Starting ECNL play at U13 or U14 can be a significant shock to the system for a young Wisconsin player, as the level of play and competitiveness is significantly higher than that which they are usually accustomed to. From a development standpoint, however, the earlier players are exposed this level of play, and the sooner they are in the correct training environment, the better they are able to maximize their potential.
The current FC Wisconsin ECNL U13 & U14 teams are proof of this concept and are showing the benefit that comes from most of the players being with the club from the age of 10 or 11 years old. Both teams have started ECNL play positively, and new players have quickly acclimatized to the expectations and culture within the club.
The U14 team have picked up where they left off last season, and are forging a reputation for high tempo possession and tough individual defending. After taking home the championship at the Rockford Showcase to begin the season, they have played some of the toughest teams in the Midwest Conference of the ECNL. Picking up points against Vardar (MI), and Kansas City followed by strong performances against St. Louis Scott Gallagher show that the players are in a good spot if they continue to work and develop.
The U14s ability to keep the ball, and circulate it quickly, needs now to be complimented with more clinical play in the final third in order to turn possession in to points. This will be a challenge for every player, as the closer to goal they get the more constrained time and space becomes.
The optimism was high for the U13 team this year but they have exceeded expectations in how quickly they have adapted to life in the ECNL. Even as a promising U12 group, the jump from 9v9 to 11v11 can be difficult, not to mention making that jump in the most competitive girl’s league in the world. Not overawed, the U13s have followed a similar path to U14s - transferring their possession based play in to the ECNL and showing that they can compete. Three strong performances against Vardar, Kansas City, and SLSG-Illinois, and a humbling defeat to ECNL powerhouse SLSG-Missouri, show this fact and give a target to shoot for moving forward.
“These are very exciting age groups for the club,” said Youth Director of Coaching Andy Lee, “Both of these teams have had games and moments where the quality of their play has been remarkable to watch. Their leadership and decision making on the field is a direct reflection of the way they train. They have also had moments where they’ve seen the highest level of the ECNL, and understand that they need to keep building. Both groups continue to challenge each other in training and are raising the bar for the entire club.”