The Austin FC Academy teams finished out the Fall 2020 season of MLS Next with a trip to Dallas on Saturday to face the Solar Soccer Club teams.
Both the U15s and U13s won their matches, with the U15s winning 2-0 and the U13s winning 2-1, with the U14s edged by a 2-1 margin. For Austin FC Academy Director Tyson Wahl, the performances from all three teams were positive, coming against an academy with a solid reputation and impressive player pool, and ended the semester of soccer on a good note.
“We're really pleased with the progress that the teams are making and have made across the past several months,” Wahl remarked, noting that the teams “are in a good place, so overall, we’re really pleased and excited to finish this last week of training.”
The U15s scored both their goals in the first five minutes, one on a corner kick and the other from a free kick, which gave the team a reminder on the importance of set-piece scoring.
“We haven't scored too many goals from set pieces,” Wahl said of the U15s. “They’re learning that these are opportunities, that set pieces are crucial, and they're opportunities to score and win games. There needs to be heightened attention there.” Solar also presented the Austin FC U15s with some different looks, playing direct and physical on offense, while sitting back on defense and giving the Austin FC players the time and space to come to them.
“Not everyone’s going to high press,” he remarked. “So it created some issues for us, a little bit more thought-provoking moments on the field, to figure out, how do we break them down when they’re that compact? So that was great.”
The U14s, though they rebounded well from their prior loss in a Thanksgiving weekend friendly and in a good week of practice following that, had what Wahl characterized as “a slow start” in their match. Despite not being able to pull even with their Solar counterparts, he predicts the U14s will return to play in January “with a little more edge and personality.”
“I think one of the things that they're facing right now is how to be consistent in each game, learning how to be part of a professional Academy where the standards and the expectations are consistently high.”
The U13s continued their penchant for fun, high-energy soccer in their win. Wahl noted, “They were a lot of fun to watch, and they played with a lot of spirit and a lot of quality. The Solar team they played was really strong, it was absolutely a very competitive game … it was one of the best performances for the U13s this year.”
Following this weekend’s round of friendlies, the Austin FC Academy players will take a break from play until the U15s head for a mid-January tournament in Houston involving a number of Texas-based MLS Next teams. The players will, however, have homework awaiting them in the form of individualized fitness plans. For players who are coming back from injuries, there will be some rehab elements to the plans, and for those who have stayed healthy, it’ll help them keep their fitness up to be ready for the spring.
“It's a long season, especially for the kids who are new to an academy that trains as often as we do,” Wahl remarked, adding that this break comes at a good time for players preparing for the demands that the second half of the season will bring. Though the spring schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, matches should start up sometime after the MLK holiday on Jan. 18.