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What was the tryout process like to make the USYF National Team? What kind of preparation did you do on your own for the tournament?
EMMA: In February of 2018 I attended the Virginia State USYF ID Trial at Randolph Macon College in Richmond. After that I was informed I made it to the National ID Trial that was to take place in late June 2018. Over 500 players from across the country showed up to compete for a select number of positions. Two long days from early morning to late at night we trained and competed. One month later I was informed I was selected as one of two goalkeepers to be offered a spot on the United States Youth Futsal National Team.
After my selection and acceptance I increased my focus in futsal. I asked for additional training from ASA and supplemented that with private sessions with my goalkeeper trainer Predrag Radivojevic. Coach Peja met with me in the evenings to train one on one and introduced me to some unique training concepts to keep me sharp and increase my skills.
DREW: After being selected during the local and regional tryouts I was evaluated at the national ID day in Kansas City along with 200+ other boys, including 15 other goalkeepers. There were over 20 coaches from all over the US evaluating players. During the 3-day trip I took part in 4–5 sessions each day to showcase my skills in a mixture of drills and games. Ultimately, 10 field players and 2 goalkeepers were selected for the national team.
In preparation for all of the tryouts and for the international trip, I worked with Coach Peja R. who helped me sharpen my game. We worked once or twice a week for roughly a couple months in advance of tryouts where he had me work on drills and activities that would help me have the best shot at making the team. Once I was selected for the national team Coach Peja and I again put in extra time leading up to the trip to make sure I was performing at a high level and ready for the international competition. Working with him allowed me not only to advance my skills but made sure I was the most prepared and hardest working goalie in the nation and I was ready to represent my country.
Describe one of your favorite things about the international tournament experience.
EMMA: I made friends on this trip that I plan to stay in touch with and hopefully play alongside many more times. The single best experience was playing and beating in the same day, the top two teams in Portugal, Benfica and Sporting Club Portugal. These are professional clubs that are reigning champions in Portugal. I’ll never forget that day.
DREW: The part that I loved most about this trip was the whole playing atmosphere. I loved everything about it—the bus rides to the games, the professional facilities, the fans, and the opportunity to play against some of the best teams in Europe. In total, we played 4 games and had 2 training sessions. I didn’t really have a full appreciation for how much futsal and soccer are valued in foreign countries until this trip when I experienced it directly. Fans of these clubs were from all over the community — they weren’t just parents. They cheered loudly and they sang, and they were incredibly passionate about the game and about their clubs. I have a few fan stories I can share, ask me in person!
The facilities were also amazing. They play on a bigger court, which opens the game up a bit more, and they have facilities dedicated to the sport. It’s hard to describe Sporting Club Portugal’s home facility it was so awesome. It was like playing in a smaller version of Capital One Arena. The quality of play was incredible. Very fast and very physical. The pre and post-game experience was really cool too, from the anthems, to the handshakes and exchanges of flags, to the combined team photos after the game.
Did you learn anything from this experience that you’re going to apply to your training or playing now that you’re back home?
EMMA: The coaches had me work on communication with my teammates. Controlling the flow of the game as the goalkeeper was a key focus for me. Also, a lot of emphasis was put on using me as a 5th attacker so I needed to learn that from a tactical perspective.
DREW: First, there’s some incredible soccer and futsal out there. A lot of hard work will be needed in the future in order to compete at the highest levels. Second, the national team opportunity has taught me new ways to play the game. The national team has a different playing style than I’ve ever played with. We played man-to-man defense and on offense, we ran either a 1–2–1, a 3–1, or a 4–0. On offense, the team ran many different pass and move plays and dead ball plays. The plays are designed to draw defensive players out of position to create an easy opportunity for a shot at goal. I hope I can bring some of these concepts back to ASA to help my team perform at a high level and win a national championship.
Finally — what is one thing you loved about your trip that didn’t involve the tournament itself?
EMMA: I loved the country of Portugal. It is a beautiful country with coast line that stretches forever and rocky seaside cliffs everywhere. The people are very passionate about football and futsal. Ask any local and they will tell you proudly that they are fans of Benfica or Porto or Sporting or any of the many other teams that play there.
DREW: Two things really — meeting new people and seeing new unique places. When we weren’t playing, we were either off with our team or family, touring around Portugal or at the hotel with the team eating, playing ping pong, hitting the pool or just hanging out. I made a lot of new friends, including the three guys I bunked with. Portugal is an amazing country and I loved the touristy part of the trip too. European cities are so much older and different than US cities which I enjoyed a lot. We got to see castles and buildings that were hundreds of years older than the US and we even visited the westernmost point of Europe, which was pretty cool. I will remember this trip forever.
Thanks Emma and Drew! What an incredible trip. We’re proud of you both and love that you’re representing ASA around the globe. Big shoutout to Coach Peja R. for his hard work and dedication in prepping these two for tryouts and competition. We’re looking forward to the upcoming local futsal season and watching Emma and Drew in the years to come.