FRISCO, Texas - 2013 saw the creation of a new FC Dallas U-23 team within the Elite Club National League that made it possible for girls to represent FC Dallas after graduating high school and they're coming back even stronger in 2014.
On the boys’ side of the FC Dallas Program, there’s a system they like to call a pyramid where youth boys start out at the bottom of the program and hopefully work their way up to the pro team and now, with this U-23 team there is a similar situation where the girls have something to aspire to, meaning their FCD experience doesn't stop after high school.
The goals for the team in 2014 are two-fold. Waldrum mentioned that, of course, winning is the end goal and they'll be looking to build on a 2013 season that saw them make the U-23 ECNL Finals Week, falling before the championship match. But there is also something else that takes priority.
“The performance is what the priority is and certainly winning is a byproduct of that," he said. "We want to implement our style of play and have that show through in the performance.”
The talent that will be playing for the team this year is impressive. One of the stand out players Waldrum mentioned was Abby Smith, a goalkeeper at the University of Texas that has recently been called in to the U.S. U-23 Women's National Team. Another talent they will be fortunate to have is Megan Streight who plays for Texas A&M and was named a NSCAA All-American this past season.
One particular player Waldrum is excited about is Adrianna Guerrero, a girl he coined as “a diamond in the rough”. A 24-year-old forward who has a full-time job and didn’t play at a high level college program, Waldrum went on to say that “talent and skill wise, she is one of the best female players I’ve seen in a long time."
One look at the roster shows that the FCD U-23 team is comprised almost entirely of high-level division one NCAA players, girls who will be the future of the burgeoning NWSL. He is very excited about the team he has this year and even thinks that when his whole roster is together, they could play with any pro teams and be competitive.
The season is strictly during the summer which helps bridge the gap for the college players who are in between seasons. Waldrum expressed that they get a lot of good feedback [from college coaches] about what the ECNL league and the team does.
“They can’t be monitored when they leave school so we try to stay engaged with their schools and make sure their on top of their packet running and training,” he said.
In addition to simply supporting FC Dallas at the highest level of women's soccer the club offers, this summer team allows local fans to show something that two straight sellouts of USWNT games at Toyota Stadium suggests: professional women's soccer can be sustainable in the metroplex.
“The overall level of the team is extremely high, so it’s a great learning tool for young soccer players to come out and watch these girls play," Waldrum said. "We have three or four potential NWSL draft picks for next year and we even have three or four players that could make an NWSL roster today.”
There are currently four games scheduled, beginning with Sunday's match against the WPSL's Fort Worth Panthers, though the game that everyone will have circled on the schedule is the Saturday, June 21st friendly against the NWSL's Houston Dash, coached by Waldrum's father Randy [TICKETS]. Possible friendlies against other women's national teams are in the works before the U-23 ECNL National Championships held in Virgina in mid-July.
CURRENT U-23 ECNL SCHEDULE:
Sunday, May 25th vs. Fort Worth Panthers - 2pm kickoff Toyota Soccer Center
Saturday, May 31st vs. Lonestar SC U23 ECNL - at Burroughs Park in Houston
Saturday, June 8th vs. Lonestar SC U23 ECNL - 7pm kickoff Toyota Soccer Center
Saturday June 21st vs. Houston Dash - 7:30 pm kickoff Bishop Lynch High School
Mid-July - U-23 ECNL National Championships - Richmond, VA