Es fundamental para familias y jugadores entender que el fútbol es una actividad emocionalmente volátil. Produce sentimientos opuestos en lapsos muy cortos. Un día te encuentras saboreando las mieles de la victoria y al día siguiente, viendo al rival celebrar. La paciencia y perseverancia son atributos importantes para lidiar con momentos tan cambiantes. En nuestro caso, uno podría asumir que Johan nos preparó muy bien a la adversidad ya que la temporada pasada tuvo una lesión grave que lo alejó de las canchas y nosotros a miles de kilómetros de poder brindarle cuidado. Y para ser honestos, la volatilidad vivida recientemente en la familia, no fué tan dramática como lo describo arriba, más sin embargo la semana pasada se alejó mucho de lo común.
La semana pasada FC Porto B jugó su primer partido de la temporada 2020-2021 y nos encontrabamos felices de que Johan fuera parte de la plantilla; sin embargo, por situaciones diversas, no tuvo la oportunidad de jugar (algo raro). De hecho, en el transcurso del juego, FC Porto B cedió un gol tempranero, y el jugar de visitante en una cancha brava tampoco contribuyó a que Johan pudiera ingresar al terreno de juego. Johan es muy inteligente, mentalmente fuerte y entendió a la perfección el planteamiento táctico del cuerpo técnico dadas las circunstancias del encuentro. Por otro lado, en Louisville, Jogo recibió los llamados minutos de “manejo de juego” en la victoria contra St. Louis. Nosotros lo vemos muy bien, fuerte, participativo, entrón, atrevido y probablemente debió de haber marcado gol. El equipo se encuentra en una excelente racha con su cuadro titular asi que ¿porqué cambiar lo que les está funcionando?
A la tercera Jogo le fué un poco mejor. Jugó uno de sus mejores partidos y tuvo una asistencia pero su equipo terminó perdiendo siendo ampliamente superado por el rival. Irónicamente, el equipo de Joana había dominado al mismo mismo rival tan sólo una semana antes…esas son las cosas que nos brinda el fútbol. Como familia, reflexionamos y aceptamos las lecciones aprendidas ese fin de semana y bueno, nos preparamos para las oportunidades venideras. “El fútbol siempre da revanchas” y eso fué lo que sucedió este fin de semana pasado.
“Los mejores éxitos suceden después de los mayores fracasos” – Henry Ward Beecher
Todo empezó el Viernes a mediodía con la primera competencia interescolar a campo traviesa de Joana. La temperatura era la ideonea y aunque no logró establecer un record personal, cubrió el trayecto de forma eficiente y terminó en primer lugar de su escuela y séptimo en la general. Fué un curso difícil (con pendientes pronunciadas y súper lodoso) pero al final nos representó muy bien.
Las buenas noticias continuaron el Sábado por la mañana (+6 horas in Porto). En una tarde típica lluviosa de Porto, Johan no nada más estaba en la plantilla una vez más pero en esta ocasión iba de titular ante el favorito FC Vizela en casa. De hecho, el Presidente del FC Porto estaba en las gradas presenciando el juego. Ese tipo de vitrina no se da todos los días.
Johan tuvo 40 minutos muy buenos y estuvo involucrado en cada uno de los tres goles en la primera parte. Su segunda mitad fué más para manejar el partido. Esta es su asistencia que derivó en el penal para el segundo gol.
Lo que se robó el show para nosotros fue la jugada sublime que terminó en el tercer gol del FC Porto B. El primer toque dirigido y la definición fueron exquisitos. Felicidades hijo.
El Sábado continuó siendo benévolo para los Gómez ya que Jogo registró su cuarto juego como titular con LouCity. Sus duelos aereos han mejorado muchísimo, su presencia técnica y táctica también va madurando. En general, está aprovechando sus oportunidades y manteniendo un mentalidad de aprendizaje. Línea por línea el equipo es muy talentoso y el sigue peleando por minutos y contribuyendo cuando se le require. El equipo lleva una racha invicta de 9 partidos y ya casi aseguran un lugar en la liguilla. De hecho, el partido de mañana entre St. Louis e Indy es crucial para sus aspiraciones.
Ya el Domingo, el fin de semana terminó de forma excelente con Joana. A pesar de jugar una nueva posición con tendencias más defensivas, tuvo una asistencia en un juego importante en Houston. Las inclemencias del tiempo jugaron un papel importante pero aun así jugó muy bien. Estamos empezando a ver el principio de algo especial con ella y nos alegra lo que le espera si se sigue aplicando. Hay mucho trabajo por delante con toda la tribu Gómez pero necesitamos ser pacientes y perseverar ante toda adversidad. Sin duda, habrá tiempos complicados en la vida de cualquier atleta pero con el apoyo de la familia y amigos, esos tiempos difíciles se convierten en lecciones de vida efímeras. Así es #theGomezway
Ya para despedirnos y en un tono más ameno, disfruten del último episodio de Chum Chat. Judson, Tanner, y Johan invaden las cuentas de Instagram de dos jugadores del ciclo de la selección sub-20 de Estados Unidos: Cole Bassett y Kevin Bonilla. Es uno de los episodios más cómicos y uno que no se van a querer perder. Estos chavos tienen una química impresionante y le damos gracias al fútbol por haberles otorgado esa amistad tan especial que tienen.
It’s important for families and young players to understand that football is an emotional (sometimes draining), volatile endeavor. One day, you are enjoying victory at the top of the pinnacle and the next you are tasting the sourness of defeat. Patience and persistence are key resilience characteristics to prevail. In our case, one could argue that we were well-prepared for adversity since Johan spent most of last season (thousand of miles away from us) injured. Honestly, the recent volatility we experienced wasn’t as dramatic as described above but let’s be honest, last week was far from ideal for the Gómez’s…
FC Porto B had their first game of the 2020-2021 season last week and we were happy that Johan made the 18 (celebrate small victories, right?); unfortunately, he didn’t get to play. FC Porto B giving up an early goal, and playing an important away game didn’t help his cause either. He’s strong mentally and understood it to be a tactical move given the flow of the game. Meanwhile, at LouCity Jogo received some “game management” minutes in their “do or die” victory against St. Louis. He looked really energetic and daring in his short cameo and should have had a goal. LouCity is in a hot streak and honestly, why change something that is currently working.
The third Jogo fared a little better and played one of her best games having an assist but her team lost in a lopsided defeat by a sister club team. Ironically, Joana’s team had previously dominated that same team a week earlier (volatility). That’s the way the game goes sometimes. As a family, we moved on and prepared for the next opportunities to rebound and that’s exactly what happened this past weekend.
“One’s best successes come after their greatest disappointments” – Henry Ward Beecher
It all started Friday at noon with Joana’s first Cross Country (CC) meet. The temperature was great and although she did not set a personal record (PR), she ran a new course elegantly and finished first in her school team (7th overall). It was a difficult (hilly and super muddy) course but she managed to represent us all really well.
The good news continued Saturday morning (+6 hours in Porto). Johan was not only on the 18 but starting against favorite FC Vizela at home in a typical rainy Porto September evening in front of FC Porto’s President. That type of exposure doesn’t happen every day.
Johan had 40 solid minutes; he was involved in each of the three first half goals. His second half was mostly about game management. Here is his assist that led to a PK for the second goal.
What stole the show for us was this sublime play that led to FC Porto B’s third goal. The first touch is exquisite and the finish followed suit. Congrats son.
Saturday continued with a good showing for the Gómez’s as Jogo registered his 4th start of the season with LouCity. His aerial duels have improved, his technical and tactical awareness are very solid. In general, he’s making the most out of his opportunities and keeping a growth mindset. LouCity overall is very talented all-around and he’s fighting for minutes and contributing when called upon. The team is undefeated in its last 9 games and have almost secured a place in the playoffs. Looking forward to St. Louis game tomorrow against Indy.
On Sunday, the weekend ended extremely well with Joana. Despite playing a new position which is more defensive, she had an assist in an important away game in Houston. Inclement weather was a factor but she played well. We are beginning to see the start of something special with her and are excited to see what will soon come her way if she applies herself. There’s a lot of work to be done with all of the Gómez’s clan but we need to be patient and persevere in all the adversity that may come our way. There will be rough times in the lives of athletes time and again but with the strong support of family and friends, those rough times can be ephemeral life lessons. It’s #theGomezway
On a lighter note, please have a laugh. Enjoy the latest episode of Chum Chat. Judson, Tanner, and Johan raid two U20 MNT pool player Instagram accounts: Cole Bassett’s and Kevin Bonilla’s. It’s one of the funniest episodes yet and one that you don’t want to miss. These young adults have such chemistry and we have football to thank for that friendship.
It’s that time of the year where families have to make decisions where they want their players to play for the 20-21 season. Unfortunately, with the recent announcement of the US soccer federation controlled Development Academy (DA) league suspending operations, there is uncertainty about where talented young players will play next season (and beyond). Some former DA amateur (non-MLS) clubs have already formed a new league called Girls Academy (GA), other former DA amateur (non-MLS) clubs migrated to the Elite Club National League (ECNL), the rest of the amateur clubs will try out the new MLS Academy league and as expected, all MLS academies will stay in the new league. That said, for the sake of this post, let’s call the next version of the MLS controlled league “DA 2.0” which is boys’/men’s centric.
If your teenager is talented enough to play at the new DA 2.0 level (this is subjective based on who is assessing him/her) but hasn’t joined yet, this post may be for you. Let’s start by stating that as a league, the talent level in the former DA was likely higher than any other national league (at least on the boys’ side). Unfortunately, we cannot (and will not) make that same assumption with DA 2.0 since:
It’s a new league, with a new organization presiding over it.
MLS (the new organization presiding over it) has a ton of experience managing an adult league; however, no experience managing youth development leagues including non-MLS teams. There will be a steep learning curve.
A significant number of important competitive amateur clubs parted ways with DA 2.0 and joined ECNL as soon as DA 2.0 was announced.
DA 2.0 just opened the application process to recruit additional “elite level” clubs. The deadline to apply is July 17th, just over a month before the beginning of the first games.
Most important of all, the pandemic has left very little time for trial and error with DA 2.0. The clock is ticking and very little information has been made public about it.
Last but not least, DA already had its share of improvement areas which automatically become reasons to doubt DA 2.0 robustness in its inaugural season.
Also, it’s worth noting that historically, we have seen some unique individual talent who never set foot in the former DA league (Keaton Parks in Dallas, José Gallegos in San Antonio, etc.). Thus DA 2.0 will continue to not be an “all-best talent” league; however, the great news is that young talented players will continue to find alternate channels to rise to the top and become successful footballers.
In the end, we believe that the most important aspect of youth football development is finding a good/caring coach who fosters individual and team “growth mindset” environments where trust is the foundation of it all and one who creates a “winning” culture. If both of those are present, there’s no reason to seek greener pastures. In our opinion, seeking a more competitive (results based) league/club should be the last resort unless your player is bossing his/her current league. Whatever the reason may be, to each their own…and ’tis the season to look for greener grass.
Thus, as a decision to seek a move to the DA 2.0 (MLS or amateur club) becomes inevitable, there are several factors to take into account. Those typically involve player’s age, the player’s/family’s primary residence, gender, player/family aspirations, ancestry, etc. We will try to break down some of those factors in this post; however, there’s just too much to describe in one post.
If the player is under 14 years of age, there’s little benefit to jump on the DA 2.0 wagon. From the limited information available, DA 2.0 will have 5 age groups: U13, U14, U15, U17, and U19. The U13, U14, and U19 age groups are optional age groups for all participant clubs.
Thus, it’s possible that these are groups are non-existent in some DA 2.0 clubs (ex. Chicago Fire arbitrarily eliminated the U18/U19 team in the former DA league leaving players stranded looking for another club). Also, it’s entirely feasible that the lack of “mandatory” U13, U14 and U19 teams will force DA 2.0 club participants to inevitably play against local teams anyway to save on traveling costs as DA 2.0 level competition may be too far away. If that is the case, why make a jump to DA 2.0 to play against your former local club (ex. FC Dallas playing Texans 3-4 times a year). If there are local club alternatives at the U13, U14 age groups, we see minimal value to switch leagues/clubs. Instead, stay at your local club and use each opportunity when playing against any MLS clubs to play your best games. The notoriety gained by doing so will yield valuable exposure and MLS teams likely will come down knocking at important age windows. Both Johan and Jogo were recruited by FC Dallas doing exactly this.
If your player is about to be age eligible to any of the older age groups: U15, U17. It’s definitely worth exploring joining the DA 2.0. U15 is the age group when youth national teams are initially formed and international competition officially starts. It’s possible that membership to the DA 2.0 league continues to be the preferred path to youth national teams and thus the “recommendations/connections” by DA 2.0 (specifically MLS clubs) staff could prove invaluable.
On the other side of the spectrum, joining a different club (especially an MLS one) at the U18/U19 level presents ZERO benefits to a player/family. The new club team will usually be comprised of players who have been playing together for several years and the new player will likely feel out of place and spend most of the season playing catch up. Furthermore, if the U19 team is comprised of mostly High School (HS) seniors, they will tend to be more focused on their next life phase/agenda: 1. College football, 2. Professional football path, or 3. Neither. Club football development is typically placed in the back burner by staff as well. Player development stalls in this age group especially in the United States as not all U18/U19 players are ready to play in MLS; and this group of players is normally neglected by MLS sides. Likewise, the gap between U18/U19 players and MLS players is significant and playing opportunities -outside of college- are scarce (ex. U23 teams are not normal). As a result, unless it’s the only choice, switching teams at the U19 level could be VERY detrimental to football development and should be avoided at all costs.
To worsen the situation, at some MLS sides, their satellite campuses along with their solid reputation helps them recruit players throughout the year. Be ready for your player to be challenged when a satellite campus player arrives mid-season of the U19 year. Also, foreign-born players are more likely to arrive at the U19 age group due to FIFA regulations barring U18 and younger player international moves. Caveat: This player movement at the U19 level may be more prevalent at the FC Dallas setup given their reputation and multiple (over 10) satellite campuses
Once player’s age has been thoroughly factored into the selection of a club, next comes “location”. There are many DA 2.0 clubs geographically scattered throughout the United States. If the player’s residence is near the training facilities of a DA 2.0 club, the odds of the player joining the desired club are magnified. The potential disadvantage of living within a radius from a DA 2.0 MLS club is a concept called MLS territories. Per MLS rules, a player/family who lives within 100 miles from the MLS stadium now “belongs” to that MLS club. Even if the player never plays for such MLS club, the club automatically owns his/her rights. For example, in our local market, if a Solar player, for whatever reason, wants to forego the opportunity to play for the FC Dallas academy and instead wants to play for the Columbus Crew academy, FC Dallas has to “approve” the move (there could a financial cost associated with this approval between MLS clubs depending on age) or the player’s family has to physically move to Columbus, OH for non-football related reasons.
Unfortunately (but maybe a good thing), not everyone lives in close proximity to a DA 2.0 club (see map below). However, in such cases, driving costs start to add up and bigger sacrifices need to be made by the player/family. On the other hand, a huge advantage of NOT living close to a DA 2.0 MLS club is that the player is not constrained by any MLS club rules and can join ANY (MLS or amateur) DA 2.0 club at will.
Know who you (player/family) are and have a vision based on your core values. Even while pursuing the player’s dream to a pro football career, some (probably most) parents prefer not to separate from their player at a young age. Letting him/her go live with a foster family may not be a viable option either. In some cases, a family move, albeit radical, could be a better alternative. Each family situation is unique and complex; there’s never any guarantees of success. Be realistic about your player’s talents and aspirations. There will always be a level of uncertainty with any life decision but being informed helps mitigate some of it.
Currently, what is certain is that any league in its inaugural season goes through some growing pains. Such will be the case for DA 2.0. If that adds uncertainty to your player’s/family’s situation, it may be best to sit on the sideline and let it mature for a year or two if you can afford it. Believe us, you won’t regret it and it’s possible, your player may continue to love the game in its purest form without the added stress about the uncertainty.
If you do decide to proceed with a move to an MLS club specifically, below you will find some advantages and disadvantages of joining an MLS club vs a non-MLS (amateur) club.
Advantages of joining an MLS academy:
Most MLS clubs are low to no-cost for their “academy” teams; therefore MLS clubs pose a significant financial advantage over most amateur pay-to-play clubs which normally do not have a revenue stream through a professional team. However, there are some amateur clubs whose academy is low to no-cost such as Cross-Fire and Rise but they are part of the minority. Conversely, in the former DA, there were MLS academies that were pay-to-play (DC United and Minnesota United FC).
In the Dallas Forth Worth (DFW) area, the MLS side has both: FC Dallas youth teams (Juniors, Select, Premier) which are pay-to-play and low cost FC Dallas academy teams as part of their development model (see figure below). The many (over 200) FC Dallas pay-to-play teams serve a unique purpose: to subsidize the FC Dallas academy teams. This may or may not be the model at other MLS sides.
Some local parents are drawn to the FC Dallas name for their U13 and U14 players and unfortunately find themselves paying thousands of dollars a year for no additional developmental benefit (beyond first team discounted tickets and a permanent training ground). In the figure above, the bottom three categories are pay-to-play ($3k – $3.5k+ per year) teams normally higher than their local amateur club fees. The FC Dallas Academy category has minimal costs but it’s worth noting that it’s not easy to either: 1. Make the FC Dallas Academy teams or 2. Be promoted from any of the bottom three categories to the FC Dallas Academy teams. Honestly, if your player has spent more than two consecutive seasons in any of the bottom three categories, there’s almost zero chance he/she will ever be moved up permanently to the FC Dallas Academy team.
To be fair, the FC Dallas Academy category (or similar for other MLS clubs) is almost fully funded nowadays; however, it is very prohibitive in terms of flexibility to play other sports (school or not), and requires a significant amount of traveling with NO real added benefit at the early ages. In fact, the increased travel, burned out a lot of young footballers who eventually selected other mainstream sports by high school age. Thus, it is fair to say that the densest concentration of talent is not always playing for MLS clubs (for many potential reasons).
There’s a possible misconception that the MLS clubs monopolize most of the local talent. While that may be very true in some geographic areas, it is not so much in areas like North Texas, North/South California, etc. DFW is so big and rich in football talent that one MLS team is unable to accommodate the abundance of talent in the area. Therefore, there are a multitude of very competitive DA, ECNL, classic/lake highlands league football clubs that have historically established themselves as great alternatives for development environments that are excellent (if not better) than FC Dallas. If one considers all age groups in any football academy, we agree that the MLS club should have a higher concentration of talent but a family should focus on the specific age group their player wants to join. Below, we analyze and compare a couple of age groups from local teams vs. FC Dallas:
Looking at recent statistics, in the just truncated 2019-2020 DA season, both the Solar U16/U17 boys and girls teamsachieved superior results than the FC Dallas U16/U17 counterpart teams. One could argue that specific sample is an outlier, or that it supports our theory of a fairly talent distribution among clubs in our area, or whatever other pretext. We tend to discredit the outlier theory because in the previous season (2018-2019), both boys and girls Solar teams were crowned national champions in the same age group eliminating the corresponding FC Dallas U16/U17 teams in the process. This is not unique to North Texas only; California and Colorado are other markets where amateur academies are stronger than their MLS counterparts.
MLS academy clubs train more frequently than amateur clubs. While FC Dallas has the resources to dedicate to daily training; other amateur clubs do not. Repetitions are essential for the more advanced players; however, the risk of burnout is always present. Normally on the boys side, MLS clubs will communicate with the player/family by the age of 15/16 as to whether they have any professional plans for the player or not. If they do have plans, the player should stick around and benefit from the more frequent practices and other perks (practice with the USL/first team, etc.) the MLS side has to offer. Otherwise, the player needs to evaluate if the “juice is worth the squeeze”. Will sticking around the MLS side with more frequent practices help him/her with other future options like college, playing abroad, etc. Would he/she rather forego sacrifices associated with playing for an MLS team and instead join an amateur club that allows him/her more flexibility to do other extra curricular activities (ex. play other sports in HS, discover other talents, etc.) and still be in a competitive team?.
Development opportunities (ex. Generation Adidas -GA- Cup, Youth National Team -YNT- recommendations) at an MLS club are going to be typically better during the 17 and younger years than for amateur clubs. At the U19 level, players tend to mostly just go through the motions as they have either already secured college placement, reached some level of professionalism with the club, or are in the process of planning trials abroad as a path to professionalism. Indifference at the U19 age group is rampant especially from MLS sides. Locally, the inception of the NTX SC affiliate, has seen a focus shift from the U19 age group to the USL-1 side. There will only be a handful of U19 players who will benefit from opportunities such as higher level training but unfortunately, the majority of players not selected for additional development opportunities are left behind with little motivation to be in the program. The FC Dallas U18/U19 saw an exodus of key academy players this past season…
Thus, it’s at 17 years of age and younger where MLS clubs normally offer more exposure to national and international tournaments; those however, will come at a high cost whether the player plays for an MLS club or not. International tournaments are normally funded by parents exclusively in both setups. However, amateur clubs very seldom offer these opportunities as families are already shelling out a lot of money to pay for the academy team. Furthermore, MLS sides also offer exposure to YNT opportunities. However, with the federation announcing that most YNT age groups are frozen for the remaining of 2020, that may factor into a “rushed” decision to join (or not) an MLS team for the 20-21 season.
Disadvantages of an MLS academy:
Historically, MLS academies have been gender biased towards boys/men. Some (ex. LA Galaxy) have gone as far as recently cancelling their girls/women academy program. Thus, if your talented player is a female and cost is not much of an issue, MLS sides may not be the best choice for a move. First, unlike the boys’/men’s side, MLS clubs do not offer a clearer pathway to professional fooball for girls/women. Also, most MLS clubs have very little experience overseeing girls’/women’s programs and see limited financial gain from supporting that program; that’s why most MLS sides de-prioritize their girls’/women’s program.
Also, your local market may offer better club alternatives than the MLS club. In the DFW market, Solar (and sometimes Texans, D’feeters, etc.) offers hands-down a more established growth environment and more competitive teams for girls/women than FC Dallas. See this past seasons’ results at the U17, U16, U15 levels. Also, see this recently published chart (you can go back many months or observe the same trend in multiple publications ex. Topdrawersoccer):
There’s also far more female players being called up from Solar, Real Colorado, Tophat and other amateur clubs to youth national teams than there are from FC Dallas and other MLS sides.
one common misconception about the FC Dallas academy teams is that they are fully funded and that is not the case. Depending on the age group, the FC Dallas academy teams have at least one mandatory international trip (Mexico) each year (to play friendlies) which costs over $1,500. Furthermore, each family is required to raise funds for these mandatory international trips. To be fair, these expenses do not remotely compare with the annual costs associated with joining any of the other pay-to-play local amateur academy clubs which at least cost over $3k just for coaching fees and uniforms (no international tournaments). However, if money is not as much of an issue to your family, try to stay in the pay-to-play amateur club (ex. Solar) for as long as possible if your player has any real chance of becoming a professional. Why is that? Read below…
If your player has the talent to play professionally (this is very subjective), try to absorb the academy costs in a pay-to-play system for as long as possible (or seek scholarship opportunities) because once your player joins the MLS club, the club can claim the right to “very steep” training compensation. Training compensation is defined as the price tag on a player by the MLS club (on an annual basis) for having “developed” the player during the formative years. The compound amount of money piles up significantly over the years and it can become a deal breaker when a non-MLS club is interested in your player because the price tag is too high. Currently, this price tag is non-existent for most non-MLS (amateur) clubs. Read more about it here. Our recommendation is to shorten (if possible avoid) the MLS academy environment for as long as possible to minimize training compensation costs by joining academy amateur clubs (ex. Barca Academy, Solar, Cross Fire etc.).
Each decision to move to the new DA 2.0 league (MLS club or amateur club) must be carefully evaluated and thought out. There’s no one size fits-all solution and much less “perfect situation”; inexorably, sacrifices will have to be made by player and families. However, make the most informed decision by gathering factual information, talking to other parents, coaching staff, and most importantly, your own player. In the end, the decision should be made as a family with the player’s input being the most critical. Once a decision is made, don’t look back on it. Pursue it with a passion; “enjoy the ride” and something is to be gained out of ANY outcome.
Good luck and please reach out to us if you have comments/questions.