Welcome to From The Upper Deck, my blog about RSL and soccer in general. I have a lot of passion for the beautiful game. I am just a fan that likes to sit in the upper deck and take it all in.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Eye on the Academy- Lagerwey and Kries

By Pat Eyler

I know I said that I’d be writing about academy alums now playing at the college level (and that’s still percolating) but something came up while I was away on vacation that I thought deserved some discussion.  Grande Sports Academy posted to interviews to their blog with Jason Kreis and with Garth Lagerwey. Both are great reads and you really should go take a look at them.

I saw three really interesting things that I’d like to chat about:
  1. A focus on continued improvement and not sitting on their laurels.  Garth said, “One great mistake they could make was to decide they have arrived now. We want to consistently compete for champions, but also for the personal and professional [development] of the kids. If they do that we will continue to see better and better players for Real Salt Lake.” He also made this comparison, “Why can’t we aspire to be Barcelona? Are we there yet? Are we close? Of course not. But if we can continue to recruit the players in that training environment with that staff and with the support they have there is no reason to set any limits on ourselves. That’s how high our expectations should be.”  With a vision like that, I’m more excited than ever about the academy program.
  2. A focus on development, not results. Again, Garth puts it well, ““It’s funny. The Reserve League games make the players visible . But what’s more important to us is how they train with us.  . . .  I’m less concerned at how they play Reserve Leagues game at 15, 16, and 17 years old.  . . . It’s how they train and there is no question that the training has improved since the advent of the academy.”  This has been something I’ve thought important all along.  It’s great to see nice results, but it’s more important to see growth in the players.  It’s also one of the hardest things to do with a distant academy - fortunately, the GSA folks do a pretty good job of posting information.
  3. (This is the most speculative.)  Combining some things that Jason and Garth said, I think we can get a glimpse of the future of RSL’s development.  Several things stood out to me her:
    1. JK talks about the difficulty of having the academy further away and the desire to bring players into training every day - RSL has talked before about a SLC based arm of the academy.  I think we’ll see this sooner rather than later
    2. Garth talks about finding players even younger and engaging them in the RSL system sooner.  Could we see a U-15 team at some point?
    3. Jason also mentioned sending younger full team players down to a U-21 team.  The academy (and as far as I can tell, the USSF academy program) don’t have a U-21 program.  This is exactly in line with the PDL league structure though.

If I carry out the speculation in #3 far enough, I get to a really interesting place.  Could RSL support a full academy and team in SLC, a PDL team in Ogden, and a USLPro team in Utah County?  Would that spread the geographic reach of the RSL franchise? Or, would it be easier to support all of those teams from a single SLC base?


  1. I think having a PDL or USLPro team in Boise would be a good idea. It would expand the geographic reach of RSL. Boise is still pretty close and you might get more people traveling down from Idaho to see RSL games. Especially if their favorite player from their team gets called up to play with RSL.

  2. I'll add to what Charles said because we've talked about this very topic on the Twitter before...

    Getting involved with USLPRO and establishing a team in Boise is a great move for two reasons: 1) Boise is the proper market size that USL intends to go after for D3 expansion. Most cities already in USLPRO are at or around the size of Boise, and with the league determined to increase their western expansion, it falls in line with it. I think it'd be a rather easy sell to Tim Holt. 2) The state of Idaho is entirely untapped when it comes to soccer. It not only opens the door of a new market, but it expands RSL's footprint and raises their profile in terms of fanbase and market share to a more reasonable level as compared to larger market clubs.

    Going along with this, re-establishing a PDL presence in Ogden is crucial to me. With the Outlaws folding last year, the void that was left may have been small, but it hurts the Utah soccer community more than one might think. The Outlaws program doubled as Weber State's men's team, and with the fold it's taken away the collegiate level from the Weber/Davis county area. The potential for D4 soccer in Ogden, I would say, is relatively high. Think of reaching the more northern parts of north Utah and their collegiate level men. USU & WSU on the college side, but also no less than 15 high school programs in that region, too, with potential future players. It'd also reinstate a PDL rivalry with BYU's program.

    Which leads me to another point -- establishing formal relations on a D4 level with BYU's men's program would go a long way to expanding RSL's presence more into Utah County and south. If RSL can assist that program in any way, I'd say doing it is a must to solidify their status in the state. Having a 2nd academy in SL County would go a long way to working towards this as it'd undoubtedly draw youth from Utah Co as well.

    So, I would say I'm in favor of Pat's option to spread RSL's brand out geographically. Idaho is unhindered market space and it'd be easily taken. Following that by spreading roots closer to home in Ogden and/or Utah Co would galvanize the base. And, of course, any inroads still able to be done in AZ with the academy, partnerships, etc should be handled accordingly. We may not be an LA, NY, or SEA, but we have potentially 3 (maybe more) whole states that could fall under the RSL umbrella rather easily. I say we take advantage now before further expansion occurs without RSL being involved.

  3. @flicmod and @charles I hadn't thought about Boise, but I do think that makes a lot of sense. I don't know how MLS/USSF/SUM would react to RSL trying to scoop into another state, but it would be great if it could happen.

    I know that RSL and BYU's PDL team have done a lot together; witness the annual friendly, some coaching help, and a number of BYU players that have been called into RSL practices (and I think some Reserve games way back when). There's certainly room for continued cooperation there though.

    Thanks for your feedback.