Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Youth: Sparta Cup gives RSL players pro experience

One of the perks of being affiliated with an MLS club is the opportunities that can arise over the course of a season.

RSL Florida's boys under-16 team found that out during a recent trip to Utah, where it not only won the Sparta Cup but may have impressed some of MLS side Real Salt Lake's management in its performance.

"It was really good for us," Zach Higgins said. "We played our best soccer when we were being watched by coaches, so that was good for us to get spotted by them so we can hopefully get an opportunity to go to play for their youth team."

RSL Florida has sent players to compete on Real Salt Lake's youth team before. Earlier this summer, T.J. East, Joey Layton, Jake Peterson and Hamzi Elotari joined a squad that also contained players from RSL Arizona and RSL Utah on its roster, which won the SUM Cup in Denver. That team will compete in the Comunidad de Madrid next spring in Spain.

With Real Salt Lake assistant coach Brian Johnson at all of the team's game, and Coach Jason Kreis checking in to talk to the team, similar opportunities could be around the corner for this new crop of RSL Florida players. That acts as an incentive, according to Winston Lightbody.

"It makes us play harder," Lightbody said. "It keeps us motivated, and gets us to play consistently, knowing that people are out there watching us."

As a benefit of winning the tournament, RSL Florida's players also got to spend time with Real Salt Lake's senior side, accompanying them onto the field and being introduced to the crowd before a 1-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders,

"It was really fun going out in front of 20,000 people before the game," Higgins said.

The team is now looking to continue its recent run of success. It opened with a pair of victories in the Region III Premier League, and has also earned its berth in the United Soccer League's Super-Y North American finals, to be held in November.

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