Eastern Pennsylvania's Olympic Development Program teams traveled to New Jersey last weekend for their first competitive matches of the 2023-2024 season at the ODP New Jersey Friendlies.
Boys teams played at Jackson Justice Complex in Jackson and Maria Gatta Community Park in Oceanport on Saturday while girls teams played at both locations on Sunday.
“It’s our first outing, scrimmage-style, against competition,” said Eastern PA Youth Soccer Technical Director Gary Stephenson. “It’s a good chance to get the teams on the field and work on individual team plans of what we need to work on.”
Teams each had a chance to play two games against teams from New Jersey and Eastern New York. “The technical directors talk pretty often and also the administrators talk and develop times we can get together and play,” Stephenson said. “Playing competition is great, you get better playing in competition and being under pressure. These friendlies if you like to call them or scrimmage days are great and vital for the program.”
The U12 Harrisburg boys team was among those playing in Jackson on Saturday.
"I liked getting out here because it was a good experience and we did pretty good even though we’ve only had a few practices so far,” said Tanner Komykoski, a Penn FC Youth player from Palmyra.
“I like competing against some of the best players in the state and just getting to be in a different environment.”
U12 Harrisburg boys coach Matt Anderson said the friendlies were a good chance to test his players in competition and see where they are in their development.
“One thing about ODP versus different environments is there is a really good opportunity to focus on development,” Anderson said. “These are friendlies out here, we’re not trying to get points for a tournament or anything like that. We’re out here just trying to develop players and have them enjoy playing the game and learn something along the way.”
After a sunny and unseasonably warm day on Saturday, the girls on Sunday had to compete with some heavy rain and wind. Despite the downpour the players were in good spirits having gotten a chance to play their first competitive matches.
“It was really fun and it was a good time and a chance to play some really good teams,” said Finley Tripaldi, who plays for Triboro SC, after playing her second game of the day with the U14 North Girls team. “It’s really fun and good to get the ball moving and connect with my teammates.”
Eastern PA will return the favor as hosts of friendlies at In the Net in Palmyra January 20-21.
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