general:

http://www.topdrawersoccer.com/the91stminute/2017/07/ut-san-antonio-is-pushing-hard-for-a-division-i-mens-team/

Second, a more general discussion on the history and reasons for the larger number of Women’s university soccer programs is tackled in this 2013 article from the University of North Texas student newspaper. (The previous North Texas Men’s NCAA soccer program was eliminated in 1993).

http://ntdaily.com/multiple-issues-hinder-unt-mens-soccer-program/

College Soccer Challenges:

The Men’s college soccer landscape has been dramatically altered recently by the growth of professional soccer academies in Major League Soccer, and to a certain extent, international clubs recruiting youth players in the United States.  Top players who previously would have attended college after finishing youth and high school careers are now increasing joining MLS academies at an early age and bypassing college to pursue professional careers in the United States, Mexico and Europe.  USMNT star Christian Pulisic, who left the U.S. in his mid teens to join the Borussia Dortmund youth setup, is the poster child for this trend.  An example specific to Texas involves two young potential stars, Weston McKennie and McKinze Gaines, who left as teenagers in the last few years to join professional clubs in Germany.

Though these academy programs have not impacted the women’s side of the game to any significant degree, I personally believe it is only a matter of time before many of the same trends develop on that side also.  The growth of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and increasing emphasis on women’s soccer programs in Europe and Mexico will produce an environment in the future that will increasingly allow women to pursue professional careers at a younger age.

To a certain extent the colleges have brought the competitive issues on themselves.  In addition to the lack of men’s programs at major universities, the NCAA continues to insist on playing by antiquated rules and schedules that do not fit the modern game.  For example, the NCAA still allows unlimited substitution and stubbornly continues to play a compressed schedule that runs only in the fall.  Men’s Division I coaches, led by Maryland coach Sasha Cirovski, had been working on a plan to split the season into both the fall and spring. This change would allow actual practice time instead of forcing teams to play multiple games per week in the short calendar.  A split season would also put far less stress on the health of soccer athletes.  This reform plan has met resistance both from within and outside of the soccer community.  Women’s programs, for example, seem to lack interest in the full season schedule and athletic department administrators are resistant to any additional spending, no matter how minimal, for soccer (and any other non-revenue producing sport for that matter).  There is a chance this reform will come to fruition though because it makes sense, has the backing of virtually all Division I soccer coaches and also has a powerful ally in former Houston Dynamo President Oliver Luck, who now is a senior executive at NCAA headquarters.  Further details on the rationale for the reform proposal can be found in this article from Jonathan Tannenwald in the Philadelphia Inquirer from earlier this year:

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/thegoalkeeper/Marylands-Sasho-Cirovski-fights-to-save-college-soccer-from-becoming-irrelevant-.html

Finally, there is no guarantee that the programs currently playing will continue in the future, given financial pressures faced by college administrators, especially in junior college systems.  San Jacinto College, a nationally recognized program that has produced professional players, has announced that it will discontinue its Men’s soccer program at the end of this season.

Major College Soccer events in Texas:

The NCAA held the Division I Men’s College Cup at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston last December (Stanford won its second consecutive championship).  The tournament had its share of challenges; marginal attendance, bad weather and poor field conditions put a damper on any positive press coming out of the weekend.

Despite the mixed reactions to this tournament, Texas will host another revitalized College Championship early next year as San Antonio has been selected to host the World Collegiate Soccer Championship for the next five years starting in March of 2018.  This championship, initially played a number of years ago before going dark, will include men’s teams from eight countries including the United States.

Summary

Regardless of all of the challenges there are more than 2,000 student/athletes who play college soccer in Texas today.  Though some have athletic scholarships, the majority don’t or at best are on partial scholarships.  The end result is that most players are part of the college programs because of their desire to continue to participate in a sport they grew up playing.  College soccer is a big part of the overall landscape of the sport in the state and should receive the support of our soccer community.

 

Santiago: Chile vs. Paraguay

Last night Texas Soccer Journal attended the Chile-Paraguay FIFA CONMEBOL 2018 World Cup Qualifier at Estadio Monumental in Santiago, Chile.

IMG_2536.JPG

IMG_2573

This was round 15 of a long and extremely challenging qualification process involving 18 home and away matches for all 9 South American countries (at least those that are not part of CONCACAF).  Paraguay shocked Chile 3-0 here last night to help tighten up the race for the final 3.5 SA World Cup slots available, since Brazil has run away from the pack and already qualified.

Stadium and match atmosphere observations:

  1. Estadio Monumental is also the home stadium of storied Chilean Primera Division club, Colo Colo.  There are display cases with club memorabilia inside the stadium and an onsite museum (which isn’t open on match days).
  2. We stopped and walked around the National stadium on the way to Monumental.  This stadium, which hosted the 1962 World Cup and 2015 Copa America finals, was empty and seemingly available.  Nobody I asked could explain why last night’s match was not played there, especially since more tickets could have been sold.
  3. The process to buy tickets was different from what we are used to in the States.  Not surprisingly, the website was in Spanish and we needed to provide Passport numbers to buy the tickets.  When we arrived at the stadium we had to show a copy of our Passports to enter.  At the gate our information was entered into a computer, which is connected (I believe) to an international database of bad actors that aren’t allowed into soccer stadiums worldwide.  Since my hooligan days (haha) are long in the past, the process to enter was smoother than I imagined it would be.
  4. The stadium is divided into two basic sections-Platea and Popular.  All tickets are expensive, but the Platea much more so. There is a very different (and calmer) crowd at National team games than club matches in Chile.  The vibe where we were sitting was more relaxed than we would see at a USMNT game, in an equivalent seating section.  We expected to stand the entire match and that didn’t happen.   From this picture it is clear, however, that the Popular and Platea sections are not meant to mix.IMG_2538.JPGThe match result was quite surprising.  Maybe it was a hangover from the tough Confederations Cup final lost to Germany in June. Chile was off from the first errant pass and defensively disorganized all night.  A 24th minute own goal from star Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal had them playing from behind the remainder of the match.  After that goal, Paraguay was incredibly organized and Chile had very few good chances.  Paraguay then put the game away with a third goal in extra-time.  Though the fans in the stadium seemed to take the loss stoically, Vidal got into it with fans on Twitter after the match.  The Paraguay fans were separated into their own Popular section and asked to delay their exit from the stadium after the game ended. IMG_2544To further avoid inflaming the crowd, no alcohol was sold and no replays of any kind were shown on the video board. IMG_2556More pictures follow below.  TSJ has 4 more live matches planned on this trip, including Argentina-Venezuela next Tuesday in Buenos Aires.  Note the beautiful backdrop of the Andes mountain range in the next  2 pictures, Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron being substituted late (5th picture) and the delirious Paraguay bench after the 3rd goal  (7th picture).IMG_2541.JPGIMG_2539IMG_2559IMG_2561IMG_2564IMG_2567IMG_2571

SAFC match with OKC Energy ends in scoreless draw; RGV FC Ties; Texas MLS Recap

The results seem to be very predictable when San Antonio FC plays rivals OKC Energy.  Tough, hard fought and tactical defensive stalemates rule the day.  Saturday night’s match in Oklahoma was no different as SAFC and OKC Energy played to a scoreless draw, the third time this season matches between the two sides have ended in a tie.

There was very little statistically to separate SAFC and OKC Energy during this tight defensive struggle.  Both teams shared a total of five shots on target, demonstrating the dearth of opportunities allowed by the tight and organized defenses.  San Antonio had the best chance of the evening midway through the first half when Billy Forbes, alone against OKC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi, shot wide left after receiving a pass from Jamaican international Omar Gordon-playing his first minutes with SAFC Saturday.  OKC Energy came to life in the last 15 minutes and created a handful of good chances, but were unable to put anything past SAFC’s Diego Restrepo.  The SAFC goalkeeper secured his ninth shutout of the season (tied for the league lead) and lowered his goals against average to a league leading 0.62.

SAFC head coach Darren Powell discussed the difficult nature of games played between his side and OKC Energy in his post-game comments.  “OKC is a very tough place to play. The guys worked extremely hard to earn the point and earning a clean sheet on the road is a positive. Now our job is to prepare for a quick turnaround to play at home in front of our supporters, and we look forward to being home on Wednesday evening.”

San Antonio FC (11-2-9) remains in second place in the United Soccer League Western Conference, 10 points behind leaders Real Monarchs SLC.

The club is playing a stretch of three games in eight days.  SAFC returns to action on Wednesday, August 23 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at Toyota Field and then hosts Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday, August 26.

RGVFC TIES WITH VANCOUVER WHITECAPS 2

A 70th minute goal from midfielder TJ Casner allowed Rio Grande Valley FC to come back from an early deficit to tie Vancouver 1-1 in Edinburg Saturday night.  RGV FC is now 7-10-6  on the season and sits in 12th place in the USL Western Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.

TEXAS MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER RECAP

The road was not kind to either Texas MLS team last weekend.  FC Dallas (FCD) continued its scoring slump in Kansas, losing 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City (SKC).   FCD has scored only 1 goal during a four-game winless streak.  The Houston Dynamo allowed two goals during a 15-minute stretch of the first half and, despite an early second half goal by midfielder Romell Quioto, were unable to overcome the early deficit in a 2-1 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps.  Houston, undefeated at home this year, dropped to 1-8-4 on the road in 2017.

The Dynamo are now tied for second place in the Western Conference with 37 points.  After the loss, FC Dallas dropped to 5th place, 5 points behind conference leaders SKC and only 2 points above the playoff line.  The third and final regular season “Texas Derby” between Dallas and Houston will take place Wednesday, August 23 in Frisco.  The first two matches ended in draws, so the winner of this game will earn the 2018 possession rights to El Capitan, a replica 18th century mountain howitzer cannon, which is awarded to the winner of the season series.

Midland-Odessa falls in NPSL Championship Game

Photo Credit: Mark Smith/NPSL.com

Elm City Express completed a story-book first-year in the NPSL when it defeated the Midland-Odessa FC Sockers 5-0 at Reese Stadium in New Haven, CT before an ecstatic crowd of 3,112 Saturday night.

Two goals apiece by All NPSL third team forward Tavoy Morgan and Quenton Swift led the Express to the victory. Morgan finished the playoffs with six goals and was selected as the Mitre Man of the Match.  The Sockers, playing under an extremely challenging set of circumstances, fell behind 2-0 at halftime and it remained close until late in the match when the quality of the Express side finally broke the game open.  Regardless of the challenges for the Sockers leading up to the match, the Express were deserved Champions.  In the Midland Reporter-Telegram game story (link below), Sockers head coach Matt Barnes talked about Elm City’s quality:  “Elm City is the best team we’ve seen in a long time,” Barnes said. “They’re a very good team.”

The Express, who joined USL on January 9 of this year, was founded by K2 Soccer USA, a sister company of K2 Soccer SA which owns and operates Clube Atlético Tubarão, which is based in the State of Santa Catarina in the southern part of Brazil.

The clubs first season was wildly successful.  A 9-1-2 regular season record resulted in the Atlantic Blue Conference Division championship and a #5 finish in the NPSL National Regular Season Power Rankings.  This was followed by five dominating postseason victories, including Saturday night’s Championship game.

The Sockers, who moved from the USL PDL to the NPSL this year, also had a tremendous season.  A 7-3-0 regular season record produced a plus-12 goal differential, which was the best in the Lonestar Conference.  Midland-Odessa then peaked at the right time and won 4 straight playoff games until the loss in the final.  The team overcame significant obstacles even to complete the regular season and defeated a number of playoff teams, including Detroit City FC in the semifinal round, with much more experienced players. Two players, midfielder Alex VonHolle and forward  Jamie O’Grady, received All NPSL recognition. For the second consecutive year, the Sockers made the National semifinal round in its league and also secured a place in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition. Coach Matt Barnes, his staff and the roster of players that stuck to the end should be commended for a season to remember.

For Midland-Odessa to even put a team on the field for the Championship game was remarkable.  It accomplishes little to go over the issues again.  At least, in its worldwide search for eligible players, the team was able to find a real goalkeeper before Saturday night!  In any event, the links to the game stories below talk in detail about the sequence of events last week that produced the roster that played in the Championship game if any readers are interested.

If college players will continue to play a key role in league rosters going forward, it would seem to be in the NPSL’s best interest to find a way to finish future seasons before the NCAA mandated dates for eligibility kicks in. A repeat of what happened to the Sockers this year would be a shame, both for any future team involved and especially the credibility of the league.

Match Stories:

NPSL Website:

http://www.npsl.com/news_article/show/822866?referrer_id=1510764

Odessa American:

http://www.oaoa.com/sports/local/franchise/article_871530fc-7fdc-11e7-8c5b-9353cb13e9de.html

Midland Reporter-Telegram:

http://www.mrt.com/sports/article/NPSL-Short-handed-MOFC-falls-to-Elm-City-in-11814720.php

San Antonio FC Suffers Second Loss of Season

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Billy Forbes at Toyota Field earlier this year

San Antonio FC (SAFC) suffered only its second United Soccer League (USL) regular season loss of the year when it fell 2-0 to Reno 1836 in Nevada last Saturday night.

Reno scored a goal in each half to secure the victory and move to within 5 points of SAFC in what is becoming an increasingly tight playoff race in the Western Conference.  Luis Felipe Fernandes scored first in the 25th minute during a sequence of play that began with a corner kick.  After SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo made the initial save on the set piece, the defense was unable to clear the ball out of the box and Felipe took advantage to score the opening goal.  The second goal came after a bad giveaway by Restrepo in the 70th minute.  Restrepo, playing well off his line as he frequently does, attempted to clear the ball, but ended up passing it straight to Reno forward Brian Brown who rounded the goalkeeper and walked in for the easiest goal he may have scored in his life.

SAFC had a chance to get back into the match in the 82nd minute when forward Cesar Elizondo was brought down in the box.  Billy Forbes smashed the resulting penalty off the crossbar and this was the last good opportunity of the evening for San Antonio.

After the game, defender Ben Newnam rued the mistakes made by SAFC that led to the goals: “I think we played well in the first half. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot on both goals, we made mistakes and we just need to start putting away our opportunities. If we score first we’re on the front foot and it’s a different game. Now we have to bounce back.”

One interesting side note on the evening was the referee issuing seven yellow cards to SAFC. Home side Reno 1836 had none, despite conceding roughly the same number of fouls as San Antonio.

SAFC (11-2-8, 41 points) remains in second place, but fell further behind conference leaders Real Monarchs SLC who won at home Saturday night.  San Antonio FC will return to USL action on Saturday, August 19 as they travel to face Oklahoma City Energy FC for the third matchup between the two sides this season.

Midland-Odessa FC Advances to NPSL Championship Game

Game action at Keyworth Stadium Saturday night: (Photo Credit: Fletcher Sharpe/NPSL.com)

Overcoming obstacles seems to be in the DNA of the Midland-Odessa FC (MOFC) Sockers. Saturday night in Hamtramck, Michigan the Sockers silenced a large and raucous announced crowd of 7,533 at Keyworth stadium by defeating Detroit City FC (DCFC) 0-0 (4-2 on penalties) when Elliott Bentley converted in the fifth round of the shootout.

The Sockers now advance to the NPSL Championship game against Elm City Express this Saturday at Reese Stadium on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

The game had ebbs and flows as happens in many playoff games. Newspaper stories below discuss the chances both teams had throughout the match.  During regulation, the Sockers outshot Detroit City 18-8 and DCFC’s goalkeeper, former Houston Dynamo Academy player, Fernando Pina was forced to make 10 saves.  The Sockers had the better chances in the first half, both teams dueled in the second half and Detroit City was unfortunate to not win in added extra-time, hitting the woodwork twice and having a ball cleared off the line.

In the 3rd minute of the first overtime, DCFC had two excellent opportunities to score off a corner-kick.  The first clanked off the post and the follow on was cleared off the line by Socker’s forward Andrew Moullin.  Late in the second overtime, former Major League Soccer defender Greg Janicki smashed a header off the crossbar during a run of play that began with a DCFC corner-kick.

Penalty shootouts and the word “crap-shoot” seem to always go together and this was no different.  MOFC converted 4 of 5 penalty chances (Alvaro Rubio, Andrew Moullin, Isaac Sanchez and Bentley) and goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz saved two of the Detroit City penalties.  The Socker’s Jamie O’Grady could have ended the shoot-out a round earlier, but was unlucky as his penalty hit the crossbar.

In the Detroit News game story by Larry O’Connor, Sockers head coach Matt Barnes talked about the changes in momentum as the game progressed:

“It was an interesting match because I thought we were clearly the better team in regulation,” Midland-Odessa coach Matt Barnes said. “We weren’t sweating much. We created a lot. Our game plan was really solid. I just thought we should have put the ball in early in the first half.  In overtime, I thought they were better than us. We dodged a couple of bullets in overtime.”

In the same article, Detroit City FC coach Ben Pirmann only seemed to quibble with who controlled the game in the second half:  “In the last 75 minutes we really took it to them”.

Both teams had obstacles to overcome.  Le Rouge, Detroit City’s nickname, played without any of its NCAA Division 1 players, including Tyrone Mondi, the hero of last weeks win over AFC Ann Arbor that allowed Detroit City to progress to the semifinals. The Sockers obstacles are at a different level however.  MOFC has been playing with 16 players for the last two weeks and according to the teams Twitter feed it is the youngest team in the NPSL. Midland-Odessa coach Jim Robbins discussed this in post-match comments to Fletcher Sharpe on npsl.com:  “Since the NPSL/NCAA cut off, we’ve lost 14 rotation players, so it has been tough, but to get to a semifinal in back-to-back years is a testament to this program.”

Primarily because of the excellent quality of Detroit FC’s streaming service, impressive fan support and social media strategy, Saturday’s game drew staggering live streaming numbers for a semi-professional soccer game. According to the Detroit News, the game drew 30,000 viewers from live stream and social media.  In a testament to the world-wide reach of the Internet, viewers from Northern Ireland made up more than 8% of the live stream audience Saturday.  Midland-Odessa soccer is now global!

One splash of cold water on the celebration came from MOFC’s Matt Barnes who told the Detroit News after the match that the NCAA might not let the remaining collegiate players take part in the NPSL final.  “We have to figure out that out with the league in a couple of days.”

Links to game stories:

NPSL

http://www.npsl.com/news_article/show/820930?referrer_id=1510764

Odessa American:

http://www.oaoa.com/sports/local/franchise/sockers/article_6e3118a6-7a5c-11e7-923d-d37abe06583a.html

Midland Reporter-Telegram:

http://www.mrt.com/sports/article/NPSL-MOFC-reaches-1st-national-title-game-after-11737220.php

Midland-Odessa CBS-7 segment (includes video of winning penalty):

http://www.cbs7.com/content/sports/Midland-Odessa-FC-advances-to-NPSL-Championship-438783273.html

You Tube of Penalty shoot-out from mlive.com:

Detroit News: