The Dynamo Academy welcomed a new face to training this week, as Andrew Tortorich, 15, became the first player from the Dynamo Juniors program to accept an invitation to train with the Academy squads. The Mobile, Alabama native was one of 10 players from the six Dynamo Juniors programs to receive the invite, but so far he is the only player able to rearrange his schedule so he could make the trek to Houston.
“It’s been a great experience,” Tortorich said. “Going from club ball back home, to here, is a big adjustment. I’m not used to players who think and play this quickly, and it definitely forces me to be a better player.”
The Dynamo Juniors programs were founded earlier this year to extend the reach of the Dynamo beyond Houston. With six programs in five states -- including Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana -- already established, and more programs on the way, the Dynamo are using their brand and influence to reach soccer players that live in areas not currently affiliated with a Major League Soccer team. In addition, the Dynamo plan to host the annual Dynamo Juniors Cup each summer, when the elite players from each program come to Houston compete in a tournament.
“From a developmental standpoint, it opens up our player pool,” Dynamo Director of Youth Development James Clarkson said. “It gives us access right now to roughly 1,000 players, and in the future hopefully more. It gets us into areas that in the past we were not able to get to.”
Clarkson believes that while the purpose of the program is to scout and find talent in untapped regions, Dynamo Juniors also gives the organization an opportunity to build its brand in untapped markets.
“This is very important for the Dynamo in terms of building awareness and building the brand, not just throughout Texas, but into other areas and other states,” he said. “Hopefully it provides opportunities for the first team to play preseason friendlies in other areas, creating more exposure, and increasing the fan base.”
Clarkson said Tortorich was one player that was recommended to him from the coaches in Mobile, as well as through his contacts with the Olympic Developmental Program. Tortorich admitted that he was nervous at first about playing with a group of guys who train together four days a week, but said those nerves quickly dissipated once he got a chance to meet the players.
“They are all very nice players,” he said. “They welcomed me the first day I was here and have been great ever since. I’m definitely going to go back to Mobile and urge the players there to work harder so they can receive the same type of opportunity that I did.”