The academy’s U-13s are off to a great start since beginning the MLS NEXT Competition in April. The boys are currently undefeated (6-0) and will take on the San Francisco Glens on Saturday, May 15.
SJEarthquakes.com: What are some challenges you have faced this past month?
Erin Ridley (ER): “Some of the challenges are just that the season is short and we’ve been kind of waiting a long time to get started. It feels like it’s almost done. We’re currently (6-0) and we have five games left of the MLS NEXT Competition. To keep the guys hungry, we’ve been supplementing with scrimmages and exhibitions playing against the U-14 team which has been a really good benchmark for us to measure ourselves against.”
SJEQ: How did the boys look at the beginning of the season compared to now?
(ER): “In the past five weeks every player has shown individual improvement. Every player has shown a better interpretation of the game model. Every player has shown that they are able to associate within different positions and press our style of play really well. I’m really happy with it.”
SJEQ: How is the group dynamic since they began?
(ER): “It’s evolved. They all kind of came from a different place coming out from the pandemic and they found a way to gel. What I love most is that they still have their clear personality on the field and they brought that to the group in a way that only enhances the people around them. It is really clear that each player is bought in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. They’re making each other better by doing that. By bringing their own personality to that vision and so it’s been a lot of fun to see. Every game we just get better and better as a group.”
SJEQ: Is the concept of “familia” also applied to the academy?
(ER): “Very much so and that’s something we try to instill is that it is a family. That we’re here not only to make them better soccer players, but more importantly to help them grow to be better people and that’s the whole point. That means giving your best effort, showing up for each other, that they’re working tirelessly to give everything they can and that they are respectful and invested in each other.”
SJEQ: Is working with the team what you expected? Did you feel like you had to whip the boys back in shape because of Covid-19?
(ER): “Covid presented challenges. I think we had to be really aware that players had different resources that they were able to access when they were off. We were really intentional when we restarted. We didn’t rush back in restarting and if you remember back when we did restart our first week actually got interrupted by wildfires.”
“It wasn’t like we came hurtling back in July and then had to readjust and everything. We had a really intentional build up to our restart once we kind of knew what our county regulations were going to look like.”
“There wasn’t a lot of fear that they would be out of shape, we knew we had time. We’re really happy that we had a season and we’re really grateful that MLS NEXT did everything they could to make sure we did have one. I think it really honors what the boys put into it. It’s probably been one of the hardest years anybody's ever been through and they’ve earned everything they’ve put into it.”