Players to Watch in the USSFDA in 2012-13

Players to Watch in the USSFDA in 2012-13
by J.R. Eskilson & Travis Clark
September 4, 2012

The sixth season of the USSF’s Development Academy kicks off on Saturday, and in accordance with the big occasion, some of TopDrawerSoccer.com’s staff decided to take a look at the impact player’s in the elite league for boys club soccer.

Below is a list of 20 players (in no particular order) who will be difference-makers for their clubs in the upcoming season. One word of caution: there is a heavy reliance on players who are graduating in 2013, as the many of the top players from the 2014 and 2015 classes are in the U.S. Residency Program with the U17 Men’s National Team and excluded from Academy play for most of the season.

Also, all clubs were limited to only one player on the list and no professional players were considered.

Player, Club (Top 150 Rank, High School Graduation Year)

F Ben Spencer, Chivas USA (No. 14, 2013)

The tall striker battled through injuries for a couple of months last season and still managed to score 12 goals in 17 games while playing up an age with the Chivas USA U18 squad. This season, Spencer will be the leader of that group and looking to improve on his second Finals Week appearance in two years. The powerful and skillful target forward is a verbal commit to UC Santa Barbara, but a professional contract is not out of the question for the near future.

MF Willie Raygoza, LA Galaxy (No. 10, 2013)

There are a number of players in the Galaxy Academy who could/should make this list, but Raygoza stands out from the crowd due to his advanced understanding of the game. He is technically sound and a coveted prospect by clubs outside of MLS. The local kid gave his word to UCLA last spring, but his game is better suited for Europe than college or MLS.

MF Jordan Allen, Real Salt Lake-Arizona (No. 3, 2013)

The fiery competitive former Residency member wowed the coaching staff in Arizona last season with his rapid development. Allen developed into one of the best wingers in the country last year under the tutelage of Martin Vazquez. This season, the New York-native will be expected to lead the RSL-AZ squad in the always cutthroat Southwest Division. He is a verbal commit to Virginia.

club soccer player solar sc trevor haberkornSolar defender Trevor Haberkorn

MF Arun Basuljevic, New York Red Bulls (No. 72, 2014)

Arguably, Basuljevic was the best player at the Development Academy U16 playoffs in July. He controlled the pace of every game for the eventual National Champions and also provided a bite to the midfield with some timely challenges. Despite only one goal to his name in 31 games last year, there is little doubt that Basuljevic was one the most important pieces for New York’s success.

D Erik Palmer-Brown, Sporting Kansas City (No. 58, 2015)

Despite his youthfulness, the Sporting defender already has experience with the MLS Reserve League. The 6’2 defender is one of the more promising prospects to pass through the Kansas City academy in recent years. This season will be telling though with very tough competition in the U18 age group of the Frontier Division.

D George Braima, Columbus Crew (No. 14, 2016)

Braima is only 14-years-old, but he acts like a seasoned veteran on the field. The starting center back for the U14 BNT also saw a considerable amount of time with the Crew U16 team last season (20 games player, 10 games started). That experience will come in handy this season when he assumes the role as one of the leaders of the squad.

MF Ian Harkes, D.C. United (No. 135, 2013)

The attacking midfielder has come on leaps and bounds over the past year, and his emergence was critical in D.C. United’s U16s run to the Academy Playoffs over the past year. His move up to the U18s for this coming year and how he adapts is going to be pivotal for his team’s chances -- look for him to respond well.

D Jalen Markey, Seattle Sounders (No. 36, 2013)

Markey is a dominating presence on the field. He is strong in the challenge and just as powerful in the air on set pieces. The center back played up an age last season with the U18s and held his own in that setting. The Sounders will be counting on Markey to lead the charge against the Vancouver Whitecaps and the rest of the Northwest Conference.

MF Ricardo Perez, Colorado Rapids (No. 24, 2013)

The clever midfielder has big shoes to fill this season in the Development Academy. With Dillon Serna off at Akron, Perez is expected to fill the creative role. Last season, he showed the traits of a player capable of making that jump into role of a no. 10. The Rapids will need him to be sharp for the get go with the division realignment placing the MLS youth team with the Texas clubs in the expanded Frontier Division.

F Jeff Farina, Chicago Fire (No. 147, 2014)

In his first season on the Fire’s Academy side, Farina led the line and was an extremely deadly outlet up front. He’s got the size and can finish well enough to trouble defenses, but also the passing ability to set up his teammates. Last year was his first in the Academy, so it’ll be worth watching to see what he does for an encore.

MF Brian Iloiski, San Diego Surf (No. 142, 2013)

There is an expectation Iloski probably will not play more than four months in the Development Academy, but he will be on the radar for many before his premature exit. The creative attacking midfielder was one of the 16 winners of Nike’s The Chance Global Finals. The award consistent of a two-month tour to train at some of the best clubs in the world starting in January. The California commit beat out over 100,000 other players for the spot on the team and is the only player from North America to make it.

D Trevor Haberkorn, Solar SC (No. 7, 2013)

A central defender with a physically imposing presence, Haberkorn can be dominant at times and also offers an option on set pieces. He’ll be a leader on his Solar team and provide a ton of experience this year as they eye up another run to the Academy Finals.

MF Zach Jackson, Houston Texans SC (No. 49, 2014)

The Texan has scored some wonder goals in his days including a strike in the Development Academy select game last winter, which really put him on the national radar. Jackson was called into a few camps with the U17 MNT, but he will be back with his club this season and one to watch in the Frontier Division.

F Joe Gallardo, Nomads SC (No. 16, 2016)

Gallardo is an emerging star for the Nomads Academy. Quick, strong, and lethal with the ball, the young talent is set to take the Academy by storm in his first season as a full-time player. The question will be if Nomads can put enough pieces around him to make this team competitive in the Southwest Division.

MF Marco Sunol, NC Fusion (No. 141, 2013)

The dynamic winger battled a bad back toward the tail end of last season, which limited his minutes during the playoffs. When healthy, he is a joy to watch and a handful for outside backs in the Development Academy. Sunol likes to play in the channel and run at defenders with the ball.

D Michael Amick, De Anza Force (No. 20, 2013)

The UCLA commit was exceptional last season with standout performances in the Academy playoffs and with the U18 MNT. He is a very humble player off the field, but one of the toughest competitors on it. Amick has a bright future at the collegiate level and beyond, and will be one to watch in his final club soccer season.

MF Christian Pulisic, PA Classics (No. 5, 2016)

Pulisic only made one appearance in the Development Academy during the 2011-12 season and likely will be one of the youngest players on the PA Classics roster this season, but he is still going to be one to watch. The midfielder is just about everything you want from a prospect: hard working, determined to succeed, and willing to push himself to reach the next level. The U14 BNT winger is in a good environment to develop under the coaching of former professional player Stephen Klein. If Klein lets Pulisic take over a starting spot on the wing or attacking midfield, the Classics will be one of the best teams to watch in the Atlantic Division.

F Evan De-Ycaza, CASL Chelsea (2013)

Is there any way De-Ycaza’s hot streak carries over from last season? The CASL striker finished the year with 16 goals in his last 10 games. This season, he will playing with the U18 group in the Southeast Division with the hope of returning CASL to Finals Week in 2013 after the club missed the event for the first time in 2012.

GK Zackary Steffen, FC Delco (No. 13, 2013)

The U.S. U18 Men’s National Team goalkeeper is easily one of the best in the land and a highly-sought after professional prospect. With uncanny athleticism and good hands, Steffen is a player who will be playing at the MLS level in the near future.

MF Cameron Lindley, Indiana United Fire (No. 1, 2016)

The rising freshman opted to stay home as opposed to returning to Bradenton, at least for the fall.  This of course is Indiana United’s gain, as he is an extremely talented playmaker and will just continue to progress. Still involved with youth national teams, as his presence on the u15 BNT Roster this week indicates.

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