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15 PDP Players Participate in ICC Futures Event

At NorCal Premier Soccer, the goal of the Player Development Program is to move talented players onto the next level and garner exposure for them against international competition.

Part of that goal was accomplished in December as 10 U15 PDP girls and five U14 PDP boys were invited to participate in the the 2019 International Champions Cup Futures Tournament in Bradenton, Florida.

Mixed with a regional West squad, those 15 NorCal players participated in high-quality games against some of the top youth sides in the world.

On the boys side, both PSG and Benfica were among the opponents, while the girls faced off against Atletico Madrid.

While both sides proved their worth, the girls nearly made the final, coming only a penalty kick away from facing Barcelona in a title game.

Meanwhile, the boys proved their own worth, drawing with the New England Revolution.

“It was a world class event, everything from the facilities to the fact that the games were on ESPN,” said girls PDP’s David Robertson, who was on the ICC West Team staff alongside Mustang SC’s Mike Kelley. “All the players and coaches said it was the most professional environment that they’d ever been a part of in the youth environment.”

Added boys PDP and ICC West Coach Ian Mork: “We just need more international competition so anytime we have an opportunity to play against international competition in this country or to go outside and play international teams, that’s just going to benefit our players and help them reach their full potential.”

And for the players involved, most of whom had never faced international competition before, the ICC was an invaluable event to their development.

“The experience was phenomenal, the best experience I’ve ever had,” said Mustang SC’s Layla Armas. “The high-level play there was my favorite part. Playing in the semifinal was an amazing experience.”

“The other teams play a lot different than us, so it was an a really important experience,” she added.

That experienced was mirrored on the boys side.

“I think we could have done better against them, but one thing that did bring us a notch back was the fact that we didn’t play with each other before this ICC event,” Simon Diagana of Spurs FC. “But we were a great team, we knew how to play.”

Each player involved in the event was uniquely prepared for the experience thanks to their time in NorCal’s Player Development Program.

“They made me think more about the game,” Diagana said. “Before going to PDP, I was just like, oh it’s soccer, I can just get the ball and dribble and it’s fun, but PDP taught me that there’s more to soccer than just getting the ball and scoring. They taught me the game tactically. They also improved a bunch of the technical aspects of my game.”

“100 percent, PDP has definitely helped me,” said Armas said. “I’ve created really strong friendships with the players in PDP and they’ve helped me. The coaching staff is amazing there and I’ve learned so much from them.”

Girls Roster: Layla Armas (Mustang SC), Izzy Cuellar (Davis Legacy), Jadyn Holdenried (Santa Rosa United), Imogen Jenkyn (Marin FC), Joelle Jung (MVLA), Charlotte Kohler (MVLA), Mia McSweeney (San Juan SC), Jacqueline Peacock (Pleasanton Rage), Lauren Sphabmixay (California Cougars), Elizabeth Vranesh (Mustang SC)

Boys Roster: Danny Cortes (FC Sporting), Joaquin d’Escoto (Academica Jrs.), Simon Diagana (Spurs FC), Alvaro Nieves (FC Sporting), Edwin Rodriguez (ELITE Soccer)