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NorCal youngsters dominate id² Training Camp

While the rest of us mere mortals spent early December preparing for the holiday season or studying for finals, a group of NorCal Premier Soccer’s best young athletes converged at US Club Soccer’s id² Training Camp from Dec. 8-11 at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Ariz.

Of the 106 players from the 2002 and 2003 birth years invited to this elite talent-identification camp, 21 hailed from NorCal Premier Soccer and its Player Development Program, nearly one-fifth of every player involved.

“It’s always about the development as players, as is PDP, the top players from PDP can test themselves against the top players around the country,” said NorCal Premier Soccer Vice President Paolo Bonomo. “They do that through training and games in the four days of the camp.”

“It’s a way to prove yourself at the national level, it’s a reward for the better kids,” Bonomo added “If you make the regional team, you want to make the state team. If you make the state  team, you want to go to the national team. If you make the national team, you want to go to the World Cup or the Olympics. There’s always a step up.”

For the players, the camp not only served as an opportunity to test themselves at the highest level through trainings and classroom sessions, but it functioned as a method to catch the eye of the various scouts on hand.

The results of the camp will determine which boys are selected for an international tour in 2017 and which girls are invited to the ECNL/id² National Training Camp in the summer.

But regardless of whether they end up selected or not, NorCal’s players returned home from the camp with valuable lessons learned.

“I think [the camp] helped me progress,” said Sophie Vargas of Santa Rosa United. “It kind of opened my mind and let me see things from different perspectives.”

“A lot of the coaching points were really good,” Vargas added. “There were  a couple of coaches, we rotated coaches throughout training, and you learned something from each coach and they each had their own style. They all gave us feedback, you can ask them questions. They encouraged us to act professionally during camp.”

Of the nine staff coaches running the sessions at id², two came from Northern California including Mustang’s Mike Kelley, who also serves as a PDP coach.

“I’ve noticed from our kids that they all do such a good job because not all of them have been into a camp, but quite a few of them have done, whether it’s a regional playdate or it’s a state pool game and the coaches are letting them know what the next level is going to look like a little bit more often than some of these kids who come from the other parts of the country where they don’t have the same type of program where they can go once a month or play in these PDP playdates, little opportunities bottom line helps prepare the players,” Kelley said.

“Nowhere else in the country do they have a program like PDP where it’s free for the players and they’re getting these opportunities through this program.”

Camp participant Jason Smith of Central Coast Soccer Alliance echoed Kelley’s praise of PDP, explaining how he felt it helped him reach the id² Training Camp in the first place.

“I’d love to go professional, it’s a really big goal that I would like to get to. I feel like the PDP program has helped me get to the next level,” Smith said. “I’m playing with a lot of high-level players.”

“I think it’s really the coaches and the amount of time that they’ve put into investing in our futures, especially with PDP having the monthly program, scouting the best players and making them better free of cost,” Smith added.

According to Kelley, not only did NorCal’s players dominate the camp in terms of sheer numbers, but they stood out among the top of the pool as well.

“There were about 53 girls, and the group gets broken down into kind of a top group and a second group after a few trainings,” Kelley said. “The level of the top 26, 27 players is extremely high. I think eight out of the 11 players from NorCal were in the top group. They obviously equipped themselves very well and competed at a high level. I think two or three of them were in the top eight to ten players there.”

“For us to have 20 percent of the players at the camp says a lot,” Kelley added. “Having the Player Development Program and the way we run training sessions, it just really helps prepare the players to be successful when they go to these camps.”

Or as Vargas said: “It really made me step out of my comfort zone…and grow as a person too.”

The full list of NorCal Premier Soccer players and their clubs appears below:

Girls: Isabella Chavez (Santa Rosa United); Kayleen Gowers (De Anza Force); Stephanie Jung (MVLA); Andrea Kitahata (De Anza Force); Julia Leontini (Mustang Soccer Club); Makenna Lutzker (Davis Legacy); Kellie Pagador (Placer United); Grace Peni (De Anza Force); Michaela Rosenbaum (Santa Rosa United); Emma Schaffer (Placer United); Sophie Vargas (Santa Rosa United); Samantha Wong (Mustang Soccer Club)

Boys: Alexandro Chavez (California Odyssey); Mwinso Denkabe (De Anza Force); Flynn Hayton-Ruffner (Tottenham); Andrew Huerta (Los Banos AC); Michael Ortiz (Leon); Gerado Perez (Napa Soccer Academy); Luis “Angel” Saldana (Napa Soccer Academy); Jason Smith (Central California Soccer Alliance); Angel Tapia (Napa Soccer Academy)