Academy set for U-17 Cup

Dynamo squad will look to build on 2010 semifinal appearance

After a busy summer, which included a 10-day trip Holland for the 2011 Eurovoetbal tournament, the Dynamo will put a cap on their 2010-2011 season when they kick off the Generation adidas U-17 Cup in Frisco tonight against
the San Jose Earthquakes at 8 p.m.

Houston has had previous success in the annual tournament,
falling one game short of the championship match the past two years. Last year,
the Dynamo tied Real Salt Lake in the semifinals but lost 5-4 on penalty
kicks.

“Every year we have been close,” Dynamo Director of Youth
Development James Clarkson said. “Last year was the closest, and it serves as a
big motivator for us. There are a couple guys from last year that are playing
on this year’s squad. They have that experience and want to go one step further
than last year.”

The Generation adidas U-17 Cup is an annual tournament for
MLS academies. This year, 16 teams – excluding Portland and Vancouver – will compete in the week-long tournament to determine bragging rights at the
U-17 level. The teams have been split into four groups, with the winner of each
group advancing to the semifinals. The Dynamo have been drawn in a group that includes three of last year's four semifinals, with the Dynamo, two-time defending U-17 Cup champion D.C. United, and Columbus Crew joined by the San
Jose Earthquakes.

“They are always well organized,” Clarkson said about other
MLS academy squads. “They will all be very competitive games. Everyone plays
the right way, which certainly brings out the best in our players.”

After tonight’s match against San Jose, the Dynamo will play
D.C. United Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. and close the group stage Thursday at
6:30 p.m. against the Columbus Crew.

If the Dynamo plan to advance out of their group, they will
need to get a strong performance from U.S. U-17 national team goalkeeper
Fernando Piña. Piña recently completed his time at the U.S. Soccer Residency Program
in Bradenton, Fla., and has spent time training with Dominic
Kinnear and the Dynamo first team. Piña won the Golden Gloves award as the top goalkeeper in last year's tournament.

“This is his third time playing in the tournament,” Clarkson
said. “His presence and distribution is top drawer. With his experience with
the national team, it’s great to have him back with us. Overall, his attitude has
been outstanding.”

Under the rules of the tournament, clubs are allowed to
bring up to 10 players born in 1994. The rest of the roster must be made of
players born in 1995 and later. The Dynamo’s roster does not lack for
experience, as nine of the 18 players saw considerable minutes for the U-16 team that reached the USSF playoffs this past season. Seven of those players represented the club at the
Eurovoetbal tournament in Holland last month. Clarkson is excited about the mix
of players on his squad and believes they will gel nicely come tournament time.

“They have all been in the program for a number of years,”
he said. “We are trying to integrate them more and make them more than just the
1994s and everyone else. They are all very talented, and once we get the ball
and keep the ball, we can create a lot of chances.”

The tournament will be the culmination of a busy summer for
Clarkson and his squad. After the trip to Holland in early June, the
U-16s returned home for the USSF Development Academy playoffs, also held in
Frisco. The Dynamo defeated Sporting Kansas City in the playoffs but fell to
the IMG Academy and LA Galaxy and did not advance out of their group.

“I think we were disappointed with the results in the
playoffs more than we were with the results during the Holland trip,” Clarkson said.
“We played two MLS teams in the playoffs, and we feel as if we could have done
better. This gives our club another opportunity to prove the level we believe
we are at.”