Academy face GPSC in Dallas Cup tune-up

The Houston Dynamo Academy will continue its push toward next week’s Dallas Cup with a friendly on Saturday at 4 p.m. pitting the Dynamo U-19s against the Galveston Pirate Soccer Club at Kermit Courville Stadium in Galveston. Galveston Pirate SC is a semi-professional club that competes in the Houston Football Association.

“Galveston is a strong club,” Dynamo Director of Youth Development James Clarkson said. “They are a good, organized team, who have done well in their league. This is a good opportunity for our team to play against a strong club, especially with the competition we are going to face in Dallas.”

This will be the second time the two squads have played, with Galveston earning a hard-fought 2-0 win against the Dynamo last August in the Houston Cup, a three-team tournament between Galveston, Regals FC, and the Dynamo. Both teams expect to see a more competitive match this time around.

“This is an important game for us, because it’s one of the last friendlies we will play before we compete in the Dallas Cup,” Clarkson said. “[Dynamo first team midfielder] Francisco Navas Cobo should be available to play with us this weekend, and it will be a good opportunity for him to play with the rest of the squad ahead of next week’s tournament.”

Galveston head coach Brendan Keyes relishes the opportunity to play against the Dynamo Academy and believes it is a good learning experience for his younger players.

“It’s fantastic to play against an MLS club’s academy team,” Keyes said. “The Dynamo Academy is one of the best in the world, and these are players who have had the opportunity to play against top clubs in Europe. This is a very big deal for us, and we are taking this game seriously. Unfortunately, we do not have all of the same players that were with us for the first match, but we expect to put out a very strong lineup.”

Galveston’s attack is led by 22-year-old midfielder Justin Santibanez. With the departure of leading scorer Roy Hernandez, Galveston will rely on Santibanez to set up the attack and find creases behind the Dynamo defense.

“Justin is one of the quickest kids I have ever seen with a ball over a 10-15-yard area,” Keyes said. “He is exciting to watch and is a big part of our attack.”

For Clarkson, this game is as much about preparing for the Academy season as it is the Dallas Cup. The U-18s entered the winter break on a two-game losing streak, and with only a handful of games remaining in the season, the Dynamo are looking for a spark wherever they can find one. Clarkson’s most recent addition, a Brazilian forward named Nono, might just be that spark. Nono tallied two goals for the Academy in a friendly against San Jacinto Junior College, last weekend.

“There is still a lot of work to be done for us to be where we need to be,” Clarkson said. “There has been a great amount of work by the players since January, and [the Dallas Cup] is a big event for us; however, our priority is still the U.S. academy league, and we just need to hit the ground running and start winning some games at home if we want to make the playoffs."