The Riverhounds Academy made a decision in late 2011. Throughout the 2012 Academy year, defined as November 2011 through October 2012, a commitment to the best would be made, in all aspects of program development. As the end of the summer session is put in the books, it is clear that the Hounds have stayed on track.
Travelling to the nation’s capital this past weekend, the RDA 12/13 boys were set to face off against one of the top US Development Academy programs in the country, in DC United. United, who has seen great successes thus far in the short history of competitions within the USDA program, represents a major market for soccer players in the Maryland / Virginia area. Drawing from a massive player pool within an ethnically-diverse region, DC United attracts top talent in waves through a highly organized and well-run Academy program under their MLS team.
Sunday morning’s matchup began in a very mature fashion, considering the age of the boys on the field. With tremendous comfort, the Riverhounds players consistently built up attacks that started within their own penalty area, connecting passes and swinging the ball from side to side. DC would put heavy pressure on the Hounds midfield throughout the early going, and showed great class through some impressive individual efforts against the Riverhounds backline.
Despite chances for each side, DC United would open the scoring books by way of a defensive miscue by the Hounds back line. Jumping on a ball that made its way through the defensive unit, the United striker calmly tucked the ball into the back of the net, evading GK JD Dunn with crafty footwork.
The Hounds would then learn a very valuable lesson: once you drop your head against well-trained teams, you will pay. Disappointed from conceding an avoidable goal after some brilliant possession, the Riverhounds would quickly give up another goal from a lack of poise and patience, ending the half down 0-2.
The Riverhounds coaching staff spent the 10 minutes of halftime helping the boys understand the expectations of a ’professional’ player. Despite their young age, it became obvious that the RDA boys got the message. Unleashing a passionate attacking style in the second half, the Riverhounds jumped all over United throughout the opening 20 minutes of the stanza. Only allowing United to clear their half on a few occasions, the Riverhounds kept possession in the attacking third of the field and opened up numerous goal-scoring opportunities.
"We had a stretch where we could have easily tucked away four or five goals, but instead only walked away with two," commented RDA coach, Jason Kutney following the match. "But this was not about goals, for us, it was about young boys learning to become men in the soccer sense, and that process is now underway thanks to this game."
The Riverhounds, who travelled with 19 field players in addition to Dunn in the net, looked at a variety of playing styles during the friendly and were able to assess players in varying positions. The game would serve as an excellent opportunity to assess the RDA players against some of the best young players in the country. "These opportunities don’t come along very often and for periods of the game we controlled the play against one of the nations top MLS Clubs. It was important for the RDA boys to learn that technical and tactical mistakes are punished to the fullest when playing against top caliber oppostion," commented Academy Director Scott Gibson.
DC United would trade goals with the Riverhounds in the second half before pulling away in the final minutes, with a set of brilliant attacks against a very outsized RDA team. The Hounds offered DC true competition throughout many parts of the match, dominating portions in possession, led by standout performances from Rex Heuler, Danny Irwin, Evan Carrington, Ryan Mertz, Dominic Galietta, and Max Silberg. Silberg, who recorded both goals for the Hounds, was the Man of the Match, proving unstoppable for DC throughout many stretches of the game and consistently thrwarting the DC attack in the first half through strong challenges.
Taking notice of the performance was current DC United Pro Assistant Coach and ex-Dutch National Team player and Ajax star, Sonny Silooy, who spoke with the Riverhounds staff following the match. Silooy, who has taken a top role within the entire DCU model, was pleasantly surprised by the RDA’s commitment to playing "the right way" against their up and coming stars.
Offering strong technical performances against DC United and Philadelphia Union this summer with the RDA u12/13 and u15/16, respectively, the Riverhounds also saw success on the girls side in early August. With dominant performances in both the semi-final and championship rounds at the West Chester Summer Classic, the RDA u15 girls added to the RDA hardware, joining the u15/16 boys who won the Richmond Kickers Ultimate Cup earlier this year. Both the 12/13 and 14/15 RDA girls were unfortunate not to have a chance at the Triangle Friendlies championships in January, in North Carolina, after both teams dominated their groups and advanced to the semi finals only to see the tournament cancelled due to weather. In all RDA matches this past year, including all age groups, the Riverhounds would only fall three times total, to Philadelphia Union, DC United, and Richmond Kickers - all top level professional clubs.
As Kutney reinforced, much moreso than winning, these events lead directly to opportunities for the players and the Club.
"Our results and successes on some big stages certainly show that we’re doing something right," said Kutney. "It is the way we’re gaining these results and successes, though, that will make the mark."