Dynamo U-16s set for USSF playoffs

Houston set to play IMG Academy, Sporting KC, and LA Galaxy

Accelerated_Bodies_Raffi_Gregorian

Photo Credit: 
Jonathan Kaplan / HoustonDynamo.com

Although the Houston Dynamo had to wait three weeks for the
official announcement, the USSF announced yesterday that the Dynamo Academy U-16 squad (14-7-2) is one of the 32 teams in its age group to qualify for the USSF Development
Academy playoffs, to be played at Pizza Hut
Park in Frisco, from June
24-28. The Dynamo were placed in a group with the IMG Academy, LA Galaxy, and
Sporting KC. 

Due to the Academy’s trip to Holland in June, the club rearranged its
schedule so its last regular season match was May 28 against the Texas
Rush. Houston played
the Rush to a 3-3 draw to cap off a nine-game unbeaten streak which dated back to a 1-0 win over Texans SC on April 23. With a 1.91 points per game average,
the Dynamo were able to secure one of the 12 wildcard berths given to teams
across the country that did not finish in the top two in their respective
divisions. 

“The spring season has been incredibly enjoyable for the
kids,” Dynamo Director of Youth Development James Clarkson said. “They have worked very hard and played really well and
deserve everything they have gotten. It’s been a good run, and we hope to
continue it into the playoffs.” 

The Dynamo will kick off the playoffs Saturday morning at 9
a.m. against IMG Academy (14-7-4), a club based out of Bradenton, Fla. that finished tied for second in the Southeast Division. The Dynamo and IMG are familiar
foes, having played in the Dallas Cup U-19 finals in 2007 and 2008. IMG
defeated the Dynamo in penalty kicks in 2007, while the Dynamo returned the
favor by winning the 2008 championship. 

Sunday night, the Dynamo will take on Sporting KC (11-5-5), before
closing out the group Tuesday morning with a match against the Galaxy (20-5-3). Although
the Dynamo are riding a nine-game unbeaten streak, the Galaxy enter the
tournament as the No. 4 seed in the country in the U-16 age group and are considered the presumptive favorite to
advance from the group, having edged Real Salt Lake Arizona to finish first in the Southern
California division. 

“I’m excited about playing the MLS clubs,” Clarkson said. “When
we play the MLS teams, they are usually more technical [than other developmental programs] and play the way we
want to play. The fact that there are two other MLS teams in the group adds a
bit of spice to the competition.” 

Only the winner of each group will advance to the Development
Academy Finals Week, to be held July 9-16 in Milwaukee, Wis. The Dynamo U-18s advanced to
the playoffs in 2010 but fell one point short of advancing through to Finals
Week. 

“Reaching Finals Week would be great recognition for the
players in terms of their development,” Clarkson said of the possibility of his
club advancing to Wisconsin.
“This group has been together for two years, and last year they struggled, but
the improvement over the last 12 months has been incredible. It would be a
great reward for them and would highlight how much progress they have made." 

With three 80-minute games in four days, fitness will be
key to the Dynamo’s success. To prepare the club for the rigors of the
playoffs, Clarkson’s squad has been making weekly visits to Accelerated Bodies
to work on fitness away from the pitch. Kenneth Hoerner, a strength and
conditioning coach and sports performance specialist at Accelerated Bodies, is
one of the trainers who has been working with the players over the past few
months. 

“A lot of the exercises we do revolve around explosive
movements and working on increasing the speed of those first few steps,”
Hoerner said. “With regard to weights, a lot of these kids are behind the
curve, so we are trying to teach them the proper techniques with the various
machines, so they can not only get stronger, but stay healthy throughout the
process.” 

Hoerner added that a key component of the work the trainers
do revolve around injury prevention. 

“A lot of these guys are playing four-to-five times a week,
and invariably they pick up minor injuries,” he said. “We specialize in fitness
and rehab, so when the players come to us, we can provide treatments and get
them back on the field as soon as possible.”