Breaking down the Dev. Academy's top teams

Breaking down the Dev. Academy's top teams
by Will Parchman
March 9, 2016

The Development Academy is speeding toward the final months of the 2015-16 season with typical verve. As the league’s grown, its scheduling gradually becoming more ingrained in the communities in which it resides, the league’s expectations have grown in lockstep. The Development Academy certainly isn’t “world class” yet, but it’s in better stead than it was eight years ago when it fired up its first season.

What follows is a heat check on some of the top DA sides this season and what they’re doing right. March begins a critical phase for the DA’s playoff hopeful squads, who are doing their best to round into form at the right time before the playoffs open up in three months’ time.

Here are a few squads worth mentioning. This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing about them, either.

Chicago Magic PSG U18

Anyone who saw the Magic’s U17 team win a national title at the US Youth Soccer National Championships last summer witnessed the pure leaden firepower this side possesses. Several of the Magic’s top stars played on that team, and if it wasn’t obvious during the previous DA season, the team’s future U18s were about to unleash havoc on the academy in 2015-16.

And so it has been. The Magic are clear frontrunners to take home the top spot from the Mid-America Division with only about a third of the season left to go. With the third-best rate of return in the DA so far this season, the Magic are 10-2-1 through their first 13 games, and they’ve scored a division best 33 goals so far. Top recruit Emmanuel Sabbi has eight goals in 10 matches, while top DI recruits Kendall Stork (4g, 3a) and Luka Prpa are all rounding into form. Don’t sleep on breakout stud Anselm Pasquina either. The Spaniard has been the team’s most devastating threat, with 12 goals and six assists from 12 games.

BW Gottschee U18

Back when we first profiled the movers and shakers of the season back in the fall, BW Gottschee was a bit of an anomaly. The academy has always been quality, but it’s hardly ascended to the highest echelon with the top MLS talent producers, instead plodding along somewhere in the middle band of the DA’s non-monied clubs. But a fundamental shift happened at the U18 level for this team, which is, almost unbelievably, the only team left in the academy with a perfect record.

Gottschee has run through its first 15 games without so much as drawing one of them, and it has an all-time defense to thank. Through its first 15 games, Gottschee surrendered a nonsensical four total goals. If you want to break out the calculator, that’s an average of 0.26 goals against per game. We’ve talked about raiding fullback Dylan Nealis before, along with the rest of the defense, but don’t overlook the attack either. Gottschee has 36 goals this season - only one team in the division has more - and Sean McGowan leads the line with 10. This isn’t quite the DA’s Leicester City story of 2015-16, but it’s perhaps closer than any other. Indeed, Gottschee has a legitimate bead on the No. 1 seed in the playoffs come June.

Real Colorado U16

It’s easy to talk about FC Dallas in this space. And in the last year or two, it’s become increasingly easy to mention the rising Houston Dynamo academy in the same breath. FCD’s academy setup is probably the best in the country considering it represents an actual pipeline to the first team, and the Dynamo are beginning to come into their own as well. That’s largely left the rest of the Frontier Division to pick at the scraps left over by the league’s top two teams.

Real Colorado isn’t taking the competition lying down this year. While it’s true FCD did just beat RC 3-0, the Rocky Mountain State side has an impressive 3-1 win over the Dynamo this season and sits a comfortable second in the division with 32 points from 14 games. That’s the fourth-best total in the entire academy. Everything here starts with Rhys De Sota, who’s gradually making a name as one of the most lethal finishers in the entire academy. In 14 games this year he has a mammoth 17 goals, and in his current form he’s a striker no DA defender wants to see right now. With the stern resistance put up by a defense that ranks in the upper third of the academy, this RC team is no flash in the pan.

Vancouver Whitecaps U16

Over the last couple years, the Whitecaps have fashioned themselves into a high-flying academy with an emphasis on tricky dribblers, quality traditional No. 9 finishers and the soccer equivalent of the spread offense. It isn’t that they haven’t produced good defenders: (now) first team fullback Sam Adekugbe and USL center back Jackson Farmer, both of whom came up through the academy, are a refutation of that point. But it’s clear that the Whitecaps value attacking players.

That’s never been more evident than it has this season with the U16s. Only one team in the academy has more goals than Vancouver’s 59, which works out to 2.6 goals per game through 22 matches. There’s been a continuous rotation of quality forward play throughout the season, and that depth should serve the PNW side well once the playoffs roll around. But pay specific attention to forward Alan Camacho Soto. He has a team-leading 16 goals in 22 matches this season, and his combination with Thelonius Bair, who has nine goals himself, is one of the academy’s best. Throw in the team’s typical insistence on playing fluid, attacking soccer and you’ve got the recipe for one of the most watchable teams in the entire academy.

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