It was a big weekend for New York City FC’s academy sides as they took on their Red Bulls counterparts at St John’s University, in Queens.
Sides at the U12, U13, U14, U15, and U17 level faced off on a packed day of soccer, with the young Boys in Blue claiming a number of impressive victories.
“I thought that a key component to the games was the competitive nature,” Matt Pilkington, Performance Phase Lead, said. “There's always something extra with derby games, there’s always added pressure. I think overall, I was pleased with how the players managed the experience, how resilient they were in the games, and how effective they were in delivering the game plan and sticking together.”
All the games were played to a competitive level, with local pride and bragging rights on offer to both sides. While this represented a first taste of such action for some of the club’s academy players, it remained a learning experience for all involved.
“The players have to be able to cope with the pressure,” Pilkington added. “While they're still very young, the ones that can cope with the pressure and deal with the games when there's more at stake, they're the ones that we see typically can then progress when they have opportunities at the next level – with the first team or in preseason. For us, it's a good benchmark of which players can perform under pressure. Ultimately, we need more experiences like this, to continue to develop players with the same identity.”
The event, which was sponsored by BodyArmor, was crowned by a meeting of the respective club’s U17 sides late in the afternoon. The day ended with blue skies and a 3-1 victory for NYCFC, which saw them lift the trophy and left U17 Performance Phase Head Coach José Jiménez pleased with what he saw.
“I think we had to adapt because the Red Bulls impose a very chaotic style of play, which can turn the game into a bit of chaos,” Jiménez, said. “It's very difficult to try to play our style when there's so much space in behind. It's testing to try and play the ball, but we were able to adapt throughout the game and maintain our identity.
“I think as a team, we are good, and nobody doubted that. As our oldest academy age group, there is more expectation as these players are being closely monitored for first team opportunities so there is greater pressure to perform. I think a lot of them are pushing themselves and this type of competition really shows us which players are ready to make the next step into a more physical type of game.”