The players at the U13-U14 age groups, in both the Regional Competitive Program and the ECNL Program, showed significant progress and growth during the fall season - and had a lot of fun in the process! The U13 and U14 ECNL teams took positive steps in the most competitive girls league in the country, and the U13/14 Regional Competitive Program showed huge progress in style of play, finding success even playing up a year in most events.
The future looks bright for the U13 ECNL team after a strong fall campaign in the ECNL Midwest Conference. With a hard-earned record of 2-4-4 so far, the players look at right at home competing against the best in the Midwest. In the four 0-0 ties this fall, the U13s had dominant possession that will soon begin to show in chances and goals. Overall, fatigue was the biggest opponent for the young players in the fall, as double-header ECNL weekends tested their ability to sustain high energy pressing, possession, and concentration - a challenge that will keep increasing every year!
More important than the results, it was the style of the performances that were most impressive, with new and returning players clicking almost immediately to develop a high tempo, possession-based style of play. The 2006 age group have a strong foundation on which to build, individually and collectively – and learn and grow they will indeed need to do as the ECNL gets tougher every year. Increased combativeness, the ability to play longer passes when pressed, and the understanding of how to combine to get behind the opposition defense will be areas of focus for the players in the winter and spring.
After a difficult introduction to the ECNL last year, the U14 ECNL team took significant strides this fall to become a respected team within the league. Lessons learned last year about toughness and competitiveness served the group well, as their ability to not only defend against the best teams in the Midwest conference, but also to sustain moments of possession and build attacks, grew greatly.
Similar to the younger age group, the U14s will look back on one or two games disappointed not to get more than a tie, but there should be a growing feeling and confident that they can compete and win in the ECNL. More progress is still needed in a number of areas, including defending in and around the box, and reading pressure in order to play successfully out of the back, and these areas will be addressed in the coming months. Overall, the team is starting to build an identity on playing forward quickly, and being able to press their opponents higher up the field.
The U13-U14 Regional Competitive Team spent most of the fall season competing in events at the U15 level – a challenge that they showed they were more than up for. With the exception of a few games where they were physically outmatched, the team showed great commitment to the club’s style of play, were able to possess the ball for long periods of each game, and earned several good results.
As they learned a few times, however, possession does not always lead to scoring goals, which was a challenge throughout the fall season. This challenge will be exciting to address in training over the coming months, with focus in how to play more effectively from midfield into the forwards, how to get behind the defensive line more consistently, and becoming more physically combative in tight spaces. A number of players have shown significant progress in their understanding and execution, and the future looks bright for the program!
Thank you to everyone in the U13-U14 age groups for their work and commitment to improve this fall!