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TUKWILA, Wash. (May 27, 2015) – Washington Youth Soccer Elite Player Development (EPD) state teams, comprised of the top club players from throughout Washington, competed in the Portland Timbers Friendship Cup over Memorial Day Weekend at Tualatin Hills Rec Center outside Portland. Competing against Major League Soccer youth academies, Portland Thorns youth academy and State Olympic Development Program (ODP) teams, the Friendship Cup has served as one of the top ODP tournaments in the country for 27 years, and is a developmental event showcasing the top players from the region to US Youth Soccer ODP Regional Team, U.S. National Team and collegiate scouts.
Serving to provide a developmental platform, Friendship Cup results and standings were not kept, and many WA EPD teams played against older competition as a way to challenge the players. WA EPD teams used the event to focus on style of play, training and game preparation habits, and team bonding. Although the majority of a player’s development occurs within the club environment, the WA EPD program mimics the National Team process by bringing together the best players from different clubs to train and represent their state in competition. Several current WA EPD players are active members of youth U.S. National Team pools, and the EPD program helps prepare players to move on to Regional, National and collegiate programs.
VIDEO: 2015 EPD Friendship Cup Tribute
[Click image to play video]
“It was a great weekend to bring together some of the best players from around the state to challenge them in a different environment and against top competition,” stated Kim Calkins, Washington Youth Soccer EPD Director. “I was very pleased to see our players really focusing on what the coaches were emphasizing, such as team possession and combination play, and playing out of the back. I think all of the players improved over the weekend both on and off the field.”
What the players have to say…
Dane Petter Rogers - ’03 Boys (Seattle United)
Mikio Yap - ’03 Boys (Eastside FC)
Spencer Wirkkala - ’00 Girls (WA Rush)
What was your experience like with EPD at the Friendship Cup?
Rogers – “It was a really great experience! I got to hang out with some new guys, got to play the game I love. There are pretty tough teams here, but I love it. I love the game and the people who I am with here.”
Yap – “I’ve had a lot of fun. I also met some new kids but also got to know other kids better.”
Wirkkala – “So far the experience is amazing! This is by far my favorite trip I have ever taken. I have been playing with EPD since U-11 and this is always my favorite part of the year.”
What was your favorite part of the weekend?
Rogers – “There is two things; I really like hanging out with the guys, and of course soccer and intensity of the games. It’s really fun”
Yap – “Beating the Timbers 6-0. I got a goal in that game.”
Wirkkala – “Winning our second game was the best part. We had a pretty hard first game but we came back and won our second game.”
Did you learn anything or get better?
Rogers – “I learned some things on the field and off the field. I learned that at these tournaments you got to rest. You can’t stay up. When your body needs rest, you got to rest. Also you have to hydrate. On the field I learned that you got to mark your man tight because if you give him space you will end up dropping back. Me as a center back, it’s really important that I do my job.”
Yap – “I have learned a lot about other kids and what they have come through to finally get to EPD. I have gotten a lot better playing with new kids.”
Wirkkala – “I got a lot better with my technical work and moving the ball around on the field.”
What’s it like to represent Washington as one of the best players in the state?
Rogers – “It’s been a really great experience. As I said, I really love the kids on the team. Everyone is really talented and we are playing in an awesome tournament. It is really cool representing Washington as a player. I am having a great time and fun.”
Yap – “I feel proud to be able to represent Washington as one of the best players in the state, and being able to come down here to Oregon to show them what kind of players Washington has. Makes me feel pretty good about myself.”
Wirkkala – “EPD is one of my favorite programs because I get to grow and challenge myself against amazing players on and off the field, and create new relationships. It’s a big honor to represent Washington. Sometimes you don’t even realize it until you are on the field playing in the finals against Cal South (at the Region IV ODP Championships last January).”
What do you want to accomplish in soccer as you get older?
Rogers – “I want to be as successful as I can, maybe even a pro.”
Yap – “I would like to become a well-known professional and keep loving the game as much as I do.”
Wirkkala – “I would just like to become best player that I can be.”