DC Stoddert U12/13 ATP squad play DC United Pre-Academy in a thriller

The U12/13 Advanced Training Program (ATP) squad which gathers DC Stoddert’s strongest players in that age group band took on DC United’s U-13 Pre-Academy on October 16th in an exciting friendly match that ended 2-1 in favor of the local pro team.

The Advanced Training Program is directed by Sona Walla, one of DC Stoddert’s longest serving coaches and is a high-level supplemental training program designed to group and educate aspiring travel players to accelerate their development and prepare them to succeed at the highest levels of youth soccer locally and nationally.
The match started at a brisk pace with both teams a bit nervous and seeking to establish control through crisp passing. It was the determined ATP squad that found its rhythm first and surprised its opponent to surge ahead mid-way through the first half. Productive pressing initiated by forward Ian Carroll forced DC United’s back line to give up a loose ball in its defensive half that ATP team captain Eli Sturm quickly collected, maneuvered neatly to find a sliver of space and drilled a home a splendid 25 yard shot that left the stunned DC United goalkeeper motionless.
The battle for possession suddenly grew fierce with ATP midfielders Andres Cubbeddu, Marco Carrero, Peter Dart and Santiago Cubbeddu having to work hard to hold off DC United’s assaults. Seeking to reverse the momentum by disrupting their opponent’s passing rhythm, DC United forwards began initiating pressure much higher up the field. The tactic soon bore fruit as United’s attack pounced on an errant pass by a hurried ATP defense to draw even. The suddenly confident DC United Pre-Academy applied even more pressure and seized the moment to add a second goal shortly before halftime.
ATP coach Sona Walla made some key adjustments at half time and the inclusion of fearless U-12 duo Pablo Peltier and Griffin Clinton injected immediate attacking flair into his side. The ATP boys quickly regained momentum, began playing with superb ball movement and created numerous chances which they squandered due to precipitation. The clearest opportunity fell to the very mobile ATP winger Ben Montague who was a handful for DC United’s defense all match. Finding space on the right flank, Montague penetrated splendidly on the dribble only to shoot straight at the experienced United Keeper with the goal gaping.
The Stoddert boys pushed for the equalizer but DC United defended fiercely and the match ended 2-1 with the ATP players having learned a lot and given a full demonstration of their superb technical and tactical level. Former Ajax Amsterdam and Dutch National team star (25 caps) Sonny Silooy who is now Director of Player Development at DC United attended the match and was pleasantly surprised. He stated that he really enjoyed the positive soccer and was quite impressed by the technique and possession-first approach of the Stoddert ATP boys. The two groups will interact again at the end of the month.
* ATP and DC United U-13 Pre-Academy squads after the match
* ATP captain Eli Sturm fires his team ahead with a splendid shot.

ATP Director Sona Walla flanked by Sonny Silooy, DC United Director of Player Development (right) and U13 DC United coach Jonathan Frias (left).

Two ATP + Travel Players Join D.C. United U14 Squad
Owen Mitchell & Aaron James begin games this fall

Earlier this summer, two long-time D.C Stoddert travel players were invited to join D.C. United’s U-14 Pre-Academy team for the 2011-2012 season and will start playing their first official matches with the prestigious program in the coming weeks. Owen Marshall, a high school freshman at the Washington International School (WIS), and WIS eighth graders Aaron James bested dozens of players from the Washington metropolitan area for their slots on the 26-player roster.
"I am quite proud of Owen and Aaron, who are very different players and have each worked hard to improve in the areas where they needed work," said Sona Walla, D.C. Stoddert’s Technical Director and director of the club’s Advanced Training Program (ATP). "They exemplify what we stress to our young players: skills + desire."
Both players joined D.C. Stoddert travel program at U-9 and played on their respective teams -- Owen on the Blue United and Aaron on the Blue Metros -- through the spring 2011 season. (Owen and Aaron were both born in 1997; the D.C. Youth Academy uses the calendar year to demarcate rosters, while D.C. Stoddert’s boys’ travel teams, which are part of the National Capitol Soccer League, use a August 1 - July 31 window for roster cutoffs.) Owen and Aaron’s Stoddert team coaches included, among others, Coach Sona and Mohamed Bennani, D.C. Stoddert’s U13-14 Technical Director.
In addition to team play, Owen and Aaron participated in D.C. Stoddert’s ATP program, which offers high-level training and included matches last spring against D.C. United Pre-Academy teams.
Owen and Aaron credit D.C. Stoddert, a D.C. Academy club affiliate, with giving them the fundamentals to play at a higher level. Aaron described his D.C. Stoddert coaches as "just fantastic." After several training sessions this summer with his new D.C. United Pre-Academy team, he noted, "The coaching is equal to Stoddert’s great level of coaching." Observed Owen: "When I joined Stoddert, I was just a rec player. The first couple of years, we practiced our skills. Having the same coaches help me build my skills over time. They gave me a great foundation as a soccer player."
 The players’ parents also credited the club and coaches for their boys’ success. Noted Marsh Marshall, Owen’s father: "Stoddert’s ATP program provided Owen with access to advanced skill development and exposure to the level of play of D.C. United’s Academy teams. Stoddert is fortunate to have Sona Walla’s program, and technical curriculum available for advanced players. It’s a great reflection on the Club."
This is the second year for the D.C. United Youth pre-Academy, which includes both U-14 and U-15 teams. The Academy itself was founded in 2006. A number of Stoddert-trained players have passed through D.C United’s Academy’s ranks, including several who went on to play Division 1 college soccer. At least one other Stoddert-trained player, Andrew Ferman, is currently playing on a D.C. United Academy team.
U13/14 ATP Team Routs D.C. United Academy
Sound 4-1 victory at Jelleff Field May 12.

With parents, players, and coaches lining the sidelines, DC Stoddert Soccer’s combined U13/14 Advanced Training Program (ATP) roster soundly defeated the D.C. United U14Pre-Development Academy 4-1 in a fast-paced, tightly controlled game at Jelleff Field on May 12. The match, one of several that the ATP players will play against pre-academy lineups this spring, was organized and coached by Sona Walla, Stoddert Travel’s Boys Technical Director and director of ATP. Prior to kickoff, Tom Torres, D.C. United’s Pre-Academy Program Coordinator and U15 Academy Head Coach, met with DC Stoddert parents to discuss the pre-academy program, now in its first year.

Since its inception five years ago, D.C. United’s Youth Academy for U16 and older players has developed top talent, including, most recently, Honduran boy-wonder Andy Najar, Major League Soccer’s Rookie of the year for the 2010 season. More recently, newly retired Black-and-Red forward Jaime Moreno signed on as D.C. United’s Youth Academy Technical Training Coach this past winter.
Torres, a former travel coach, explained that the Academy created a younger developmental program because it wanted to reach out to players at an age where they were still open to learning new things. "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks," he noted with a smile. Torres explained that while the vast majority of Academy players will not go pro, the D.C. United Academy, in addition to providing high-level training and playing experience, has a stellar track recording of sending players to the U.S. national team and also to D-1 colleges, many on scholarship. Torres noted that the pre-development program mirrors that of the U16-18 Academy players as far as practices and games.
"It was a fun soccer night and a superb learning experience for our players," Coach Sona wrote parents and players in a post-match email. "I was particularly pleased that in addition to remaining true to our philosophy of solving problems with technique, intelligence and group movement, they demonstrated great team mental strength throughout the match."
Former Eagles Player Soars to NCAA Div. 1 Championship
University of Virginia freshman Marcus Douglas talks to his former coach, ATP director Sona Walla, about college, soccer and life


by Sona Walla, Boys’ Technical Director
Marcus Douglas is one of the many outstanding young individuals who have come through DC Stoddert Soccer. 
Born and raised in Washington DC by his parents Kelwin and Gina, his natural talent quickly earned him a spot in DC Stoddert’s Developmental Program at the age of nine. As a member of the DC Stoddert Eagles travel team from U-10 to U-15, he would develop under the tutelage of Coach Sona Walla and become one of the Washington Metropolitan Area’s top youth talents . At 16 he was invited to join the highly-regarded D.C. United Academy where he played for two years in the prestigious US Soccer Academy League that gathers the top U-16 through U-18 players in the country. With a number of options beckoning, he decided to attend University of Virginia and in his freshman year has had the tremendous experience of being a member of the team that recently won the 2009 NCAA Division 1 men’s title--upsetting Akron in a 3-2 PK shootout after 110 scoreless minutes.
DC Stoddert Boy’s Technical Director Sona Walla caught up with Marcus in January to chat about school, soccer and life in general.
*Marcus, Happy New Year, how are you?
Great, it’s feels good to be home.
* You are mid-way through your freshman year in college, how does it feel?
 Wow, it’s been really busy. Academically, I have been adjusting to the bigger workload and more rigorous requirements of college. In soccer, I have been getting to know my coaches, my teammates and learning a new system of play.
* Why did you choose the University of Virginia (UVA) and how did that unfold?
 UVA identified me during one of my matches with the U-18 DC United Academy team the summer of my junior year in high school. Assistant coach Mike McGinty approached me and we chatted a bit. I already knew they had a great program but I decided to research a bit more. When I visited the campus, I instantly fell in love with the school.
* What do you like most about college life and what are the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make?
 Let’s see, how do I put this (smiles) – Not being on parental watch 24/7 is great, but it does comes with responsibility because you are in charge of yourself. In college I have had to adjust to staying up late sometimes till 2:00am just to study and still get up early in the morning to attend classes.
* What do you miss the most from high school life?
 Oooh, the studies were much easier in high school and I had a lot more time on my hands. I also miss those occasional easy soccer games where I could get away with relaxing and not having to go 100% all match. I have not seen any of those in college.
* You grew up playing travel soccer at DC Stoddert, joined the DC United Academy at U-16 http://www.stoddert.com/home/206068.html and are now part of the University of Virginia team that has just clinched the 2009 NCAA title - why have you stayed with the game and how have you managed to find success at the various levels?
 My Mom took me to play soccer when I was young because she said I had “too much energy” and was tearing down the house. I liked to run and instantly loved soccer. I was a good athlete and joined the DC Stoddert Developmental program at nine where coaches stressed to me that if I developed my technical skills I would enjoy the game even more. I have continued to work very hard at training and I also watch a lot of soccer. I watch professional players, my teammates and really anybody because I am always looking to learn something new that I can integrate into my game. I have a long way to go and cannot speak of success. Working hard to improve my skills and never giving up like Mom and Dad always said is why I am here today.
* What did you learn from your DC Stoddert experience and how has it helped you?
 Technique, technique, technique! DC Stoddert gave me the technical base that has helped me cope at all the various levels of the game I have played. From a very young age, the Stoddert coaches always stressed – “Better technique, dominate the ball, improve your relationship with the ball, solve problems with skill and intelligence”. I learned over time that a strong technical base is critical because it buys you time on the ball and offers you options. At Division 1 college level you get no time on the ball.
* What about your DC United Academy experience?
The DC United Academy was a step up from travel soccer because I was mixing with the best players from the Washington Metropolitan Area which is rich in soccer talent. The Metro Area is awesome, you meet kids from everywhere in the world. Playing in the US Soccer Academy League with DC United against the best kids in the country was fantastic. The big difference was the “speed of play” which I was able to adjust to because of my technique and speed. It really prepared me for college where the speed of play is even quicker with bigger, older guys.
* Talk about your freshman year at University of Virginia which has culminated in the NCAA Division 1 men’s title? http://voices.washingtonpost.com/soccerinsider/2009/12/virginia_wins_ncaa_title.html
Oh man, what a ride! From the very start I felt we had a good team, but it really dawned on me after our first victory over University of Portland. After that things just started to click. As a freshman, I watched and learned a lot from the older players who really nurtured us. Young players have to learn the system of play of the team and what the coaches expect. We have great team spirit at UVA and our NCAA Division 1 title basically comes down to solid teamwork.
* I am sure it has not always been smooth sailing, what have been some of your challenges?
 I have never been the biggest, strongest guy and at every level I have played I have had to learn how to cope with the physical side of the game. I have always been a hard-nosed player and that along with my combination of skill and speed have been the key.
 Another challenge has been learning to fight through slumps. You just have to believe in yourself and keep giving 100% at training. Even the best players in the world have slumps.
 *You have always been a strong student, how have you managed to balance studies and the demands of soccer?
 UVA is very serious about staying on top of its student athletes. Mandatory study halls, tutors, checking class attendance… They are pretty strict about that. I do my part, no problems.
 * Have you decided on a major yet?
* Who are the people or role models that have influenced you?
My parents, they taught me never to quit.
* What are your other interests?
 To tell you the truth, between school and soccer I have no time left these days. My roommate and I play video games when we have down time.
* Your favorite food?
 In college you will learn that pizza is your favorite food.
* What are you listening to these days in your IPod?
 Our UVA team has a lot of different personalities from various backgrounds. Our team song is “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. DO NOT ask me why but it gets the guys pumped.
* Is there a country you would like to visit?
 I have been to Germany, England and Spain all through soccer. I REALLY would like to visit Brazil to experience their way of life and their absolute soccer culture.
* It is a World Cup year, what are your thoughts on the USA’s draw and its chances at South Africa 2010?
 Good draw. We need to get at least a tie against England and not underestimate Algeria and Slovenia.
* Who is your favorite American soccer player?
 Clint Dempsey of Fulham.
* Your favorite non-American soccer player?
 Robinho of Brazil, Thierry Henry of France and Iniesta of Spain influence me the most. I watch them because my characteristics as a player are similar to theirs.
* What is your biggest strength?
 My combination of technique and speed and learning what I must do to improve myself.
* The trait or characteristic you need to work the most on?
 On the soccer field, I continue to work on improving my decision-making. In top level travel soccer the game was quick, in the Academy League it got quicker and at Div.1 college level where players are bigger and older I must decide what I want to do before I receive the ball.
Off the field, I continue to work on staying focused and not procrastinating.
* Any words of wisdom you would like to pass on to younger players?
 Yes! “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard”. And that is for real.

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