It’s been a busy week for the FC Dallas Juniors. The FC Dallas U-18s’ season finished last week with three players from the team receiving Academy honors. One U-16 player also received Academy honors this week and the U-16s are just starting competition today in the 2010 U-17 Soccer United Marketing Cup in Houston.
The SUM Cup is being held in conjunction with the MLS All-Star game at Houston’s Centennial Park from July 23-29. Every MLS team will be represented at the SUM Cup this year for the first time in the tournament’s four-year history.
FC Dallas is without five of its normal starters in Houston. Jonathan Top, Daniel Garcia, Richard Sanchez, Boyd Okwuono and Michael Ambrose have been called into the U.S. Youth National Team Camp. Jonathan Top was also honored this week by being named to the USSDA Starting XI for the U-16 Central Conference.
FC Dallas was in the final of last year’s SUM Cup, but fell to D.C. United in a shootout. The boys from Dallas start out in Group B this year with Seattle, Columbus and Philadelphia and are being touted as favorites to win the group.
FC Dallas plays Seattle Friday night, Columbus Saturday night and Philadelphia Monday night in the group stage.
The season came to an end for the U-18s last weekend at Finals Week in Carson, California. The FC Dallas U-18s finished ranked sixth out of 77 U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-18 teams.
Three FC Dallas U-18 players were honored by the Academy at the end of the season. Forward Ruben Luna and defender Moises Hernandez were named to the U-17/18 Development Academy Starting XI and captain Victor Ulloa was named to the U-17/18 Central Conference Starting XI.
“It’s a big, big accomplishment for me,” said Luna of his Academy honors. “I always wanted to be a part of that group since the beginning of the season. It was one of my goals.”
Luna, Hernandez and Ulloa were also part of a larger group of U-18 players who graduated from the FC Dallas Academy on Tuesday night. The other Academy graduates were Jaime Ibarra, Rigel Mathis, Daniel Premenko, Jael Barrera, Jacob Gerondale, Giovany Gomez, Marlon Duran, Damian Rosales, Chris Figueroa, Cody Adams and Bradlee Baladez.
The graduation ceremony was attended by FC Dallas technical director Barry Gorman, head coach Schellas Hyndman and the rest of the coaching staff, and first team captain Daniel Hernandez.
“The message to you and to the players is that we are committed to the Academy,” Gorman said to the parents and players in attendance. “We want to see them play on the first team. We want to see them play for coach Hyndman.”
And coach Hyndman had nothing but high praise for the graduates.
“For the players that will be leaving us, you’ve been fantastic,” said Hyndman. “You have set a high standard for everyone else in here to obtain. Thank you.”
FC Dallas Juniors coaches Oscar Pareja and Chris Hayden expressed their gratitude to the commitment of the team ownership and the players’ parents to the success of the program and the young men.
“You parents are doing a great job commuting with them, bringing them to practices,” said Pareja. “I’m a parent as well. I know it’s difficult sometimes because you have many other things to do, but still you have that willingness to bring them here.”
“The effort that the Hunt family is doing for this program is tremendous,” Pareja went on to say. “It’s not easy, but they are believers. Mr. Lamar (Hunt), he believed, he saw it, and it’s happening now.”
“I couldn’t have imagined that we would’ve come so far in such a short period of time,” said Hayden. “It makes me proud to know that I can work alongside people that care.”
But most importantly, the programs success has paid off for the players.
“We started two years ago – came out to tryouts and luckily I got chosen to start,” said midfielder Victor Ulloa. “What a great opportunity this has been for me! I’ve grown as a player as well as an individual. My dream is to play on that pitch (at Pizza Hut Park).”
Coach Chris Hayden went on to say what an important role these graduates have played for the FC Dallas Academy.
“These kids are going to be in photos a hundred years from now as a part of an organization that – they were the pioneers, they were the first group,” said Hayden. “They’re a part of the history of this club and I’ve been privileged and very happy to have been a part of it alongside them.”