The extended Memorial Day weekend took the FC Dallas Juniors squads to Sarasota, Florida to compete in the 2010 Development Academy Spring Showcase. The Showcase served as both a primer for the upcoming playoffs and a chance for the players to get noticed by the 300 college coaches who attended the event.
FCD Juniors head coach Oscar Pareja said the three teams his squads faced were all playoff contenders. “It was like three playoff games that we’ve already had to know where we are,” said Pareja.
The U18s looked dominant over the weekend, coming away with three solid victories. The team will head into the playoffs later this month on a nine-game winning streak (the team hasn’t suffered a loss or tie since March 21).
“I think they are in their peak right now,” said Pareja when asked about his older squad. “I think they are ready for the playoffs.”
And leading the way for the FCD U18s was Ruben Luna, who scored four goals in three games.
“He’s fighting for that scoring leadership in the league,” Pareja said of Luna, “which is not just important for him, but for the program.”
He said he has taken note of Luna’s growth as he has stepped into a leadership role. “The other players are looking up to him and he’s becoming a role model for them on the field and off the field,” Pareja said.
Erick Chapa also stood out for the FC Dallas Development Academy, getting called up from the U16 team to play for the U18s in Sarasota. Chapa subbed in to two of the three matches and scored a goal in the team’s 3-1 win over CASL Chelsea FC Academy.
“When he scored a goal, it was a fantastic moment for the program,” said Pareja, who went on to say that Chapa “showed a lot of courage” going up against players as much as four years older than himself.
The U16s had a tough Showcase, settling for a loss and two ties with seven starters out of the lineup.
Michael Ambrose, Boyd Okwuono and Daniel Garcia were still in Portugal playing for the U.S. U18 Men’s National Team, and four more players didn’t make the trip due to injuries. But Pareja said the missing starters provided the program with a unique opportunity.
“We used the showcase to play some of our 95s, which are the players that are going to be in the next cycle,” Pareja said. “That was a good experience for them, but still, as a team, especially in the last game (a 0-0 tie against South Carolina United FC) we did good and we played well."
The FC Dallas Development Academy is hoping that Pizza Hut Park will be able to host one of the annual showcases or even the Development Academy playoffs next year.
Pareja said the U.S. Soccer Development Academy has been impressed with the program’s maturity and professionalism. “I don’t think it’s set in stone right now,” he said, “but we have a big possibility at the moment.”
In the meantime, the FC Dallas Juniors teams will be preparing for the playoffs, which are being held in Greensboro, North Carolina from June 25-29. Each team will take the pitch on the East Coast as the number one seed in their respective divisions.
Teams that advance will head to Finals Week at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California from July 9-18.
Stay tuned to FCDallas.com for more news and updates from the talented FC Dallas Juniors.