An Austin Bold player converts a penalty kick. Photo by Cameron Koubek
Day 2 of the USL Academy Western Conference Regional Event saw plenty of excitement both on and off the pitch. All eight teams in the Elite Division played their second matches of the tournament, while referees and coaches participated in development workshops.
Before the players took the field, the event’s referees held an on-field training session taught by Dick Triche of Officials Management Group. This educational program, coupled with classroom sessions and game observation and review, are all a part of USL Academy’s commitment to improving the quality of refereeing as an integral part of the game. Each official at the USL Academy Event receives feedback from national and regional referee coaches throughout conference play.
St. Louis earned a narrow win over RGVFC. Photo by Cameron Koubek
The teams sprang into action in the afternoon, with FC Golden State Force facing Austin Bold. Austin got on the board first, but Golden State rallied to earn a 3-1 win and bounce back from their opening defeat. In the other 2 p.m. kickoff, St. Louis maintained its shutout streak — the Missouri side has yet to concede a goal in USL Academy play — on the way to a narrow 1-0 win over the Toros of Rio Grande Valley FC, who applied plenty of pressure throughout the match but couldn’t find a way through.
The two later games combined for nine goals, with San Antonio FC taking on Santa Cruz Breakers and Orange County SC battling Phoenix Rising. San Antonio and Santa Cruz were both looking for their first win, and it was the Breakers who eventually found it. San Antonio fought valiantly through a second half that they played with 10 men, but the resistance was broken when Santa Cruz scored a late goal to grab a 3-2 victory.
Phoenix and Orange County entered the day having each recorded quality wins in their opening games, and both would stay undefeated after playing to a chippy but entertaining 2-2 draw. Orange County took the lead from a set piece on two occasions, via the penalty spot in the first half and off a corner after the break. But Phoenix showed their resilience to fight back twice, with the second equalizer coming in the final 10 minutes of the game.
After the on-field action concluded, the coaches in attendance at the event gathered for the Youth Development Workshop. USL Senior Director of Youth Development Liam O’Connell began the meeting with an overview of the vision for the USL Academy initiative, including the plan to fully implement a new Player Development Model by 2020.
San Antonio FC Academy Director Nick Evans followed with an in-depth case study on the club’s talent identification and integration practices. PlayerMaker gave a presentation about their performance-enhancing technology before the workshop concluded with breakout sessions, where attendees discussed and exchanged youth development methods at their clubs.
Sunday’s USL Academy Western Conference Regional Event action will feature three more games, as Premier Division teams return for their second matches.