CLAYTON — Charlie Metz said he’s hoping for even bigger and better things for Johnston United Soccer Association in the very near future.
The organization, which is seven years old and has had Metz as its president for the past five seasons, currently has about 850 players ages 4-17 and holds most of its activities around the Clayton area.
But Metz said JUSA will make a major effort to expand into Smithfield soon, hoping to double the number of players in the organization, with the goal of an eventual footprint comprising all of Johnston county.
And Metz said JUSA is beginning to develop a few elite soccer players.
“This is the first year we have had three clubs at the highest level of competition,” the West Virginia native explained of JUSA’s U13 girls’, U13 boys’ and U14 boys’ clubs that are playing regularly against the top teams in their age groups from around the state.
The organization sponsored its first JUSA Challenge Cup tournament Nov. 17-18, with six of its own sides among the 46 competing teams.
JUSA is, of course, very interested in player development. And the Nike Elite Clinic, which was held Dec. 15 at the YMCA Powhatan Fields, was a big step in that direction, Metz said.
About 40 of JUSA’s best players were on hand for the morning event, which consisted of 7-on-7 games, skills tests and “SPARQ” drills to test the players’ athleticism.
“The clinic came about because of a new relationship with Nike to replace our uniform kits with Adidas uniform kits,” explained Metz, who with his wife Jennifer have four children – Caleb, Lily and twin boys Sam and Eli – all involved in JUSA competition. “They’ll be doing this Elite training twice a year with us.”
Nike Elite sent a group of five New York-based instructors to conduct the clinic, which is similar to those used to evaluate professionals as well as young players involved in the selection process for national teams.
Wilson Munoz, who played at Montclair (N.J.) State and in the United Soccer League, was the leader of the five-man crew conducting the workouts.
“This three-week tour is just for experience,” Munoz explained. “Over the summer we did a similar tour – called ‘The Chance’ to scout kids throughout the entire nation. We selected the top player from each session and they were put into a pool, and then we selected 100 players nationally. USSF (the U.S. Soccer Federation) helped us scout the kids. Eighteen of them represented the U.S. in the World Nike Chance.”
Munoz said he saw some nice potential in JUSA’s best.
“These kids are young, but they had a lot of heart today,” Munoz explained. “They’re going to push themselves to the next level. With the right coaches and the right training system some of these kids can be really good.
“We wanted to make sure they had a good time and got the high-caliber training that the very best players get. It gives them the levels they know they want to get to.”
Munoz said the players all received (evaluation) cards that showed what the Nike Academy said about their performance Saturday compared to the level to which they aspire.
“The clinic helped me a lot,” said Ryan McDaniel, a center back for U14 Classic Premier who also plays for Riverwood Middle. “It helped me know how I’ve improved and what I need to improve on.
“I really enjoy the sport and have fun playing. I dream about playing pro, and I definitely want to play college soccer.”
The clinic evaluated both male and female players.
“The clinic really improved my skills and showed me what I need to do to get back in shape for the season,” said Emma Glover, a seventh-grader at Riverwood who plays for JUSA’s 99 Pride Red. “I play soccer non-stop. I’d like to go to Duke or UNC and study medicine, but I also want to be a pro soccer player.”
Players as young as 10 were at the clinic.
“It was fun and got me pretty pumped up,” said Ryan Doyle, a fifth grader at Powhatan Elementary who plays midfield for JUSA’s U11 United Red. “I’m really tired, but I liked the drills.
“The (running) test was hard – you have to run back and forth and if you don’t make it by the second beep you’re out.”