The Houston Dynamo Academy U12s returned this week from an eight day trip to Spain, where they represented Major League Soccer in the 2016 Arousa Futbol 7 Tournament.
AF7 is the most high profile youth tournament in Spain, and was broadcast live across Spanish television. Development teams from F.C. Barcelona, Real Madrid, F.C. Porto and A.F.C. Ajax are some of the big international names that were also competing in the tournament.
The team started the tournament in group play, where they faced F.C. Barcelona, F.C. Porto, R.C. Deportivo and C.D. Cuatrovientos.
The first game ended in a 2-2 draw, with goals from Kasper Vankan and Juan Castilla. Castilla’s last minute goal proved to be vital for the Dynamo in the long run, as the one point they earned would push them into second place and out of the group stage.
C.D. Cuatrovientos was up next for game two, and the youngsters were well prepared. Goals were scored by Bryce Barnum and Joseph Farouz to give the Dynamo a 2-0 lead. Two late one-on-one saves by goalkeeper Mario Hernandez allowed the boys to keep a clean sheet for the game.
Game three ended in a 0-3 loss to F.C. Barcelona, who would go on to take first in the group.
F.C. Porto and the final game of group play were a must win for the boys from Houston if they wanted to move on. They came out strong and got an early goal from D’Alessandro Herrera to take the lead and a second half goal by Castilla gave the team the cushion they needed. Porto retaliated with a quick goal after Castilla’s and continued to pressure, but a late save from goalkeeper Cesar Lopez allowed the Dynamo to close out the game with a win.
Dynamo player Alex Borsos said that’s a memory he will never forget, “It made me feel amazing because we were at the level of the other big European clubs. We knew we were getting out of the group stage and no other MLS team has accomplished this task.”
Academy coach Carlos Recinos considers Borsos the MVP of the tournament for the team.
“He led the group during the hardest games and never showed any fear,” said Recinos.
The boys took on A.F.C. Ajax in the quarterfinals and an early goal by Barnum gave the Dynamo a 1-0 lead as they dominated control for most of the first half. A couple unlucky bounces though brought Ajax right back in it, and the game ended 4-1 in favor of Ajax.
“They were physically stronger than us, but I believed we deserved a better result because we outplayed (them) for the majority of the first half,” said Dynamo player Jacobo Betancourt.
The results overall though are something for the Dynamo Academy as a whole to be proud of.
“We were able to outplay from of the most prestigious clubs in Europe and gained respect from other participating clubs. The more these boys play in this type of environment, I think the better we will keep getting,” said Recinos.
The team now turns their attention to the future and preparing for their next big challenge.
“I’m really looking forward to the La Liga tournament in December, where we’ll be matched up against the same level of competition, if not stronger, as the Arousa Futbol 7 tournament,” said Recinos.