NYCFC Notes: Academy begins play, Calle and Shelton back in training, Mashamaite update

IMAGE, NYCFC.COM

[highlight color=”black”]NYCFC Academy team to play its first game this weekend[/highlight]

Though the near future for New York City FC is bleak on the professional level, the long-term future of the club will be on display this weekend as the NYCFC academy team will play the New England Revolution Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

The team is comprised of sixteen U13/U14 players born in 2001 or 2002. All but two of them come from four of its 11 youth affiliate clubs. Those two players are midfielder/forward Alexsi Morel who previously played for Brentwood Soccer Club on Long Island and goalkeeper Alex Rando who was previously with the New York Red Bulls as recently as last month.

Youth technical director Rodrigo Marion said the academy team’s first game is an ‘exciting moment for the organization.’

“The squad is composed of a small roster that is well balanced in terms of age with almost half of our players being one year younger,” Marion said. “This small roster allows us to focus on individual player development, and having younger players prepares next year’s talent pool.”

The Metropolitan Oval Academy has five players on the NYCFC roster, the most of any of the youth affiliates. Those players are: goalkeeper Neil DeJesus, defender Veljko Petkovic, defensive midfielder Justin Haak, attacking midfielder Balthazar Saunders and forward Salvatore Rasizzi. Met Oval sporting director said the players joining NYCFC is a culmination of a years-long relationship between the two organizations that started shortly after the club was founded in 2013.

“[NYCFC technical director] Claudio Reyna being the youth technical director of US Soccer gives him a real knowledge of the youth landscape and certainly he puts a high value on the academy part of NYCFC,” Saunders said. “I think for us that’s an important part of our relationship with them. They put a great value on youth development. In terms of our interactions with them, we’re happy with the league that they’re starting. We think they’re approaching it in the proper way.”

[highlight color=”black”]Pirlo plays full match in Italy win[/highlight]

Andrea Pirlo helped Italy snap a four-game winless streak by playing the full 90 minutes in a 1–0 win against Malta in Euro 2016 qualifying on Thursday. Pirlo dictated Italy’s play with 117 total passes and 126 touches, both team highs according to data from WhoScored. Italy moved back atop the Group H with 15 points. They have the same record as Croatia but Croatia were docked one point due to racist behavior from its fans during a match between the two teams in June.

Italy hosts Bulgaria on Sunday.

[highlight color=”black”]Mashamaite discusses failed move to NYCFC[/highlight]

Tefu Mashamaite has landed in Sweden joining BK Hacken of the Allsvensken on a two-and-a-half year contract. It was not the move he had hoped for. Mashamaite was on trial for NYCFC earlier this season when the club was seeking to add defenders to its roster. Although the club signed Jefferson Mena, it was still looking to add Mashamaite as well. Ultimately the move fell through for financial reasons, Mashamaite told a local radio station.

“A whole lot of things have been said about my move not happening in New York, people said ‘no he failed trials’ or whatever, but what they didn’t know is that the coaching staff was very keen to sign me,” Mashamaite said. “I was not happy with what was put on the table, it was less than what I was getting in South Africa and I couldn’t settle for that.”

The former Player of the Year in the South African Premier League has received his work permit and can make his debut with Hacken once the league resumes play after the international break.

[highlight color=”black”]Calle and Shelton begin training with team[/highlight]

Javier Calle is on his way back to full fitness after suffering a hamstring strain during NYCFC’s loss to the Red Bulls on Aug. 1. Calle trained with the team for portions of Thursday’s training session and Kreis said he is progressing nicely.

Rookie forward Khiry Shelton also participated with in team training for portions of Thursday’s session. Shelton has been sidelined with a quadriceps strain since the beginning of June. His first season as a professional began brightly with him appearing in all but one of NYCFC’s first thirteen games this season and earning an invite to the US U23 Men’s National Team in March. Kreis said Shelton adds an extra dimension to the team’s attack.

“Khiry gives us something no one else on this team can give us with his pace and his ability to get in behind and stretch opposing defenses is something we have really lacked since he has gotten injured and Tony Taylor got injured,” Kreis said. “Without those two players available, sometimes it makes our group look a little bit one dimensional.”

Taylor, George John and Connor Brandt are all out for the long term and are most likely out for the remainder of the season.