Quakes Academy sees birth of U-14 squad for 2013-2014 season

Team coached by former Quakes player & current Academy Technical Director Chris Leitch

The 2013-14 Quakes Academy season will see the birth of a new team, an U14 squad that will feature players with birthdates between 1999-2001 and will be competing as a part of the United States Soccer Development Academy league.

And the search for a coach didn’t take the Academy brass too far from home, as they already had the right man for the job in house. Former Quakes player and current Academy Technical Director Chris Leitch will be the leader of the new team, and he couldn’t be a better fit.

Leitch, a Pickerington, OH native, played 10 seasons in the MLS following a highly successful collegiate career at the University of North Carolina. While at UNC, he set school records for games played and games started while playing a major role on the 2001 National Championship team. He was selected in the 4th round of the MLS Superdraft by his “hometown” team, the Columbus Crew. Leitch had two stints with the Crew as well as years with the MetroStars and New York Red Bulls before a 2009 trade brought him to the Bay Area, where he played 3 seasons with the Quakes before retiring.

Leitch has spent the last couple years as an integral part of the Academy’s success, and looks forward to being an even bigger part of the future. Enthusiasm and know-how alone will not get the job done, and Leitch understands the nature of the challenge ahead, saying, “I think the biggest thing is going to be getting everybody on the same page. This will be the first time most of these young men have played together, so cohesion will be a huge key to our success.”

Cohesion however, will not be a problem for the coaching staff, as Leitch’s top assistant will be local youth soccer guru and longtime coach Jeff Jenkins. Jenkins has been with the Quakes since 2010, having formerly coached at both Santa Clara Sporting Club and Juventus SC. Jenkins has cut his teeth as a top youth soccer talent evaluator and much decorated coach for the Olympic Development Program and California Youth Soccer Association. He also holds a United States Soccer Federation National “A” coaching license and National Soccer Coaches Association of America “Advanced National Diploma“. “Jeff will be an incredibly valuable asset to the team and academy, his involvement in the local youth soccer scene will provide us with reliable and knowledgeable insight,” explained Leitch.

Jenkins is also looking forward to continued work with Leitch. “This was all about timing and opportunity,” he said. “I’ve known Chris and Fred (Wilson) for a long time, and through a lot of hard work, our professional relationships have grown. Chris will be a great fit and has a ton of experience; his eagerness and willingness to learn will be his biggest assets.”

Both Jenkins and Leitch have been a part of the Academy picture since its inception in 2010 and look forward to molding a new crop of young and talented players into a team. One of the advantages they will have is a highly skilled core group of young men from a local powerhouse that will continue to grow together. The Tecos Hayward Soccer Club is widely regarded as one of the top youth clubs in the nation, and the Quakes will benefit from a handful of transfers, including Ivan Valencia and Daniel Sanchez.

The roster itself is set, for the most part. There will be a couple of transfer windows throughout the season where the team will be able to add some players. The squad boasts some extremely talented and decorated footballers.

Valencia is described as being a magician with the ball and having a great attitude. Edwin Lara, a Tecos teammate of Valencia, will begin the campaign on the U14 roster but will undoubtedly see time on the 16s as well. Lara played as a member of the U14 National Team and also recently traveled with the U17 National Team. There will also be some younger brothers of current Quakes Academy players on this team - Daniel Hausen, brother of 16s standout Phillip, and Lara, whose two older brothers, Juan, is also on the U16 squad.

A real wildcard for the squad will be Kaya Fabbretti, a forward from Arcata, CA, who is still in the process of relocating with his family to the Bay Area. Fabbretti is an extremely skilled forward with a knack for goal-scoring, and his presence on the pitch could be a huge confidence boost for this team. Sanchez, of Hayward, and Amado Lozano of Oakland both look to be key cogs in the Quakes’ machine for years to come as well.

Leitch will draw on his years of playing experience and top flight coaching to show them the way. “I think my knowledge of the game will be a key; you have to have some credibility in order to pass it along,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to play for some of the best coaches in the world and will definitely fall back on some of the things they taught me.” The list Leitch refers to includes former National team front men Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley, as well as Juan Carlos Osorio of Colombia and former Quakes head coach Frank Yallop.

The season will begin Saturday Sept. 7 with a 3 p.m. match against Ballistic United Soccer Club at Val Vista in Pleasanton. Currently, the Northwest Division includes 12 clubs, some of them new to the Academy scene and some familiar faces as well. Rivals De Anza Force, Santa Cruz Breakers and San Juan SC have been joined by some new blood, including Juventus SC, Diablo FC and Placer United. 

- Richter Media