Pair of New Jersey Players Help USYS ODP Win Las Vegas Cup

Chase Calemin and Sandro Cunningham pose with the Las Vegas Mayor's Cup trophy.

A pair of New Jersey Olympic Development Program (ODP) players recently represented the 2009 US Youth Soccer ODP National Select Team Boys at the Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup. Chase Chalemin of TSF Academy and Sandro Cunningham of Match Fit Academy joined the 2009 USYS ODP Boys as they took on some of the best teams in the country, helping them win the U15 2008 Chapman Auto Group Championship.

“The competition was intense. We played against some talented teams,” said Cunningham. “It was more challenging because we were versing 2008s, which was more difficult than playing the 2009s. They were bigger, faster and stronger than many of our players, so it was a challenge physically, but we pushed through and used our technical abilities to win the tournament.”

Playing up a year, the 2009 USYS ODP Boys faced some early adversity after narrowly losing their opening match to Canadian team CS St-Laurent 2008M in a back-and-forth contest. Returning to the field just a few hours later, a Cunningham goal helped his side secure a shutout victory over San Nicolas Academy 2008 (NV) to spark their championship run. The next day, the 2009 USYS ODP Boys defeated Albion SC Merced B08 Academy (CA-N) to conclude group play, following up that result with a win over Solar Soccer Club ECNL Deleon (TX-N) in the quarterfinals. Cunningham added a second goal in as many days to his tournament tally during that Sunday action.

In their semifinal match-up, the 2009 USYS Boys found themselves down against the CDA Slammers ECNL B08 (CA-S) for the first time since their tournament opener, but the team persevered to eventually force a penalty kick shootout. After coming out on top in the shootout, they had officially secured a berth to the championship match. Playing in their sixth contest in three days, the 2009 USYS ODP Boys then faced a tough Players SC 08 Elite (NV) side in their final action of the competition. Once again, penalty kicks would be needed, and once again the 2009 USYS ODP Boys would put away enough of their attempts to emerge victorious. After a tremendously busy few days, the 2009 USYS ODP Boys were crowned the U15 2008 Chapman Auto Group Champions of the Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup.

“My overall experience was amazing,” said Cunningham of his time in Las Vegas. “Our coaches were excellent, very supportive and believed in us. We could not have asked for better coaches through this experience. Our team was very talented, and everyone’s personality was just incredible. We all became a family after the first day we met, and I will never forget this trip and tournament.”

Chalemin also spoke about how much he has enjoyed playing in the ODP environment.

“My overall experience with ODP has been great. I have made so many memories and friendships with people from all over the country,” said Chalemin. “We had a very competitive season and played some close games with teams from other states. I really want to thank my ODP Coach Mark Dutton, whose support, guidance and encouragement has helped me become a better player on the ball with the training sessions that were provided during the season.”

The Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup is a competitive tournament where teams are presented with the opportunity to play in front of college coaches and recruiters who represent various programs throughout the country. The matches are played on high quality fields that were constructed for soccer by the City of Las Vegas, and the tournament also utilizes soccer complexes built exclusively for soccer.

The Olympic Development Program is an identification system linked to the United States Soccer Federation and US Youth Soccer. The program offers its players a pathway that could lead to representing Regional and U.S. Youth National Teams. Originally established in 1977, ODP was the first program in the country designed to identify potential youth national team players. ODP players begin initially at the local sector before progressing to the state, regional and possibly national levels. By playing with like-talented athletes, ODP offers the opportunity for players to advance in their personal development and to be scouted by college coaches.

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