Both the U17 and U19 teams of the Montreal Impact Academy have topped their group at the US Soccer Development Academy Winter Cup in Bradenton, Florida this past weekend. They have therefore qualified for the Development Academy Cup, which will take place in Kansas City next April.
Of the 80 USSDA clubs, 32 took part in this edition of the Winter Cup. The top eight teams in each category won their ticket for Kansas City. The Impact is one of only two clubs, along with the Philadelphia Union, to send more than one team to Missouri.
Thanks to their noteworthy performances, the teams respectively led by Jason Di Tullio and Philippe Eullaffroy will progress to the next step of this high-level competition.
We talked about these important achievements with Patrick Leduc, administrative director of soccer operations for the Montreal Impact, and Philippe Eullaffroy, director of the Academy and Impact U19 head coach.
What are your highlights for this tournament?
PL : One of the main things I noticed was that our 15- and 16-year-olds put on great performances, even though they do not necessarily have the same physical composition as the older ones. It’s good for us because we’re not afraid to field younger players who can face challenges and meet requirements. Our U19s had a slower start. Throughout the year, we had some injured players in our roster, while some others were competing in the U17 World Cup. They performed well throughout the year, but it was really convincing in Florida.
PE : Both our players and our staff were united, despite some difficult moments. We had a very strong sense of harmony. When this all happens, individualities can emerge. We must continue to maintain this consistency while we’re looking forward to the DA Cup quarterfinals in April. This is a daily task, not just something to do ahead of an important tournament.
What lessons do you want your players to learn from the games played at the Winter Cup?
PE : Our players require maximum physical and mental freshness. Our third game was tough; we lost 3-2 to FC Delco, but we still qualified. We need to be better prepared at the start of an important game, no matter how many games we’ve played before.
What remains to be done before the next tournaments?
PL : The physical challenge for our players is to face faster and stronger players. We'll have to believe in the way we play while we face pressure. Video analysis will help our players react differently in many situations, such as opposing pressure when we have the ball. Pressure management is a formative learning experience for our players who aspire to move up the professional soccer ladder.
PE : Even though we finished first in both groups, we will also have to deal with more difficult moments. Both our players and us, the staff, will have to improve our focus. This is essential in tense situations. If we are stronger in these moments, we are more likely to have a better performance in a game with high stakes.
Both teams will have a few weeks off during the holidays. Then, the U17s and U19s have several exhibition games on their schedule. The U17s will resume competition in February as part of the Generation Adidas Cup.
In the meantime, some players could receive an invitation to join the first team at training camp.
In addition to the DA Cup tournament in April, our young players will be very busy in early 2020!