It’s been quite some time since teams in the U16 Mid-Atlantic Division saw action in the USSF Development Academy.
Last playing in the 2011 Development Academy Winter Showcase in Florida, none of the teams have played against Division rivals this season – that ends this weekend, as the regular season begins.
With that looming it’s time for players and coaches to step up and perform at the highest level of boy’s club soccer.
“We have high hopes, but we’re also integrating a lot of new players,” FC Delco U16 head coach Alan Mezger told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “So it’s taken us a little time to get them organized. Our first five results this year we did well offensively scoring ten goals, but we also gave up ten goals. We spent the better of the winter to try and get organized defensively.”
FC Delco, which finished third behind D.C. United and PA Classics in the Mid-Atlantic Division last year, is looking to put together another strong run of games with the returning talent at its disposal. Forward George Tsirukis leads a talented attack, and the returning U16 player already has four goals to his name.
But standing in the way is D.C. United, the lone MLS Academy team in the Division (FC Delco and PA Classics are part of the Philadelphia Union Academy setup). The U16 team has been busy with preparations for the spring part of its schedule, playing a number of friendlies over the past few months in preparations.
Expected to deploy a 4-3-3, D.C. is going to rely on the likes of Ian Harkes, Rafael Fagundo and Michael Seaton to achieve success this year.
“We’ve done a lot of passing and receiving and it’s really allowed us to focus in on a couple more important things as we get the ball under control in the other opponent’s end and really try to move the ball quickly,” D.C. U16 head coach Tom Torres told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “And then it doesn’t hurt to have some speedy wingers that are able to get in behind the back line of other teams’ defenses.”
While D.C. is excited about the start of the season, the opening slate is rough, playing one weekend at home before heading on the road.
“We’re looking forward to it, we’ve got a tough stretch I think we travel three weekends in a row which is fine but just keeping the guys healthy and obviously with spring high school mixed in, not tough, just challenging, you’ve got to manage guys’ minutes and manage rosters a little bit,” Torres said.
The division is far from a two-horse race, as NJSA 04, Baltimore Bays Chelsea and Match Fit Chelsea are all prominent programs that have competed in the past. It’s going to be a tough battle but one FC Delco enters with lofty ambitions.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and we think the talent is there, the tools are there,” Mezger said. “We just have to get them to play together, get on the same page offensively and defensively.”
U16 Mid-Atlantic Division Players to Watch
George Tsirukis, FC Delco – “We expect a lot from George as a returning starter from last year,” Mezger said. “He’s already had four goals on the year so he’s off to a good start.”
Rafael Fagundo, D.C. United – One of several D.C. players verbally committed to Wake Forest, Fagundo is one of many budding talents on the D.C. roster. His impact on the U16 level will depend on how often he gets the chance to play up with the U18s.