Dynamo partner with Mexican youth club

Academy set to exchange players with Cocula F.C. in Jalisco

SUM_Cup_20100723_Thorne_HOU_02_team

Photo Credit: 
Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

It is not exactly the soccer version of NAFTA, but the
Houston Dynamo hope they are starting a trend that will lead to increased
movement of youth soccer players between the United
States and Mexico.

Or, at least, between Houston and Jalisco, as the Dynamo Academy
will be partnering with Cocula F.C. of the Mexican Tercera División to
encourage player exchanges and, hopefully, create a pipeline of
Guadalajara-area talent to Houston.

Try out for the Dynamo Academy with Dynamo Elite Camps

The Tercera División is actually fourth on the Mexican
soccer ladder and consists of almost 250 youth teams split up into 15 groups.
Cocula, located about 70 kilometers southwest of Guadalajara, is currently
unbeaten (9-0-5) with a good chance of winning Group XII, ahead of the youth
clubs from Primera División teams Chivas, Atlas, and Estudiantes Tecos. Dynamo
Director of Youth Development James Clarkson said the idea of the partnership
is to provide new opportunities to players in both countries and believes it
will be more beneficial than other agreements between Mexican and American
clubs at the first-team level.

“This is something that’s really done at the youth level
with the goal of getting into the first team,” Clarkson said. “It’s not us
being protective of our players and them protective of theirs and nobody
getting anywhere; there’s a real passion from both sides to develop both
organizations and give players opportunities. It’s a great fit for both of us.
Once we get it going and people realize there is real credibility to it … the
growth will be incredible.”

Cocula FC vice president Jorge Silva Terán was in Houston last week with
several players from the Mexican club, and Clarkson and the Dynamo expect to
return the visit in January. The expectation is that Cocula players who qualify
for the Dynamo Academy’s
age range (U-18) may spend time training and playing in Houston, hoping to get a chance at a
professional contract. Meanwhile, Houston-area players of Mexican descent may
have an opportunity to play in Mexico
for a season to gain experience.

“We believe that if we expand our players’ horizons, both on
the field or off it, by helping them go to school through scholarships, they
will obviously be a lot better off,” Silva Terán said. “This partnership also
presents us with the advantage of being able to bring in any Mexican-American
players from the Dynamo
Academy to play in the
Mexican third division. James can send us young players to play in Mexico
for about six months and come back playing a different and perhaps higher level
of soccer.”

The club will be called Dynamo Cocula and will adopt Houston’s trademark
orange uniforms. He believes this new partnership will benefit the club much
more than past dealings with top-level clubs.

“Sometimes the first-division club you’re affiliated with
comes in, takes your players, and doesn’t even thank you for supplying them
with those players,” Silva Terán said. “Indios, for example, took 11 of our
U-20 players last year. All we got in return from them were warm-up suits and
training kits.”

Although the partnership has just begun and has yet to be
formalized, the first exchange has already taken place. With the Dynamo Academy
U-18s short of goalkeepers, Cocula goalkeeper Pedro Gutierrez Mora (pictured) registered
with U.S. Soccer, joined the team in Phoenix,
and has backstopped the U-18s to two wins.

“He’s played well in goal for us so far,” Clarkson said. “He
showed great communication and organization, and he was very comfortable with
his feet.”

The venture into Mexico,
which includes a tryout in Guadalajara Jan.
14-17, is just part of the Dynamo
Academy’s increase in
reach in 2010. Over the summer, youth programs in six locations throughout the
South joined the Dynamo system, and Clarkson held a tryout in El Paso last month. The Dynamo
South Texas
Academy, meanwhile, continues to
function as a strong partner in the Rio
Grande Valley.
Clarkson said the goal with Cocula will be to bring players to Houston shortly before they aspire to make
the jump to the professional level.

“They’ll have to be older than 17, and then they can come
into the Academy,” Clarkson said. “That’s the goal, and they would be classed
as home-grown players and kept in the Academy system for at least a year. They
would be eligible to train with the first team, play in reserve games, and
hopefully make that step up to the first team … We’re obviously taking this
seriously because we want to get the best players we can into the first team.
We have to go further afield than the 125 miles that are set out for us by
MLS.”

It is an agreement with long-term goals, but both Clarkson
and Silva Terán believe it could be a new model for player development in North America.

“I think over time, once people see the opportunities that
are there, it’s going to continue to grow,” Clarkson said. “We’re at the
forefront of it, and we’re leading the way. I’m sure when people see the
success of it, they’re going to jump on the bandwagon and start trying to do
things, but hopefully by then we’ll be way ahead of things.”