April 18, 2014

Elyria
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Making soccer stars


Soccer academy in Lorain introduces its premiere class 

LORAIN — The next David Beckham or Brad Friedel may be honing his soccer skills in Lorain right now.

Brad Friedel’s Premier Soccer Academy introduced its inaugural class of national and international players during a news conference Tuesday at the brand new facility off Leavitt Road.

JASON MILLER / CHRONICLE
Andrian McAdams, of Oberlin, a student at the new Premier Soccer Academy in Lorain, talks to members of the media during a news conference Tuesday.

For Friedel, a Bay Village native and professional goalie with the English Premier League’s Blackburn Rovers, fronting the
$8 million cost of the nonprofit academy is a way to promote the future for the sport he loves in the community he grew up in.
“I think we’re breaking a barrier here,” Friedel said Tuesday by phone from England. “And as time goes by, I think people will see that.”

For the 17 national and international players, who range in age from 12 to 17, the chance to improve their level is one of the reasons they’ll make Lorain their temporary home for the next 10 months.

“The opportunity to train every day, all-year round with top level coaches — it’s formal training like that that I was missing,” said 16-year-old Justin Luthy, of Dublin, Ohio.

Throughout the academy’s 27 acres is everything a group of world-class players could need — including three outdoor soccer fields and a 70,000-square-foot indoor arena.

The amenities also include a personal chef and a nutritionist. The players will live and work out in a 35,000-square-foot facility complete with $250,000 worth of weight-training equipment and laptop-fitted dorm rooms.

Desmond Armstrong, director of recruiting, played alongside Friedel on the U.S. National Soccer Team for eight years and used some of his own professional contacts to find out who some of the up-and-coming elite players around the world were and where he could find them.

Only three of the 14 American players hail from Ohio, while players from Venezuela, Canada and Mexico round out the bunch.
Armstrong scouted at tournaments throughout the world. A business card, his professional status and some help from the Internet gave him all the recruiting resources he needed, he said.

“I would tell players to Google my name — I am who I say I am,” he said. “When they learned more about the academy and found out that they wouldn’t have to pay, I think that’s what really sold them.”

The academy will offset its $1.5 million annual operating budget by renting out its soccer fields and hosting training camps for other players.

About half of the players will attend their first day of school today at Amherst Steele High School in Amherst, while the other half will be “home-taught” at the academy.

Players will play exclusively for the academy, with field training and their school work being their focus. All that training and learning won’t leave time for much else.

“Our priority is developing talent,” said the academy’s chief operating officer, Craig Umland. “When other kids are on holiday break, we’ll be playing overseas.”

Mercy Garcia-Aponte serves as the academy’s “mom” and said she’ll encourage the players off the field like any of their own parents would, even if it means showing them how to do their own laundry.

For Saida Gall, mother of the academy’s youngest player, 12-year-old Romain Gall, having her youngest son away from her family’s Herndon, Va., home is something she’s still trying to accept.

“There’s no history or reputation here yet,” she said. “But we think he’ll get the best soccer and education experience he can to become the player he wants to be."

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.