Youth is served at Academy's McLean U18s

Take the name of the McLean Youth Soccer's under-17/18 squad literally, because it is a team whose roster is comprised primarily of high school juniors.

In spite of its relative youth, the team has managed to win all five of its South Conference Atlantic Division games and compiled an overall mark of 7-3-5 in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

"Now, you know, most of my group is playing up, except for a couple of kids," coach Ed Beach said. "And it's great. I mean, we actually do that by design."

George Mason University-bound Peter Lam is among the MYS's few seniors on the squad.

"I think that coming into the season, it was just our goal and our expectation to go 6-0 against the Virginia teams," Lam said. "And right now, we're at 5-0, so we're already very close to accomplishing that."

Although the McLean has a long break until its next game, which is Feb. 4, it is a big one opposite high-scoring, South Conference Southeast Division leader South Carolina United Battery (5-1-6, 8-3-7).

"From my past experiences in the Academy, it's usually those southern teams that we struggle against, but with this squad this year, I think that we have what it takes," Lam said. "When we go out against those southern teams and we put that performance in and get the win, then it's going to keep building our momentum. Our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs, which is something that we can definitely achieve this year since we fell short last year."

Lam is part of a defensive rotation that executes by committee, and includes Sheldon Sullivan, Daniel Pittman, Ben Ogedegbe, Brian Szymanski, Theo Erickson and Andres Rodlauer doing the work in front of goalkeepers Mason Fish and Lucas Belanger.

"We kind of look at tactics as being important, but, ultimately, I think in the end, what we try to do is work with the players and explain to them is that it's their abilities that are going to be most influential in the game," Beach said.

"So whether the formation is a 4-2-3-1, or a 4-3-3, or a 4-4-2, ultimately, the players are going to have the most influence. I mean, we'll change some things, just so that we can get the most out of a team or a certain individual's skills."

The unselfish play has contributed to a wide distribution of the scoring, led by forward Joel Teston with four goals, Lam, midfielder Conor Nogueira and Armando Oakley with three goals each, two goals each from forwards Kennedy O'Shea and Simond Kargbo, and one each from Hotaka Shiomi, Gregory Boehme and Nicolas Baietti.

"When you look at us from a statistical point of view, you might say, 'Where are these guys getting goals?'" Beach said. "But that's because it's all kind of spread out. A lot of our goals come from the midfield."

Two of the McLean Youth Soccer's major catalysts are midfielders Shiomi and Francesco Amorosino, whom Beach considers to be among the team's most skilled players.

"Francesco is the facilitator and the playmaker. The attacking center midfielder who is one of those players who is the most technically gifted, and has the ability to solve the problem. Especially in the attacking third when we're trying to penetrate and slip people through on passes," Beach said.

"Francesco has the ability, when we try to speed the play up or whenever we're transitioning into the attacking third or we try to switch the field of play or the point of attack, the ball can kind of come through him. He's smart enough to sort those gaps out and play the ball in."

Shiomi is another guy who is similar to Francesco, Beach said. "He's also good on the dribble and plays a little further up the field, like he's almost another forward and has sort of a different role."

The result is a "a possession-oriented team," said Boehme. "But we're always evolving. Since we're always playing against older kids, it's sometimes a bit more difficult to play possession. But we try to play possession as much as possible. At the same time, we try to mix it up a little bit and be patient but also be a little more direct."

"We try to get the ball forward as quickly as possible. Every player has a job on the team, and everyone has to contribute. I don't think we have really any star players. We have a bunch of quality players who come together as a team. Everyone knows his role, everyone does it well and everyone chips in."

That's what it's going to take against South Carolina United Battery.

"South Carolina is a pretty straight forward team with a lot of good talent," Beach said. "I think that they're sending a lot of kids to the next level, which is great."

The Battery's top scorers are Eli Dent (10 goals), Nestor Jaramillo (nine), and, with four goals each, Wesley Eads and Travis Naylor.

"That's kind of what we're missing. We don't have the out-and-out striker or goal-scorer, but it is good for us in a way," Beach said. "We're not so heavily reliant on the one go-to guy, leaving the other guys to pick up the slack."

Boehme called South Carolina United "a huge game for us."

"North Carolina and South Carolina teams, those are huge for us, because they've been a little better than the Virginia teams that we've played so far, and that will really show us what kind of team we are if we can come together and get through this and show that we can get through adversity and play with the big boys."