Pre-season two-a-days are just beginning to ramp up for many of FCD’s Academy alumni as they prepare for the 2013 NCAA college soccer season, but at least one player will head into the fall in mid-season form.
Aaron Guillen, one of the starting center backs on last year’s under-18 team that won the US Soccer Development Academy National Championship, spent his summer playing with the Austin Aztex PDL team that took home the 2013 championship, defeating the Thunder Bay Chill 3-1 last Sunday in front of nearly 5,000 fans in the Texas capital.
“It was a great experience especially having the coach we had, the environment was very professional,” Guillen told FCDallas.com on Thursday. “I wasn’t expecting it to be that professional, and it turned out to be that we got treated just like the pros do at FC Dallas.”
The defender who will soon begin his sophomore season at Florida Gulf Coast University started 15 of 18 games for Austin including all four playoff games.
HIGHLIGHTS: PDL Championship
“When you look at [Aaron], he’s not your typical center back you normally see in the college game,” said Aztex head coach Paul Dalglish. “Because people normally go for the big, powerful center backs, but he’s a much more thinking center back and he reads the game really well. I never saw him get physically dominated by anyone and he allows you to build up from the back.”
For those unfamiliar, the PDL is a summer league made up primarily of the best college-aged players in the country providing a highly-competitive environment for players outside of the four-month NCAA soccer season. For players who strive to play in MLS, which has a nearly ten-month season from start to finish, the benefits of the extra games are invaluable.
“It’s key and the top PDL teams are arguably better than the top college teams because you get to pick the best kids from all the different colleges,” said Dalglish. “It’s a really high standard that they’re playing in, so it can only make them better. We’ve had great success and great feedback from college coaches whose players have come and played for us in the PDL then come back to them more ready for the college season compared to players who didn’t play,”
In his second-straight summer winning a championship, Guillen said the experience with Austin was very rewarding and will only help the player who one day aspires to suit up for the FCD first team.
“You stop playing and you lose the level you had,” said Guillen. “It’s good to take a few weeks off, but you can’t take your eye off your dream and this summer helped me a lot. It kept me in shape and I learned a lot from coach Paul and I had a great experience. I see that hard work can take you everywhere you want.”
The PDL Championship is a first trophy for Austin, a team with professional ambitions in the future, and a huge stepping stone after making it to the second round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup earlier in the summer.
“It doesn’t come cheap,” said Dalglish. “Everyone in soccer knows that winning a championship doesn’t just happen. People like Aaron who was here for every game this season have sacrificed greatly to achieve it.”