The Impact U16 will start its 2016-17 USSDA season Saturday against Beachside SC. Head coach Nicolas Gagnon answered some questions on the season and challenges to come.
Are there specific challenges for the U16 category?
One particular thing is that there’s half of the group that will play for the first time in a real championship, the USSDA. The fact that they have an additional pressure to get results and the three points at the end that influences a qualification in the playoffs is completely new. What’s interesting is that this new pressure forces players to find a way to deal with it while playing within our principles. 16 years old is also an age where there are a lot of ups and downs, not only on the field, but in everyday life as well. It’s a period with a lot of changes.
What is the difference when you face an MLS academy and a private academy?
When you play against an MLS academy, the level of play is always interesting. More and more, there’s a unique identity with each of these teams. For example, the Red Bulls use pressing in a way that’s different from how New England presses. It’s not as clear for non-MLS academies, but Oakwood is a really interesting team when they counterattack. We want our players to be able to express themselves inside of our collective principles.
Are there interesting games that you checked on your calendar already?
All the games against MLS academies, particularly against the Red Bulls. New York City is also a new team, so it will be interesting to see how they play. For the academies outside of the MLS, I’m excited to face Oakwood. They finished first last year. It’s an interesting team and they are tough to face. Their identity and style are contrasting with ours so it becomes a confrontation of styles. They have quality in what they do.
We are all excited to start the new season. It will be another good challenge with a new group that is taking shape on and off the field.