A pair of plaques arrived at Toyota Stadium early this week – each commemorating an FC Dallas USSDA National Championship won just four weeks ago. But there was no celebration in the Academy offices, nor in the locker rooms. Instead, every team – from the new U-12 level all the way up to the U-18s – was already outside at practice during their last week before the start of the school year, preparing for the 2016-17 campaign.
“That season's over and now we're on to the next and that's the next prize is going up and doing it again next year,” U-18 defender Brandon Terwege said. “For me, I know that nothing's given, so I just have to do my part and I know this team is going to push me, just like the team last year pushed me.”
That team last year, the National Champion U-18s, is largely gone – off to college or wherever life took the individual players. Terwege is one of just five players returning from last season’s side and he’ll be looked upon as a leader of the new U-18 squad looking to make their own history, joined by a majority of the U-16 group moving up to their next challenge.
“The ‘99 age group, I coached them at U-14 - that's when I coached the little guys and I really enjoyed that group,” 18s head coach Francisco Molina said. “I think that they know playing U-18s you're playing against bigger, faster, stronger players. It's a whole new ball game going from U-16s to U-18s. I think that the players who are staying and me having the experience of the last two years coaching the U-18s, it's going to help us out a lot more and we're going to be prepared. The boys will be prepared to play that age.”
And most of that preparation is just putting the finishing touches on the years of hard work some of these players have spent in the FC Dallas Youth program and in the Academy.
“The credit goes to all of our youth coaches [not just in the Academy]. We don't say it enough or bring it up enough, but the credit goes to them and to our youth club, with Chris [Hayden] heading all of that. I think that our young youth coaches demand that from the players, so we see it at every practice. We see it in the evening when we walk around and watch all of those practices, and it's great,” Molina said. “You can adapt and put any type of tactic when you have a skillful player, so I think it's important when they come to me, our work is a little bit [easier] when they come to the U-18s.”
It’s the same work that has led to the success of FCD Academy players within the first team, and the reason that no one batted an eye when the Championship plaques arrived in Frisco.
“I had a meeting with the boys on Saturday, and then [again] today talking to them and letting them know that in this club, it's not about defending the National Championship - it's about putting players on Field 1 and in the Stadium. That's what it's all about,” Molina said. “At the end of the day, if that takes us to defend the national title, then so be it. But our focus is having players prepared for Oscar.”
“The National Championships come, but the most important thing for me is getting better as a player,” Terwege added. “Every day [I’m] just getting to enjoy playing the game and hopefully shooting to play for the pro team one day.”
The 2016-17 USSDA regular season for all five FC Dallas Academy teams in early September.