RDS 2004's Generation Adidas Cup Dallas, tx

On Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016, an excitable group of twelve highly talented young soccer players departed Newark, NJ, heading to Dallas, Texas, where they would be representing the New York Red Bulls in the 2016 Generation Adidas Cup. The group of players, all of whom are members of the Red Bulls Regional Development School (RDS) had been selected for the event after a four week tryout process, all of them earning the chance to test themselves against the top 2004 birth year players in the nation, and indeed beyond. The group would be spending the next four days competing against sides from the MLS, as well as teams from Spain and Mexico, with Red Bulls U12 academy coach Kobie Johnson also in attendance to run his eye over the next batch of academy hopefuls.

In its’ second year at the U12 age group, the GA Cup grew to 16 teams, spanning four different countries, giving players the opportunity to compete against some of the top players in their age group. The Toyota Soccer Center in Dallas, TX, again hosted the event, providing top class facilities and a truly professional environment for each young player.

Preparation time for the tournament had been in short supply for the RDS squad, with the roster finalized only a month before the tournament kick off. In that time the players got together on four occasions to practice, including a scrimmage against last year’s RDS 2003 GA Cup team. As well as competing against last year’s team, the current RDS representatives also had the opportunity to speak with these experienced players, asking them questions about what to expect from the trip. In additional warm-up events, the boys had the opportunity to be ball boys at a Red Bulls home game, seeing RBNY come from behind to beat Houston 4-3 at Red Bull Arena, as well as representing Red Bull Training Programs in a practical demonstration at the inaugural youth summit. , Both events allowed the players to spend some much needed time getting to know each other and bonding as a team.

After a smooth flight to Texas, the team touched down in Dallas and headed straight for their hotel. Once checked in, the boys went immediately to their first field session to get their legs moving and ensure that they were ready to go the next morning, with Villarreal awaiting in game one.

Game 1: NYRB RDS 1 – Villarreal 4

A daunting start to the tournament for the RDS boys as they faced Spanish giants Villarreal in their opening game of the competition. Far from ideal soccer conditions greeted both teams, with a strong wind gusting across the field. The game did not start well for the Red Bulls, conceding within the first minute of the match, with nerves obviously effecting the team from New York. The one goal deficit quickly became two as the Spanish side showed their quality early on. The Red Bulls settled into the game well though, with Athan Ladas coming off the bench and showing great composure on the ball to help the Red Bulls build out from the back and begin to combine, and Kevin Terhune keeping the score at two with a couple of fine diving saves. A strong end to the half was dampened by a late goal for Villarreal with the half time score reading 3-0.

The Red Bulls came out with great vigor for the second of the fifteen minute halves though and pulled a goal back through Simon Adjakple after good work by captain Michael Olivieri. The gap was almost closed further as Phil Koutsaftis cut in from the left wing, beating two players before seeing his right footed shot fly inches wide of the far post. The Red Bulls continued to look dangerous with Jacob Lee pulling the strings in the midfield and Simon a constant threat down the wing. As the Red Bulls pushed for a second goal however, they were caught on the counter attack, with Villarreal striking a late goal to make the final score 4-1. Far from being dejected though, the team had played some very good soccer against a quality side, and had it not have been for such a slow start to the game, it could have been a very different encounter.

Game 2: NYRB RDS 2 – Houston 4

After the first of many, many bananas of the week, as well as a granola bar and some water, the boys were back in action for their second game of the day. They took heed of the lessons they had learned from game one, this time flying out of the blocks at the opening whistle. Just minutes into the game, Mikey Olivieri notched his first goal of the tournament as he fired in a right footed free kick into the bottom corner of the net. The lead was short lived however as Houston struck back to tie., Olivieri scored his second of the day to restore Red Bulls’ lead - again direct from a set piece - this time curling the ball around the wall and into the side netting at the back post with a perfectly placed shot. The game itself was not a thing of beauty, as both teams battled and fought hard in the blustery conditions, but struggled to get the ball down on the perfectly manicured grass and combine effectively. It was the Dynamo who were to have the edge though, finally running out 4-2 victors as the Red Bulls ended day one with two defeats.

After heading back to the hotel to debrief the first day, the team endured a regeneration session in the frigid hotel pool. It is fair to say that some of the boys dealt better with the cold temperatures for the ten minute session than others did.

It was then back to the field for the boys so that they could cheer on the New York Red Bulls U16 academy team as they competed in the U17 bracket of the GA Cup. Despite their two defeats earlier in the day spirits were high, as the RDS team sang and cheered as they watched the U16’s battle back from a goal behind to tie 1-1 with Valencia. The tie meant the game would result in penalty kicks to decide the winner, and the RDS boys did their best to distract each Valencia taker. To good effect too, as the Spanish team missed each of their first three kicks to see the Red Bulls come away with a 3-0 win from the spot.

Dinner that night was followed by a video analysis session as the RDS coaches took the boys through some footage from the Houston game, highlighting some aspects of the game that the boys needed to work on ahead of day two, as well as showcasing some of the best moments from day one’s play.

Game 3: NYRB RDS 2 - FC Dallas 0

An early start on day two saw the Red Bulls team square off against the host side, FC Dallas. Perfect soccer conditions greeted both teams, with the sun shining and only a slight breeze blowing. From the offset the Red Bulls looked far more confident and comfortable than they had on day one, moving the ball well and dominating possession. They didn’t have to wait long to take the lead in the game either, with Mikey Olivieri and Simon Adjakple continuing their goal scoring form from day one, bagging a goal apiece. At the other end Oscar Bowring was fantastic at the back alongside Athan Ladas, with goalkeeper’s Owen Moore and Kevin Terhune both making fine saves to oversee a first shut out of the competition. Another fine performance came from Jacob Lenhard, stepping off the bench to drive the Red Bulls forward from the middle of the park with his trademark work rate and determination. Perhaps the brightest moment of the tournament thus far came in the second half, with a passing move involving Oscar Bowring, Brian Babovic and Nico Beninda resulting in Simon Adjakple setting up Athan Ladas, only to see his first time strike fly wide. A job well done though, and the first three points on the board for the RDS team.

Game 4: NYRB RDS 3 - Portland 1

Buoyed by their success in the first game of the day, the Red Bulls took to the field for game two brimming with confidence and looked the better team from the offset. Two goals from Simon Adjakple, the first a wonderful strike on his left foot after having turned his defender following a good ball sent into his feet by Ethan Choi, and another from Mikey Olivieri were enough to dispatch of a hard working Portland side. Brian Babovic and Jake Lee also came close as the Red Bulls created several good goal scoring chances, only to see the Portland Goalkeeper make some excellent saves. It was a game that the players clearly enjoyed, with the U16 squad returning the gesture from the day before and coming out to cheer on their younger counterparts.

The RDS team spent the afternoon recovering from their morning exertions, including another regeneration session in the pool, before unwinding at a players lounge event organized by Adidas, where the boys played table tennis, table football and FIFA.

The highlight of the event was a chance to listen to Real Madrid and Spain legend Raul speak and ask him questions about his career. From there the boys enjoyed another fabulous dinner at the local steak house before spending the evening going over some video footage from day two, as they reflected on what they had done so well earlier that day and prepared for the challenges that lie ahead of them the next morning.

Game 5: NYRB RDS 0 - Orlando 2

Saturday morning saw the RDS team face fellow east coast side Orlando City. The Red Bulls started the game with a relentless press, creating numerous great chances and dominating possession and territory. Nico Beninda looked sharp in the midfield and was at the heart of many of the Red Bulls best attacking moments. Orlando City struck first tough, against the run of play to see the RDS come in at one goal behind at the break. The second period continued in the same vain as the first, but the Red Bulls could not get the best of an Orlando goalkeeper in inspired form, and eventually fell two goals behind., Orlando’s Braedon Seymour (an RDS summer camper himself) put his side two goals ahead, clearly enjoying striking against his peers. Brian Babovic came mightily close to scoring a twenty-five yard screamer that whistled just wide of the post, but try as they might, the Red Bulls could not haul themselves back into the game, and were left bitterly disappointed in the result.

Game 6: NYRB RDS 0 - Atlanta 3

The loss against Orlando meant that the RDS would face Atlanta in their final game of the competition. Again the Red Bulls played some great soccer at times, building well from the back through Oscar Bowring and Ethan Choi and combining to good effect through midfield. Sadly though they were not able to take the chances that they had created, and saw Atlanta strike twice before the break, furthering their lead in the second half as the Red Bulls failed to defend a free kick well enough. A disappointing end to the week on the field, with the view in the camp that the results today had not reflected the team’s performances, and indeed gaining many plaudits from opposition coaches and onlookers alike.

The final day of the competition ended with the Red Bulls watching Villareal against Chivas Guadalajara in the final of the U12 competition, before watching the U16’s close out their week against the U17 Mexican National team. This game ending in another 1-1 tie, with the Red Bulls this time on the end of a loss in the resulting penalty shoot-out.

Saturday evening saw the RDS team head to the local bowling lanes. Some interesting techniques were on show throughout the night, with Owen Moore, Oscar Bowring, Ethan Choi, and Phil Koutsaftis all putting in impressive performances. None however could top Coach Zach as he was crowned RDS bowling champion for 2016. Nico Beninda did however have one last impressive performance inside of him, as he set a new all-time record on the ”Crossy Road” game as the boys enjoyed some time exploring the arcades before heading back to the hotel. A final team meeting rounded off the trip, giving the team a chance to reflect on what they encountered this week, and how it may benefit them moving forward. The boys then headed off to bed to set their alarms in time for the 5am departure that awaited them the next morning.

The following day saw the team return to Newark, NJ where the players were greeted by family and friends, where they no doubt spent the rest of the day telling anyone who would listen about their new found experiences. This trip may well have served as one of the most important aspects of each player’s development to date, opening their eyes to the depth of talent that is out there, and providing them with the inspiration to improve as individuals in order to once again get the opportunity to play at such a high level and in such a prestigious and professional event.

Each and every player was a credit to themselves, their families, the RDS program and the New York Red Bulls as a whole, with both their performances on the field and their behavior off it drawing praise from all whom they came in contact with throughout the trip.

Created By
The RDS Team

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