Published: March 13, 2012
For half of the U18 Southeast Division, the season is now a waiting game.
While four Florida-based Academy sides, Kendall SC, IMG Soccer Academy, Clearwater Chargers and Weston FC are set to resume their Development Academy schedule in March, they are all on a mission.
All four are setting out to hunt down the top four in the division – South Carolina United Battery, Concorde Fire, Georgia United and Birmingham United in a chase for a coveted playoff spot, and all four are now dormant thanks to the high school season.
For IMG Academy U18 coach Scott Dean, it’s not a bad thing to be working from behind.
“I don’t mind knowing where we stand and going after it,” he told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “I guess there’s an argument on both sides. For me and for where we are with IMG, I prefer playing more games in the back half because it gives me a chance to get our guys settled in and playing. That’s kind of what my take is and just our experience and what we’re doing.”
IMG's Pablo Aguilar
Before resuming action in the Development Academy this weekend with a trip to North Carolina, IMG has been busy playing friendlies, going up against the U.S. U17 men’s national team and fitting in a trip to Barcelona. There, they got to train with some Barcelona Academy coaches and catch some La Liga action.
IMG’s attacker Marlon Hairston (going to Louisville) will play a pivotal role in deciding his side’s fortunes, as will Pablo Aguilar
and the ever improving left back Joseph Hutchinson.
The stagnation in league action over the past few months gave Dean time to tinker and have his team ready to peak in the later stages of the season.
“It always takes us a little bit of time to get going, so the beginning half of the year it’s a lot of molding, training, showing them what we want and we’ll always perform better in the second half of the year than we do at the first half of the year,” he said.
Right now, all four Florida teams have played six games, with Kendall SC’s nine points leading that quarter as the race to the top begins. The intra-Florida games don’t begin until the last weekend in March, and if one team picks up maximum points, it assumes the driver’s seat towards a Division title.
Meanwhile, the other four non-Florida teams are in a holding pattern until each plays a handful of remaining game in June. With players away for high school obligations, it’s now a waiting game to see how the division shakes out.
South Carolina United Battery coach Clark Brisson, whose team is currently at the top of the division, is hoping to control its destiny heading into the final two games of the season later in June.
“My gut is if we win two games we’ll probably win the division” Brisson told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “If we win one of the two games, that maybe good enough for a wild card. If we lose two, we’ll probably be out would be my guess.
“For us, getting out in front there is great, I still think the division’s going to come down to the final two games for sure and the playoff spots.”
Georgia United, who have just two games left and trail South Carolina and Concorde Fire in the standings, want to close out its first season in the Development Academy the right way.
“We want to go out the last couple of games and do our best,” head coach Ray Tomlin told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “The two teams ahead of us have the advantage, they can only slip to let us in. Even if we finish out the season strong, it’s out of our hands, but we’ll give it all we have in the last couple of games to get the results.”
What’s easy to deduce at this stage is that even come June, all eight teams could have a shot at winning the division and qualifying for the playoffs. The next few months are certain to dictate that.U18 Southeast Division Players to Watch
Joseph Hutchinson, IMG Academy:
The former attacker is now a rock at left back for IMG, and he’ll be a key part of the back line as IMG aims to climb the standings. He’ll play at Florida Gold Coast in the fall.Nahuel Medina, Kendall SC:
The leading goal scorer through the first half of Kendall’s season, Medina must come up big in front of goal in the late stages of the season as well.