The U17 Boys Eastern Pennsylvania ODP Team captured their second consecutive Region I Championship in typical emphatic fashion
After winning the US Youth Soccer Region I ODP Championships on Sunday, 5-2, over New York East, the U17 Boys Eastern Pennsylvania ODP team concluded a remarkable run with a remarkable record: The boys went undefeated through three competitions and claimed a national championship, won in March, in the process.
Several factors make their performance impressive, but nothing stands out quite like those goal totals. In the three finals, the U17’s scored 15 times, three in last year’s regional final, seven in the national championship and five on Sunday. While many teams, if not most teams, approach finals with nervousness, waiting for their opponents to make mistakes, this Eastern Pennsylvania outfit pounced on every opportunity.
“Who knows?” said head coach Tom Dodds when asked about his group’s propensity to find the back of the net. “In the semifinals we should’ve had a whole bunch of goals. We buried them in the finals. It was nice to see again. (But I’m) not sure what that’s all about.”
Perhaps luck played a little bit of role, but there’s no denying this: The U17’s possessed talent, confidence and versatility in spades. Dodds noted how much the roster changed from the 7-0 triumph in Phoenix to the 5-2 victory in Kirkwood. Injuries forced the starting 11 to take on a different look.
Bryce Evans, who pulled the strings at the No. 6 position during the national championships, played as a center back Sunday, this after missing the qualifying round through injury. Darryl Longdon took on a more attacking role with Nick Brison, the hat trick hero in the national championship, out with a knee ailment. And Patrick Adams, a center back a year ago, slotted instead into the No. 10 role in 2017. Dodds also mentioned Harrison Malone as an example of his team's ability to adapt, a midfielder with Lower Merion Soccer Club, a starting wing back for the U17’s. No matter who it was, every player filled a role when asked and filled it well.
“These guys can play,” said Dodds. “They all adjusted. That’s why it’s such a good group.
“That was really satisfying to see.”
It’s also the goal of the Olympic Development Program: To take top players and help develop them by exposing them to different coaches, competition and roles within a team. The U17’s have been together for years and established a legacy that will hopefully launch their individual careers going forward.
“A lot of these guys have great potential to play at the next level,” said Dodds. “And I hope to see them play at the next level.”
We’ll have to wait and see how it pans out. Every player has at least one more high school year remaining. And although Dodds wishes they had an opportunity to defend their national title, he acknowledges that this team left a mark that will be tough to match for anybody.
“It was a great run,” he said. “I’ve been coaching a long time. This is a fun group, and it’s fun to work with them. (They’re) quality players and quality individuals.”