Napa United’s 1839 Academy youth soccer program hosted three Major League Soccer development academy teams and a couple of local clubs at its inaugural MLS Invitational in Napa on Feb. 8 and 9.
The 2006 boys teams from Real Salt Lake, Sacramento Republic and San Jose Earthquakes competed with Barcelona Bay Area, Richmond Rayados and Napa United.
Despite high winds that wreaked havoc throughout the weekend, the invitational was a big success.
“We greatly appreciate Napa United inviting us to participate in their invitational,” said Sacramento Republic Academy Director Dennis Sanchez. “It was a very competitive day that allowed our academy to continue to grow. Napa’s entire staff carried themselves with the utmost professionalism. We look forward to working alongside them again in the future.”
Ronny Charry, assistant technical director of Real Salt Lake’s youth development academy, thanked Gavin Taylor, head of soccer operations for Napa United and the director of its academy program for the invitation.
“Napa United organized a great event,” Charry said. “At RSL, U14 is such a critical age group as it leads into our academy system. This event was a fantastic opportunity for the players to showcase their abilities against a set of very competitive and elite teams. Thank you to Gavin and Napa United.”
In his second year with Napa United, Taylor has developed several partnerships with MLS teams.
“The San Jose ’Quakes have started to recruit several of our players and we are on the verge of signing three players to Major League Soccer academy teams,” Taylor said. “This is very exciting for our players.”
The games provided an opportunity for the 2006 boys players to be evaluated by MLS coaching staff and the team and players were up for the challenge. Napa United had one tie and two losses on the weekend.
“There were some crazy wind conditions that made all the games challenging,” said Brian Arcila, head of boys soccer development for Napa United’s academy program, “But every game was competitive for the boys.”
In its opener, Napa United faced Barcelona Bay Area of San Jose – a top club in the region – and tied it just after halftime on a goal by Flavio Guzman. But Barcelona got the winning goal a minute into injury time.
The second game saw Real Salt Lake come away with many scoring opportunities, including four one-on-one challenges against Napa United goalkeeper Dominic Goss, but the teams settled for a 1-1 tie.
“Dom had four amazing saves that kept us in the game,” Arcila said.
Napa United fell 5-2 to Sacramento Republic in its final game Sunday afternoon, getting its goals from Luca Russo.
“Luca really showed his scoring capability with two well-taken goals,” Arcila said, adding that Jonah Schwarz, Yuki Hayashi and Noel Angel were also standouts. “Noel and Yuki played every minute of every game and performed to a very high standard. Jonah was playing basketball this weekend as well, but his effort was there the whole time.”
A bonus for the Napa United players and coaching staff came in the form of making new relationships. Along with being hosted by several Napa United families, the Real Salt Lake team joined Napa United in team trainings and functions.
Taylor, who was in between watching the tournament and coaching his 2007 boys in State Cup matches, had very high praise for his players and the weekend overall.
“I am extremely proud of our players competing against MLS academy teams, and our 2006 team should be in great shape for their 2020 NPL 1 campaign,” he said. “Building relationships with these clubs is a vital part of our player pathway.”