FCD Juniors return from AEGON Future Cup

U-16 team finds success in the Netherlands

juniors-future-cup

Photo Credit: 
Katie Solomon Edgar

AFC AJAX, FC Barcelona,
Liverpool FC, China U-17, FC Bayern Munich, AC Milan, RSC Anderlecht, and FC
Dallas. Quite an impressive lineup, and quite a milestone for Youth Soccer in
the U.S. and the FC Dallas U-16 boys who represented their team, their league,
and their country last week in the Netherlands.
 
The Aegon Future Cup, hosted by AFC Ajax at de Toekomst training center in
Amsterdam, was an impressive and exceptional youth tournament that invited only
eight of the top soccer clubs from around the world to participate.
 
“The tournament, it was fantastic,” Oscar Pareja, Director of Player
Development and FCD Juniors head coach, said. “It was first class. The level of
play was very professional and the competition was as well.”
 
The FC Dallas Juniors were invited by Ajax and selected by Major League Soccer
to participate in the prestigious event – an honor that Chris Hayden, Director
of Coaching for FC Dallas Youth, said was a tribute to their hard work and first
place performance in their division of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy
league last season.

“MLS was interested in
sending a team that would represent the league and the United States in terms
of soccer development on the biggest stage,” Hayden said, “and I felt like the
kids responded well to that.”
 
The Juniors started the tournament on a slow and likely jetlagged foot, losing
their first game to RSC Anderlecht 4-1. Alex Frankenfeld scored the lone goal
for FCD, and Pareja said it showed the team was somewhat unsure of what to
expect in the first game.

“The first game was the one
that I did not like,” he said. “The boys showed nervousness and stress with the
fact that they didn’t know what to make of the tournament, the high
competition. They didn’t experience it before.”
 
Day two was notably different. The nerves quickly wore off and the boys played
with the same level of talent and flair they are known for in the U.S. Jonathan
Top scored the only goal of the game, giving the team a 1-0 victory over AC
Milan.

“The boys played their best,”
Pareja said. “It was an excellent game. It showed our potential. It showed we
can not only compete, but we can win.”
 
Less than two hours after winning the game over AC Milan, the team faced Bayern
Munich, where fatigued legs did not stop the FCD Juniors from battling hard on
the field. In the end they lost a hard-fought battle 2-0 to the German side.
 
The game-packed format of the tournament was vastly different from what the
team was used to. “Playing four games in three days is tough no matter who your
opponents are,” said midfielder Marco Carrizales. “But these teams were pretty
much the most talented we have ever faced.”
 
Day three’s schedule held none other than FC Barcelona for the Juniors side.
Their play was good, but not quite good enough - they were defeated 2-1, with Michael
Ambrose scoring FC Dallas’ lone goal.
 
Overall, the tournament was not so much about results as it was the competitive
experience for young American – and FC Dallas in particular – players. In that
regard, the FC Dallas coaches and staff agreed the event was an overwhelming
success.
 
“I was very pleased with the performance of the boys,” Pareja said. “The
experience was incredible. These kinds of competitions are the ones that are
going to takes us to another level and the kind of competitions where we can
measure ourselves.”
 
“You have to put things in perspective first and foremost,” explained Chris
Clarke, Director of the FC Dallas Academy. “A lot of these clubs, the teams
that were there, besides the Chinese national team and FC Dallas, those clubs
have been around for a hundred years in a professional environment developing
players, and FC Dallas as a club has only been around since 1996,” he said.

“As a youth club, in terms of
what we actually do with the juniors we’re only two years old.  So to
answer the question how did we do, we did phenomenal in comparison. In fact, player
for player we matched up well with the more experienced European squads.”
 
As a result of exposing the FCD Juniors to a higher level of play, Hayden said
he expects the players’ development and confidence to grow. “I know the trip
will help our team individually and collectively.”
 
Overall, the FC Dallas Juniors coaches and staff agreed that the best way for
the Academy players to gain valuable experience like they received in the
Future Cup is to continue to play high level competition while working to get
the level of play in the United States to an approximation of the level in
Europe.
 
The FC Dallas U-16 Juniors return to the pitch on April 17th against Andromeda
at 1:00 p.m. Central at the Andromeda training facility in Plano, Texas.
 
Stay tuned to FCDallas.com for more coverage of the FCD Juniors.