The Bradenton Academics are one of nearly 70 teams from around the country representing the United Soccer Leagues in the Premier Development League, which mainly consists of college-age players. The league will run throughout the summer.
The Bradenton Academics opened the PDL season in successful fashion with a 4-0 victory over the Nashville Metros on Thursday (See photos below).
After a scoreless and physical first half, Bradenton found their form and went on to score four second-half goals to coast to an easy win. Jose Roberto Ramos, Zack Boggs and Happy Hall - all IMG Academy soccer program alums - each scored, while Ederson Lopes added the fourth.
All three alums expressed delight about being back at IMG.
"It is great to return to a place I call home," said Boggs, a 21-year-old University of South Florida student who was a PDL All-Star pick in 2008. "IMG Academy soccer program does everything first class. This win is a good start to the season and is something to build upon."
Ramos opened the scoring when he pounced onto a rebound from the Metros goalkeeper after a fluid passing sequence to give the Academics a 1-0 lead.
Lopes, a strong forward, used his body to protect the ball as it fell to him after a battle for a head ball in the six-yard box. The Brazilian reacted first to the loose ball and lashed a side volley to make it 2-0.
Hall scored off a quick counter and used his pace to outrun the Metros defense for more than 50 yards. Receiving a fine through pass from Steven Morris, Hall calmly slotted home the third goal.
Boggs showed why he is considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the league when he struck a low 18-yard drive to the far post after dribbling past two defenders.
Coaches Tom Durkin and Scott Bowers were please with the result but acknowledge there is a lot of work to be done.
"In the coming weeks, there needs to be a lot of hard work in training, and the players need to understand each other in order to become a team," Bowers said. "They need to understand that the season will only get harder."
The Academics head to the road on Saturday to face the New Orleans Jesters in a conference match.