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U-18 boys start hopeful march back to nationals

The U.S. Soccer Development Academy League is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an every day environment designed to produce the next generation of National Team players. The IMG Academy soccer program U-18 boys' team finished 3rd in the nation in 2009.

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Weekend recap:

U-18s: IMG 2, SC United

The team traveled to beautiful Charleston, South Carolina to take on South Carolina United in the first Divisional game of the season. The weather was less than perfect and the playing conditions were even worse as the match went off in a virtual quagmire.

It is always risky business when you try to build up on a rain drenched field, but we decided to stick to our plan and go with the IMG house style and manage the risk as best as possible. This required "forward defending," meaning we needed to push up our defensive line in order to win the ball in the opponents half and build up further away from our on goal.

This decision paid off as the opponents relied mainly on a direct approach with long balls flighted into two strong strikers with a clever attacking midfielder providing an outlet for the drop and go.

After a fairly even first half in which I believe IMG dictated (but failed to be dominant) resulted in scoring chances for both sides (IMG in flurries and SCU on occasion) the halftime team talk and adjustments turned the game upside down. After a few nervous minutes of adjustment for footing at our own goal mouth the attacks came on waves from right, left and center. Repositioning the attacking midfielders and adjusting the marking system with subtle changes saw the opponent's time on the ball reduced significantly as they ran out of ideas in attack and were forced to exert way more effort defensively than they bargained for.

Mark Bixler was solid in goal on his IMG debut. Jair Bugs found his confidence at left back and Niko Close returning to IMG after a year in Germany added to the depth chart of a formidable defense. The usual suspects were again mainstays in the team.. Brennes, Ontiveros and Mares were very difficult to contain and a solid performance from the reserves saw James McCarthy grab the game-winner moments after in introduction early in the second half.

Another adjustment in the attack brought the insurance goal from Martin Ontiveros as we pushed an extra man into midfield. The boys managed the outcome very well from that point on and I was very pleased with their performance from whistle to whistle.

U-16s: IMG 0, SC United 2

sdajd071409101The U 16 Academy traveled to South Carolina for a game against S.C. United. After a very good week of training preparation, we felt that we were ready to have a good performance especially since we had only one game on the weekend. The conditions of the field were very difficult for us to play our game of building up out of the back . However that is no excuse, because both teams played on it and you need to adapt to all conditions.

We started out well and had the better of the play. We were unlucky to no go up 1-0 off of a corner when the ball was cleared out of the box and Mac Yumoto had a great shot that beat the keeper but hit the crossbar. Against the run of play, SC United scored in the 20th minute off a good ball off of a counter attack that beat our defenders. They got their second goal 10 minutes later off a set piece. They put the ball into the box and off of a second ball a SC United player was unmarked in the box to easily put them up 2-0 at the half.

The 2nd half proved to be difficult for us to overcome because SC United bunkered and defended well. We had numerous opportunities to score but came up empty losing 2-0. Ultimately it was a fair result. I don't feel we prepared mentally as a team for the game. It was a good lesson for us that we must take care of pre-match responsibilities before we can have success on the field. Great individual performances by Xavier Guerette and Gabriel Nunez.

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