CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – After a historic season that culminated in a trip to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy championship game and four single-season records being broken, Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-17/18 players were disappointed and reflective after a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Fire in the national championship game.
“Of course the game that stands out the most was the [2012-13] national championship,” said Luis “Wicho” Barraza, who put on a heroic performance in goal in last weekend’s final. “That was an amazing experience and that’s why this year I was so motivated to go all the way.”
One of the many records that RSL-AZ U-17/18 broke this season was the mark for goals scored in a single season, previously held by New York Red Bulls with 103 goals. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s 177 goals shattered the previous record and paved the way for the team’s Style of Play Award given out by U.S. Soccer.
“It is a really great feeling,” said Damian German, the country’s leading goal scorer this year with 34 goals in 40 games. “That was my goal since the start of the season and I accomplished it.”
Another record breaker on the team was captain Jose Hernandez, who, along with Damian German, became the first players in Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy history to play in 100 Development Academy games.
“It’s been 100 already?” asked a surprised Hernandez. “It’s a good accomplishment, it seems like I just got here yesterday. Time flies. I’m just glad I got the opportunity to do it.”
Erik Holt, the other captain of this historic U-17/18 team, looked back on his time at Grande Sports Academy with a smile on his face and grateful that he made the tough choice to join Grande Sports Academy.
“It’s been a crazy run with a lot of different experiences,” said Holt. “My overall experience was great. When you start [at the academy], you don’t appreciate it and you don’t understand what it really means but once you leave, you really understand that it’s an amazing place and nowhere else in the country can you get what this place has.”
Now a large chunk of this year’s team moves on to the next step in their careers, whether that be in college or the professional ranks. Grande Sports Academy wishes the best of luck to each and every player in their lives as they continue to aspire to get better each and every day.