Barca Academy Update – Interview with Academy Director Sean McCafferty
The Barca Academy at Casa Grande in Arizona is in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, playing in the U15, U17 and U18/19 age brackets.
The famous Futbol Club Barcelona, commonly known as Barça, is one of the ultra top professional soccer clubs in the world. Kicked off over a century ago in 1899, it is known for being ‘more than a club’ — “Més que un club”— and is home to Lionel Messi.
Now, the legendary pro club has a strong presence in the USA with Barca Academy — the only residential youth soccer academy outside of “La Masia” … Barca’s farmhouse for player development where Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Pep Guardiola, and Xavi trained.
While La Masia is recognized around the world for its rich history of player development, the Barca Academy in Arizona is in its inaugural season and is dedicated to developing players who will win in the great Barça style.
Most of the youth soccer teams at Barca Academy were formed only two months ago. While they may be competing against other teams in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy whose core players have been together for 6+ seasons, the real challenge is learning the Barca style of play.
With an average of 4 games played in the DA — the results in the U.S. Soccer standings is mixed, neither on the top of or the bottom of the Standings for the Southwest. Playing against teams from both the Northwest and the Southwest — Barca Academy teams are able to test their skills against top area MLS and club teams.
Diane Scavuzzo interviewed Barca Academy Director Sean McCafferty for an update on how the teams are performing.
Diane Scavuzzo: Now that the Barca Academy has played their first few games in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, how is it going?
Sean McCafferty: It is going very well and we feel the players and their teams are starting to grasp the Barca concept — as it pertains to the intensity required in training and the style of play we are looking to implement.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is there pressure — when the players are playing in a DA match — to win?
Sean McCafferty: Everyone wants to win however we believe the performance is more important than the result.
We are in the process of learning how to win — and we have to win in the Barça style.
We are in the business of developing players so we have to ensure we stay true to that and not get caught up in trying to win a game as ultimately one single match doesn’t matter in the bigger picture.
Diane Scavuzzo: Training players to play in the famous Barca style — what are the challenges?
Sean McCafferty: It is high-risk football, our players have to be confident, brave in possession and with that comes mistakes, especially in the early months. Our players are embracing the new style of play and we are excited to see the progress they have made.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is the natural drive to win at odds with the Barca style?
Sean McCafferty: Not at odds but with high-risk football comes mistakes so we may concede goals in this manner especially when we are still learning but we believe winning will be a by-product of player development so we have to be patient and ensure our focus is fully on how we perform.
Diane Scavuzzo: In the recent match against Golden State, how did your teams perform?
Sean McCafferty: FC Golden State thoroughly deserved their U15 victory, our team played better in the 2nd half but is still searching for the right balance.
Our U17 Academy was very unfortunate not to win the game, we had 23 shots on goal with many of them from inside of 12 yards — but we took the positives from the excellent build up in the first half, as we know the goals will come.
We are setting a high standard for ourselves. The Barca style.
We do not want to lose our composure and ultimately our identity while playing. Our style of play is everything, much more important than the result.
Our U19’s deserved to win in my opinion and we were much better defensively during this match against Golden State and showed more quality in the attacking third also.
Diane Scavuzzo: Congratulations — Are the players becoming more familiar with each other? What are the strengths of this team?
Sean McCafferty: It was good for the U19s to get a win, and the U17 recently beat the Strikers 7-4 but more important is the ability to get on the ball and work to dominate possession. That is something we have worked hard on in practice and take great pride in.
Diane Scavuzzo: How are the U17s performing?
Sean McCafferty: The U17s pass the ball well and often create numerous chances with quick, dynamic combinations. The second half is where we need to focus — in the game against Golden State, it was very poor from all aspects, we lost our composure, gave the ball away by looking to play long too often.
I have to do a better job of calming the players down and reinforcing that the performance is much more important than the result as I could see their frustration when we conceded a goal.
It is a great lesson that will help us immensely in the long run.
In the recent match against the Sacramento Republic, we were up at halftime with 2 goals and then it fell apart in the second half. But we are just a few weeks into the season. Our players deserve time to come together as a team.
Diane Scavuzzo: The core of the U17 Golden State team have been together for years— in fact, 7 out of the 18 players on their roster have played together since when they were U8s — does this make a difference?
Sean McCafferty: It makes a difference for sure.
I’m very encouraged at how quickly our players have come together — we firmly believe the future is bright.
Diane Scavuzzo: In all honesty, do the coaches feel pressure to win?
Sean McCafferty: I don’t think our coaches feel pressure to win but it is natural to want to win, the key is ensuring we do not forgo our style of play in order to get a result.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think the players feel the pressure?
Sean McCafferty: Winning while not playing the Barça style is not a success.
We want our players to feel proud of how they perform.
Players can control their performance, not the result — as there are many factors as to why a result may not go our way.
Diane Scavuzzo: With the famous name on the jersey, and all the eyes on the standings in the DA, is it hard to just concentrate on playing the Barca way?
Sean McCafferty: I don’t think we see it as being hard at all, it’s innovative here in the US.
We firmly believe that teaching the players — and the staff for that matter — a higher level of soccer will put them in a great position for future success.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is Barca Academy Technical Director Denis Silva saying to you and the coaches? He has just moved from La Masia to Arizona to be Technical Director
Sean McCafferty: Denis has been great with the staff and the players, his emphasis is on teaching us the Barça way in everything that we do.
This will take time to implement but we are all fully committed to the philosophy, style of play and ensuring that over the next 5 years we create something truly special that top players around the country will want to be a part of.
Photo Credit: Diane Scauzzo