As part of the Houston Dynamo philosophy to build the club from the Academy up, it is not uncommon to see Academy players participating in First Team training. Most recently, midfielder Juan Castilla, goalkeeper Logan Erb, and forward Danny Rios were testing their mettle against the professionals.
The opportunity to train with the First Team was a welcomed one for the three players, allowing them to learn from the First Team players and staff as much as possible, while also helping prepare for the Generation adidas Cup Qualifying Tournament, which was held at Houston Sports Park this past weekend.
“It was really [Goalkeeper Coach] Paul Rogers who helped me a lot,” Erb said. “Making sure I understood that I have to be a leader on the team. I definitely took that to heart, and at the end of the day, especially as a goalkeeper, you have to lead the team. What really helped though was working on distribution. Hitting long balls, pinging them to left and right center backs, that was good. It really helped make some things easier.”
For field players Castilla and Rios, the sessions provided both youngsters with numerous positive takeaways, which they used to be two of the more dominant players throughout the tournament.
“With the experience we get from training with the First Team, obviously, their game is a lot faster, so we need to try to maintain that level when we come down to play with our own age group,” Castilla said. “But yes, obviously it does help, because with [the First Team] it is a faster game so when we are here not everyone is as fast. So, we can take advantage of what we know from the First Team and bring it here and be the better players.”
As for Rios, who has been with the Academy since he was part of the U-13 squad, he gained a better understanding of how the professionals conduct themselves on the pitch.
“The energy that they have in [the First Team] motivates us to be better, so we try to bring that same energy over here for our guys,” Rios explained. “I feel like that really showed [in the GA Cup] because we played against some big MLS teams, but you could see that there was just a different energy to us that made us stand out. I am definitely proud of the boys.”
Rios and his teammates have plenty to be proud of, as the 17s were able to claim a top-two finish during the GA Cup Qualifying Tournament and clinch their spot in the GA Cup Final in April, where they will face some of the best youth programs in the world.