On a rainy Saturday afternoon, the San Jose Earthquakes U-15 Girls’ Academy hosted Japan’s JFA Academy Sakai for an international friendly in addition to a tour of Avaya Stadium. The Quakes battled back from a 2-0 deficit and drew JFA 2-2.
The JFA Academy is a group of young Japanese players who live under the same roof to absorb the philosophies of the Japanese Federation. They eat together, study together and play together Monday through Friday and compete for their respective teams on the weekend. This special match was organized by Quakes Academy coach Jovan Yamagishi, who spoke to us after the match.
sjearthquakes.com: How did the friendly with the JFA Academy come to be?
Jovan Yamagishi: “I first started organizing these matches six years ago and now it’s an annual tradition for this JFA Academy Sakai to come over to Northern California. I had an opportunity to bring the JFA to the girls’ academy and I wanted to share this opportunity by having an international match here.”
“As a Japanese person myself, it was an opportunity that I felt was very important. We could bring players of different backgrounds to the same field and share their passion for the game. I was glad I was able to make this happen for the Earthquakes because there is going to be a lot of international matches coming for them so I think it was a good learning opportunity.”
SJEQ: What do you think the girls got out of this experience?
JY: “We actually just talked about that after the match in terms of the level of their organization on defense, the level of their communication, just the whole unity aspect was eye opening for us. That’s something we can take back with us. We can make sure that when we have the ball, we make sharper decisions and change our positions based on where our opponents are.”
SJEQ: Our U-15s are currently ranked no. 1 in the USSDA, how will the team keep this positive momentum?
JY: “Really for us, we don’t really talk about rankings. We really look at our players and how we need to improve so we don’t really think about that. We think about how we can get more prepared for nationals and the playoffs, asking ourselves how we can get these girls more prepared for what comes after they leave us. Again, I hope that this experience today was not just about what happened on the soccer field but about how to carry yourselves on the field, which I felt we learned a lot about those things from the Japanese side today.”