Ryan Richter knows he has a talented Union U17 academy team. Brandan Craig, Paxten Aaaronson, and Jack McGylnn have shined this year as the 17s rolled through the winter half of their schedule, but the entire team has contributed to make this one of the best squads in their age group.
As he prepares to face off with one of the most productive academies in MLS, FC Dallas, in a match that will determine which teams finishes atop Group E in the DA Winter Cup, Richter remains focused on that group aspect of his team's achievement.
Looking back at the club's wins over Vardar and FC Golden State, Richter said, "Anthony Ramirez got two goals, including the winner against Vardar; he really did well to come through. Ian Abbey put in a huge performance to get the winner against FC Golden State.
"It's clear that while the players are developing individually, they put the team first. Everyone has played a role and shown up in key moments."
Still, Richter wants to see a different side of his squad against Dallas. In the team's first two games. they gave up four goals and came from behind to win. That's not the formula the coach wants to see going forward. Instead, he's hoping to see his group jump on top of the opposition early.
"We haven't played to the capability of the team," Richter admitted. "But in both games we showed good control and good nerve to come back and win them.
"The performances have been good but the group is so talented, they can still do better."
Fighting for the full ninety is something that defined the Union first team in 2019, and if that's what it takes to get the win, Richter will take it.
"The group has a great thing in their DNA in that they fight til the end and work as a team to come back," he explained.
But the Union's DNA as a club is moving more and more toward the front foot: A pressing, aggressive style that knocks other teams back. That's what Richter and his young, exceptional squad will hope to do at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday.