The goal was always to do it bigger and better.
And at the end of a long Academy season, those that needed to take notice did.
The sun has set on another Philadelphia Union Academy season, its first as part of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy system, but not before the Union’s youth system swept a few award categories in the Eastern Conference.
On Tuesday afternoon, Major League Soccer released the 2013-14 award lists, which saw the Union take the Community Award in addition to accolades for “best training facility” and most importantly “best overall club.”
Individually, the clubs did okay for themselves as all three finished the season with winning records and some pretty astonishing statistics.
Philadelphia Union U18s
The U18s finished the season with a 10-4-11 overall record in USDDA play, good enough for fourth best in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. Forward Matt Greer led the way with 10 goals this season, followed by nine from Brandon Levano and eight from Neicko Williams. The club even ended the season with a 4-1 win over Oakwood SC last month.
As for one player in particular in Williams, he also became a first for the Academy, becoming the first ever graduate of YSC Academy, the pristine new school in Wayne that educates various members of the club’s academy system.
Williams, 19, a native of Jamaica says the chance to grow his game and get a high quality education was something he’ll never be able to repay.
“This experience has been one of the best of my life,” Williams told philadelphiaunion.com on his graduation day. “The people and coaches I have met here have definitely helped me become the man I wanted to be. I learned a lot of great things here, both on and off the soccer pitch that I hope to take with me for the rest of my life.”
Williams’ next move could be that of a shot to play for one of the Union’s developmental affiliates in either Reading or Harrisburg, thus continuing his quest of becoming the ultimate first: coming up through the school and hopefully make his way to the Union first team, after honing his game on the developmental level.
Even more important, he’s a pretty bright kid too.
“Soccer aside, I think he longer he spent here he realized that academically, he could also do it,” said Union U18 coach Peter Fuller. “He was in an environment too that made it possible for him to succeed. Going forward, he’s a good player and he’s got some good qualities that would lead you to believe that he will earn a chance to make it. I think an environment like college will be really good for him in terms of really understanding the game, I think right now that will be the place where he will be the most successful in his career off the bat and then we’ll see from there.”
U18s last game today as a Union team, what a great season, let's finish with a win pic.twitter.com/kcMnn6hGV0— Phila Union Academy (@PhilaUnion_Acad) June 26, 2014
Philadelphia Union U16s
With a record of 13-7-5 overall, the U16s finished sixth best in the Atlantic Division and enjoyed months in which they went undefeated. Most recently was the month of May in which the club went 3-0-1, outscoring opponents 7-1 in those four matches. Kevin Carvalho led the squad with a team high 10 goal effort and the U16s also received five goals apiece from Conor Bradley and Derek Amaniampong.
“Our aim [as coaches, players and staff] was to look at performance,” said Union U16 coach Jeff Cook. “What we always wanted to drive home was that we can and should be competing at the highest level and we expect this kind of effort from them week in and week out. Being an MLS Academy, there is always pressure from non-MLS academies because those clubs always play us tough. We needed to go out there and assert ourselves and I think we did. Is there room for improvement? Sure, you can always improve and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Philadelphia Union U14s
These young men not only represented the Union but did so with some devastating final scores. Ending the first half of the season with a 2-0 loss, the U14s took little time off during the winter break and ripped through the second half of the season undefeated in for over three months, outscoring opponents by a staggering margin: 53-6.
Yes, that’s 53 goals for the Union and just six for their opponents during the month of March, April and May.
But while we gasp at score lines, for U14 head coach Chris Brewer has his eye on the bigger picture.
“Surprising for sure, but I also think it’s pleasing,” Brewer said. “[Having a season like this] is a very good arbiter for things to come. The challenge now is to make sure that we instill humility and that we continue to grow…collectively. As you get better as a player more opportunities will arise, you have to make sure that you are having the same outlook about where you want your game to go and not let those little accolades swell your head."
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org