As the temperatures rise as summer gets closer, so does the competition around town as local lower league soccer clubs take the pitch in the UPSL, WPSL and UWS. One of those clubs is Alamo City SC which is fielding not one but two women’s squads this summer. We were able to get with Rick Kuchka http://@RLKuchka , President of Alamo City SC. Rick gave us some insight on the academy, club, their philosophy and more.
1. Rick, tell us a little about yourself.
I am the President of Alamo City Youth Soccer Organization (ACYSO) and the Executive Director for Alamo City Soccer Club. I moved to San Antonio from my hometown of Berwick, Pennsylvania in 2010 and was coaching club soccer when I was approached by a friend who thought I should get more involved in the organization. He was rather convincing so for the last five years I’ve been coaching and helping to run the club. Although I love that my education and business background is being put to use as the Executive Director, my true passion is working with the players. With that said, I’m really looking forward to my role as the Head Coach of our UPSL team this summer, along with my assistants Carlos Miranda and Roberto Del Toro.
2. How long has Alamo City been around and how many players do you have currently in your various academy clubs?
The organization has been around since the 70’s and has undergone a few name changes while mainly running recreational programs and renting fields to different clubs. Then a little less than a decade ago (and before I became the Board President) ACYSO started it’s own club (Alamo City SC). Currently we have 706 players in our programs and we are projecting a significant increase come June.
3. What makes Alamo City SC stand out from other local academies?
I think what makes Alamo City stand out, and what people are starting to realize, is that we are constantly working to stay true to our values and to stay on track with our organizational goals. There are many things that can derail a youth soccer club and most of them all lead back to losing sight of “why” they exist in the first place. Our senior leaders and Directors share a similar desire to help our young men and women develop not only into quality soccer players but into people of character, and to help set them up for success no matter what path they choose in life. We want the life lessons they learn on the training pitch to stay with them as they grow and head off to college or into the workforce. We want to give them the tools they need to be successful no matter what life throws at them, and the resolve to take on any challenge that comes their way. What we’ve come to realize is that in order to do this, we need to have a staff that possess the qualities we are looking to instill in our players. So the hiring process has become extremely important to us because we need to make sure that the people we bring in to work with the players are people of character, that have a sense of community and are good at building meaningful relationships. And notice I haven’t really said anything about soccer.
Now as far as our approach to the game and the development of players, we aren’t chasing fancy leagues and marketing them as the key to Division 1 soccer or a spot on a National Team. We also aren’t submitting to a “We Must Win” mentality and sacrificing true development for quick fixes and methods that may give us temporary success. We understand that soccer development is a marathon and not a sprint so we stay steadfast in our methods. There are 4 key aspects of soccer development; technical, tactical, physical, and cognitive. I think most clubs in the U.S. hit two of those routinely whereas we look to work all four of them in every activity we do, especially the cognitive aspect of soccer development. The reason is this: eventually as the level of play increases you start to notice that all the players are technically competent, they understand tactics, they’re physically fit, but what separates the good from the great players at that point? It’s the ability for them to process what’s going on around them, problem solve the situation with split second decisions, and execute their solution with precision. Early on in the younger age groups you’ll come across teams that put their biggest, strongest, fastest player up top and lump the ball to him/her over and over again. These teams have success early on because these players are physically superior to everyone around them. Eventually the pitch gets bigger, the other players catch up physically, and now the team that had all this success is sitting at the bottom of the table because they never were developed into complete players.
So for us it’s about developing complete players and not settling for quick fixes or trying to sell parents on the next big thing. We want to develop players that can play and compete at the highest levels in the world and hopefully in a few years from now we’ll start seeing the results of all the seeds we’ve just begun to sow.
4. Having two women’s clubs in two leagues seems ambitious, what was the inspiration to field two clubs this year?
A year and a half ago we set out to find a way to provide a post-graduation pathway for our players who want to continue working towards their goals and dreams. After many discussions with various leagues and showing that we could meet the minimum standards and provide competitive teams, we were invited into the Women’s Premier Soccer League (the 2nd tier of women’s soccer in the country behind the National Women’s Soccer League or NWSL) and into the inaugural season for women’s soccer in the United Premier Soccer League.
Our 1st team will play this season in the South Division of the Red River Conference which is a part of the Central Region for WPSL. The team is comprised mainly of players either currently playing or have played Division 1 college soccer. One of our own youth players, Allyna Gonzalez (Alamo City SC 03G Gold) was selected for the team and is our very first WPSL “Homegrown” player.
The competition level in the WPSL is top notch and will test our players and push them to and beyond their limits. 60% of players selected in the NWSL draft this year had played in the WPSL. 12 of the US Women’s National team players on this summer’s World Cup roster have also played in the WPSL. We are excited to bring this program to the club and it should be a fun and rewarding summer for all of us.
The reserve team will be competing in the Central Conference of UPSL and is heavily comprised of high school aged players. 12 of our youth players help to form this roster to include; Kali Kuchka, Kaylee Reithmann, Marliz Valenzuela, Karina Castillo, Sydney Holmes, EmmaLee Wood, Chloe Ramirez, Jordan Matthews, Nya Ramos, Alexia Salinas as well as Jade Hickey and Emily Thames from our partner club CTX Flash, in San Marcos.
The decision to have a reserve team in addition to our WPSL team was to provide an opportunity to our older youth players that was unlike anything else around. The players are immersed into a professional soccer environment, training 2 hours a day, 4 times a week to include film study of the previous match and of their upcoming opponents. We knew that playing in a women’s league against players who are more experienced, stronger, and faster would force them to develop in a different way and the cognitive aspect of their game (decision-making, etc) would benefit because of the increased pace of play. What we didn’t realize is just how fast they would adjust and how quickly they would develop. After a few weeks of training together and playing against the 1st team, the girls have adjusted beyond our expectations and have been extremely competitive with the WPSL players. In addition to the valuable experience they are gaining by competing against Division 1 talent, they are also showing college coaches that adjusting to that level won’t be a problem for them.
5. When does the season start for the clubs?
Our WPSL team kicks off on Sunday May 19th in Houston against the Texas Titans. The UPSL team gets underway on Saturday May 25th in Killeen against Coyotes FC.
6. What are the goals sets for each Alamo City SC club?
With it being our first year in these leagues the players and staff all agreed that the initial goal is to win their local league and once that’s done we can set new goals for playoffs, etc. Our staff has asked each player to set individual goals for themselves that they share with us so that we can help the girls achieve them.
7. What are some of the stand out players that the people of San Antonio should be aware of?
On the WPSL side there are a number that we are really excited about. There are a number of current and former UTSA players that people will be familiar with. You’ve got the likes of Nicole Galan, Melissa Finley, and Ellis Patterson to name a few. A couple of local high school standouts are on the roster, Kaitlyn Moore and Jen Jackson who both had great offensive years for Boerne Champion and Lee High School respectively. Then we’ve got Preciosa Lasker-Garcia coming down from Oklahoma hungry to score goals, while Sophie Milich comes to us from Auburn University to keep the ball out of the back of our net. I think the one player that will be a fan favorite is Channing Machen who will most likely play a Holding role in the midfield. She plays with a passion and fire that will get people excited and she also is one of our Jr. Academy coaches so the kids know and love her already.
On the UPSL side I think what you’re going to find is that it won’t be so much about individual standouts but rather how well they work together as a cohesive unit. Defensively we’ve got a number of options and we feel like our opponents will find it difficult to score on us. We’ve got some technical and creative midfielders that are going to help us break lines and build our attack. I think the biggest question remaining is who is going to step up and be that player who finds the net when we need it most?
8. Where will the home matches be played and how can people get tickets for a home match?
Home matches will be played at Alamo Sportsplex.
7440 FM 1560
San Antonio, TX 78254
Tickets will go on sale this week through our website (www.alamocitysoccerclub.com) for our home matches and as soon as they are available we will be spreading the word through social media, etc.
9. Are there any matches or derby we should be looking out for?
On the WPSL side it only makes sense that the SA Blossoms will be the derby match to look for while on the UPSL side we’ve got both Olympians and Samba FC fighting it out with us for bragging rights in San Antonio.
10. What are your thoughts on how soccer has grown, locally, at state level and nationally in the USA?
I think without question soccer is way more popular in the U.S. than it was 15 – 20 years ago, but I don’t think you can answer this question without touching on the pay to play model. This keeps so many kids on the sidelines because of how expensive it’s become to play, especially in leagues like the DA or ECNL. For the parents of players at clubs in these leagues, that aren’t attached to an MLS side, some of them are coughing up $10,000 – $15,000 a year. We operate in a world where the best players get penalized financially because the higher the level of play the more expensive the fees/travel are. If U.S. clubs could receive solidarity payments like the rest of the world when one of their players becomes a professional and is sold to a club, then we could use that money to fund our programs. It would also force clubs to actually put together a quality developmental program. Unfortunately that’s not currently the case.
We’ve been working lately on some ideas to try and fully fund some of our programs for the top players and we are getting close to making it happen. Pulling this off would put an end to the financial deterrent that some kids are facing and in many cases those kids are some of the most talented around even though they don’t play club soccer. Part of the reason is that luxury items that other kids have may not be affordable for them. All they might have is a ball and a wall, but those kids are out there for hours knocking it around. We’ve got to find a way to level the playing field for families regardless of income.