For the FC Cincinnati Academy, the “new normal” means a new-look operation entering the new season. Yes, coaches are wearing masks, players socially distance between drills and there’s no access to the Mercy Health Training Center locker rooms, but there are also three additional youth teams than the Academy had before shutting down operations in the spring.
“We’re busier, for sure,” said a smiling Larry Sunderland, the club’s director of player development. “There’s a lot more action at and around MHTC. There’s a lot more preparation that goes on every day.”
This time last year, the Academy was just launching and had two teams: The Under-15s and Under-17s. Now, there are five total youth sides, including two Pre-Academy teams and a new Under-19 team.
“We’re excited to go younger because that gets players in our pathway for a longer amount of time, and that has good effects from the soccer and culture standpoint,” Sunderland said. “But we’re excited to have the 19’s because it continues the pathway for us. It’s an exciting time for us and there’s a good buzz around the facility for all the players.
Here’s a guide to who’s coaching the youth teams. The rosters of each age group will be announced in the future.
Under-13s head coach: Adrian Parrish
Under-14s head coach: Nikola Katic
Under-15s head coach: Joshua Neff
Under-17s head coach: Ricardo Páez
Under-19s head coach: Sunderland and Páez
Another noticeable difference for the Academy is the recruitment process to fill rosters.
Now that the club launched its Residency Program, players from across the country have joined the Academy, which creates a more competitive environment and helps Cincinnati inch closer to a first MLS Homegrown signing.
“It’s a benefit in a lot of different ways,” Sunderland said. “You begin to mix people from all over the country and get different flavors on the field and different flavors off the field. This whole idea of building a community out here is fantastic.
“It helps all of us from the soccer standpoint because we’re bringing in quality players and that lifts the level of our in-market players. And our in-market players have lifted the level of our out-of-market players. There’s a lot of benefits to bring players in from the residency side of things and I think we’ll see the effects over time.”
To learn more information about the Residency Program – and even how you can help – visit this link.