FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – While the season won’t kick into high gear until early March, the New England Revolution’s youth teams officially began their 2011-12 U.S. Soccer Development Academy schedules the weekend of Nov. 19-20 with a clean sweep of conference foes Met Oval and the New York Cosmos.
Combined, the Revolution’s Under-18 and Under-16 sides outscored their opponents by a margin of 10-2 and registered three shutouts en route to four victories. The U18s – led by a three-goal weekend from Attleborough’s Dominik Machado – claimed a 2-0 win over Met Oval and a 3-2 win over the Cosmos, while the U16s rode back-to-back clean sheets from 14-year-old goalkeeper Austin Aviza to a 3-0 win over Met Oval and a 2-0 win over the Cosmos.
“Good results, certainly, and there were stretches where the guys did really well,” said Director of Youth Development Bryan Scales, now entering his second season in his current post and third overall with the club. “They deserve full credit for it. Both teams put in two very good performances and a lot of the young guys jumped in and got a taste of what the Academy games are like.”
“I thought we did a good job of defending, foremost, and then we were able to connect,” said U18 defender Forest Sisk, who played the full 90 minutes in both matches and assisted on Peguy Ngatcha’s clinching goal in the win over Met Oval. “As the games went on, we were able to become dangerous and penetrate their defense, as well.”
The Revs will have the chance to build upon their positive start this weekend when they head to Sarasota, Fla., for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase. Both teams will play a grueling schedule of three games in the span of four days against Charlotte Soccer Academy (Dec. 3), Chicago Fire (Dec. 4) and North Meck SC (Dec. 6).
Last year, the U18s and U16s combined for a record of 3-3-0 at the Winter Showcase, and this weekend they’ll be looking to improve upon those results while simultaneously continuing to jell as a team in the early part of the season.
“This phase of the season is almost like a pre-preseason,” said Scales, referencing the unique scheduling quirk which will see the Revs break until March following the Winter Showcase. “You’re trying to gauge what the team’s personality is like, what types of roles guys can fill, who’s doing well, how quickly new guys can get up to speed and just getting a gauge on where some of the returning guys are.”
For the players, the Winter Showcase is a chance to match up against unfamiliar opposition and test themselves on one of the biggest stages in youth soccer.
“It’s special playing bigger teams that we don’t play regularly,” said U16 midfielder Danny Apajee, who scored a pair of goals in the season-opening 3-0 win over Met Oval. “I think it’ll be good to play different teams, different kinds of players who we don’t usually play against from outside the region.”
After the Winter Showcase, the schedule doesn’t resume until early March, giving the players an extended break for the holidays and plenty of training sessions to continue their progress in January and February. Both the U18s and U16s will return to action against D.C. United on March 10 with the regular season running through mid-June.
In the meantime, Scales’ objective is to ensure the youth sides use these first five games as a springboard into the upcoming break and the remainder of the schedule.
“It’s just establishing good starting points,” said Scales. “The guys established some good starting points (against Met Oval and the Cosmos). Now it’s a question of can they keep it up this weekend and then kind of take a deep breath and get ready for January.”