Eclipse Soccer Club is pipeline to Dynamo Academy


For young soccer players in southeast Texas, the road to a possible professional career begins at the Houston Dynamo Academy – the Major League Soccer club’s youth development program that is designed to identify top local prospects. 

But for a growing number of Academy players, it is Eclipse Soccer Club that provides the “golden ticket” to the opportunities that the Dynamo offer. 

“Eclipse has been a real pipeline of talent to the Houston Dynamo Academy,” says Luis Labastida, boys director of training for Eclipse Soccer Club.   “We have an excellent relationship with the Dynamo Academy staff and we’re always looking to recommend players who have the potential to take their game to the next level.” 

To date, more than 25 former Eclipse Soccer Club players have been involved with the Dynamo Academy’s U-16 and U-18 teams.  Several more have been selected to train with the Junior Academy for younger players.   Many of those athletes were introduced to the Academy by members of the Eclipse training staff. 

“Eclipse has been fantastic about welcoming the Dynamo Academy to the youth soccer community here in Houston, and the club is always quick to give us the opportunity to evaluate players with potential,” says James Clarkson, Dynamo director of youth development.  “It’s not easy to let good players move on but Eclipse recognizes the value of a strong relationship with the Academy.  We’re appreciative of support we receive from Eclipse.” 

The Houston Dynamo Academy was formed in 2007 to find and develop the best youth talent in the region.   Players selected for the Academy train four days per week in a professional environment and compete in the United States Soccer Federation Development Academy league, the most competitive youth league in the country. 

The Academy provides professional-level training, the opportunity to work with the Dynamo first team and a wide range of other benefits, including academic tutoring and connections with college coaches. The ultimate goal, of course, is to find players who can eventually sign with the first team and play for the Dynamo in Major League Soccer. 

For Labastida, the opportunity to identify and promote talent to the Dynamo Academy is a real plus for Eclipse.   

“Some clubs in the area are not as willing as Eclipse to recommend their top players to the Academy,” he says.  “But we see it as a real ‘win-win’ situation.  It’s great for the player, and it’s good for Eclipse, too, since it shows that we always look out for the best interests of our players. 

“Having multiple players move up to the Academy is evidence of the level of training we provide at Eclipse and it demonstrates the quality of our club.   We are taking players through their entire development process, from the youngest ages to U-18.  And if the player is capable of playing at a higher level, we can help him achieve his goal.

One example of a player taking this “path to success” is goalkeeper Fernando Pina, who moved from Eclipse to the Dynamo Academy before being selected for the U.S. U17 National Team and a spot in the prestigious national residency program in Bradenton, Fla. 

“Fernando’s story is just one of the successes we’ve had with young players moving to the Dynamo Academy,” says Labastida.  “There are a number of former Eclipse players who have benefited from the visibility the Academy provides to earn scholarships to play soccer in college and even join the professional ranks.” 

For example, goalkeeper Pat Wall, who recently signed a letter of intent to play at University of Notre Dame, was able to train with the Dynamo senior team throughout the summer of 2009 after joining the Academy.  He remains in the Dynamo’s protective player system, which means the club will have the first rights to sign him to a Major League Soccer contract when he leaves college. 

Jorge Escobar joined the Dynamo Academy when it first opened, and played there for two seasons.  Escobar is now playing professional soccer in Honduras for Club Deportivo Motagua.” 

 





Abe Matamoras has been with the Academy for two seasons as well, which enabled him to be seen by European clubs such as Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, both of which expressed strong interest in him.  He is currently considering his college options, including an offer from University of North Carolina. 

The relationship between the Academy and Eclipse works both ways, too.  Players who have left Eclipse for the Academy are welcomed back if they need rehabilitation for an injury or further development. 

“Once these players leave us, Eclipse does not close the door,” says Labastida.  “We not only give them the opportunity to move up, but we welcome them back, too.” 

Labastida says there are a number of younger players at Eclipse who show promise and will likely have an opportunity to try out for the Dynamo Academy.   In fact, he says, it might not be long before an Eclipse player is signed by the Dynamo and plays in MLS. 

“That would be fantastic,” he says.   “We want to be the stepping stone that would make that dream possible for young players.”

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