Less Than One Year Since Barca Academy Kicked Off, U17s Ace DA Playoffs and Earn Semifinal Spot in 2018 Academy Championships
Youth Soccer News Updated: The Barça Academy at Casa Grande in Arizona kicked off its inaugural season in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy last August and less than ten months later impressed the youth soccer world by earning a spot in the prestigious U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs where they won 4 straight matches vs their MLS opposition Vancouver, Philadelphia, Orlando City and NY Red Bulls and punched their ticket to Kansas City for the 2018 Academy Championships. The DA U17 Semifinal is July 8 with the Final on July 10 at Swope Soccer Village.
The DA Playoffs Quarterfinal recap against New York Red Bulls started lively on both sides, with Barca’s Jake LaCava, Cameron Fisher, and Henry Tapper’s combinations resulting in three corner kicks in the first 12 minutes of the game.
Goalkeeper Luke Pruter made two exceptional saves in the final moments of regulation and Barca Residency Academy defeated the #3 nationally ranked New York Red Bulls 3-1, advancing to the semifinals where they will face the #2 nationally ranked Seattle Sounders on July 8 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Winners from the semifinal game between Barca Residency Academy and the Seattle Sounders will advance to the USSDA Championship game competing against the victor between Atlanta United and Montreal Impact.
Barça Academy is the famous Futbol Club Barçelona first and only full-time residency academy outside of La Masia in Barcelona, Spain.
Known for being ‘more than a club’ — “Més que un club”— Barça is home to Lionel Messi.
Just ten months ago, the inaugural U.S. Soccer Development Academy game for the Barca Academy was played on Saturday, September 2, 2017, at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Arizona. The club that was first to challenge the Barca squads was the MLS Seattle Sounders — and this is the exact same club that Barca will take on in the DA Semifinal in Kansas City on July 8, 2018.
While the first U17 game ended with Seattle winning 5-4, Barca Academy’s Director of Coaching Sean McCafferty is looking for a different result when his team meets Chris Little‘s squad as the road to the Championship continues.
Diane Scavuzzo: Congratulations on making the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs’ Semifinals and punching your ticket to 2018 Academy Championships in Kansas City. That is fabulous. How did you prepare a team of players, who before this season had never before played together, to be so successful in their first DA season?
Sean McCafferty: I believe our success has a lot to do with the unique training methodology because of our partnership with FC Barcelona.
And, we were fortunate to start with good players, many who were not in the DA but were able to rise to the level. In fact, only six of the U17 squad were actually Development Academy players before coming in.
Our unique style of play and the way we approach games and training is really one of the biggest factors in why this group has been so successful — along with obviously their talent and their work ethic.
Diane Scavuzzo: Barca Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona is the only FC Barcelona residential program outside of the famous La Masia – How does your partnership with FC Barcelona impact player development?
Sean McCafferty: At Barca Academy, we really are mirroring the FC Barcelona methodology.
It is all about ball control.
We really focus on what we’re good at. We focus on how we approach the game and want to impose our style of play, and this means having control of the ball.
It’s really possession-specific, if you like, or controlling the tempo is probably a better way to put it, and then when we don’t have control of the ball, which I think is probably our strongest point, it is our relentlessness to recover the ball that is important.
We focus 95% on us and maybe 5% on our opponents.
One of the things that stands out most is our willingness to do the work without the ball to recover it and value then having it.
And, the players have thrived learning this philosophy in our environment, playing with and against some of the best players in the country.
Diane Scavuzzo: When you took on the Red Bulls, which is one of the top DA teams in the country, what was the greatest challenge?
Sean McCafferty: The New York Red Bulls are a great organization. I’m good friends with David Longwell, the new academy director there, so we knew it was going to be a challenge.
I think the first half was relatively even, very tentative. We couldn’t get in as much a rhythm as we’d like, but I thought the second half was better, once we settled down and again started to dictate and impose our style of play.
I thought we were excellent in the second half and were deserved winners in the end.
But ultimately it’s getting in the rhythm and being able to impose our style. That normally ends well for us, if we can achieve it.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the greatest challenge coming to Kansas City for the DA U17 Semifinal match on July 8?
Sean McCafferty: We are playing against a very good Seattle team. We played against them first game of the season in a crazy 5-4 game in 115 degrees heat.
Chris Little is an excellent coach and his team is very dynamic going forward. The front forward can be very dangerous and I think they play a great brand of soccer. They score a lot of good team goals, even though they have some very talented individuals.
The DA Semifinal is going to be a very tough challenge.
But I think we’ve got some good players, and I think we do very well from the attacking side, and defensively we’ve really raised our level the second half of the season which is pleasing to see.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think the level of play has improved in the DA?
Sean McCafferty: Yes. The depth and talent are certainly getting better and the standards and the professionalism of the DA are certainly much higher than anything else in the USA. The DA is very player-centric, which is one of the reasons why I think it’s been so successful.
Diane Scavuzzo: When I talked to you this time last year, did you think that you were going to be able to put together a squad that could reach the semifinals or the playoffs?
Sean McCafferty: I knew we had a team good enough to qualify for the Playoffs. We have players who are as dynamic on both sides of the ball as any team in the country, and I was very confident, as were the players, that once we made the Playoffs, that we could get out of the group.
We set goals, “Let’s win one match at a time get to out of the group.”
The next goal was to win the quarterfinals against the Red Bulls. Going into the game we felt very confident, even though they’re a top team. We just think that we have a lot of top players in really important positions, and that’s kind of our approach.
Diane Scavuzzo: If players want to try out to join Barca Academy, what can they do?
Sean McCafferty: We actually just had a Talent ID Camp this weekend with 80 Development Academy level players from all across the country. We are very fortunate that people want to be a part of this program and want to be in this environment.
We have more Talent ID Camps in July and even into early August, so there are still opportunities to get in front of the staff and potentially earn a spot.
We’re growing from five teams to potentially eight teams next year with the pre-academy teams, so we’re continuing to expand and give more players the opportunity.
Selected images courtesy of Barca Academy