When the Houston Dynamo launched their Pre-Academy program in the fall of 2011, James Clarkson was unsure what to expect. Previously, the Dynamo had a group of players who were part of the Junior Academy and trained once a week with the Dynamo coaching staff, but spent the rest of their time with their local club team. This would be the first opportunity for three new teams to train in Dynamo orange four days a week and play competitive games as a unit on weekends.
“The number one thing was to get this off the ground,” Clarkson said. “We knew we had some talented players in the system, but asking them to leave their current club and train with us four days a week was a huge step.”
It has not taken long for the Dynamo to see the fruit of their labor, as the U-15 team recently finished first in the US Club Soccer Texas Pre-Academy League and will compete in the National Premier League Champions Cup, from July 27-31, in Chicago, Ill.
“We knew our U-15s would be good, but it’s even more remarkable because nine of their players are young enough to play on the U-13s or U-14s,” Clarkson said.
Aside from the nine players who are playing up with the U-15s, Clarkson added that there are certain players who are eligible for the U-15s that spent much of the season playing with the U-16s.
“I give all of the credit to the coaching staff,” Clarkson said. “Cuahtemoc Rios and Garth Welch have done a phenomenal job with the players. The success is also attributed to the parents who came to every game, home and away, and gave full support to the team.”
The Dynamo U-15s finished the season on a nine-game unbeaten streak and clinched first place with a 3-1 win over Lonestar Soccer Club on June 16. The team finished with a 10-2-4 record (34 points) and a +27 goal differential. Houston also finished undefeated at home.
“The thing that makes this group so special is their camaraderie,” Clarkson said. “They have some very strong players, but they also play hard for each other and it shows in their positive results.”
Aside from a trip to the NPL Champions Cup, Clarkson looks at this year’s success as a positive for years to come.
“Last year we brought in 22 new players to make up our U-16 team,” he said. “This year, we will only be looking for four or five as the core of our U-15s will move up together to form next year’s U-16 team.
“At the end of the day, that is what the program is about. We are trying to form a pipeline so our kids can move up the ladder and eventually make their way into the Dynamo first team.”
The game schedule for the Champions Cup is not set, but group play will begin July 27-29 at Waukegan Sports Park.