Nigel Brooks

Dynamo eager to close gap between first team and Academy

During a wet Monday night at the Houston Amateur Sports Park, the Dynamo and their fans got a glimpse into the future. The club’s annual Academy Showcase pitted the Academy U-18s against a squad of Academy players who are currently plying their trade at the collegiate level. More than 100 fans were in attendance to watch the match, including Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear and his staff, who keep a close eye on the younger members of the Dynamo organization.

“It’s always a big event and it’s great to see the guys come back which shows the progression for us,” said Dynamo director of youth development James Clarkson. “It’s a good sign of development and an opportunity to impress in front of Dominic [Kinnear] and a good challenge because the standard keeps getting better.”

The Dynamo have put a lot of faith in their academy program and it has paid dividends. The club has signed four home-grown players – Tyler Deric, Francisco Navas Cobo, Alex Dixon and Josue Soto – and has used the reserve league to get a look at eight others in 2011. Six of those eight took part in Monday night’s match that was won by the college players on penalty kicks after the teams battled to a 2-2 draw in regulation.

“It’s competitive and all the young guys here show a good attitude and we like coming out and spending time with them,” Kinnear said. “I think those guys have done well for us [in the Reserve League]. Now you look at it and Bradley [Bourgeois] is going to Tulsa and [Fernando] Piña is going to Akron, so the program’s working great.”

Pushing players to the next level, college or professional, is the goal of the academy. The program currently has 15 alumni on college rosters, headlined by Duke University sophomore and current U-23 camp attendee center back Sebastien Ibeagha, to go with the four Dynamo signees. Playing against them Monday night was a young group that included up to five players that are likely to join the college ranks in 2012.

“[Playing in the academy’s] huge because without it I wouldn’t be where I am today and going where I’m going,” said Bourgeois, 17, who made five appearances with the Dynamo reserves. “It’s a higher level of play and it challenges us to improve every day. The coaches and facilities are great and without the academy league we wouldn’t be growing like we are.”

With Monday’s showcase providing a chance to impress, it also provides a stage for Clarkson and his staff to celebrate a system that has come a long way. For Clarkson, the challenge is to continue to grow the program.

“We want to build and we want guys that are playing [with the first team] week in and week out and making a major impact," he said. "We would also like to start getting more guys into the US youth national teams.”