The Christchurch United Academy teams got a taste of what they have to work on after playing some of the strongest academy teams around New Zealand over the past weekend.
The Under 13 to Under 17 teams played one of their three annual exchanges with teams from Auckland and Wellington, which has now become a formal part of the Academy programme.
Some of Christchurch United squads had a difficult time against some of their strongest peers in the country, but with only three weeks to the start of the season, Academy Director Colin Williams says the timing for these matches was perfect.
“Some of the teams did extremely well and know they are looking good for the start of the season, while other squads may have found the going a lot tougher, but they will have all picked up some invaluable lessons, individually and as a team,” says Williamson.
He acknowledges that some parents had concerns that CUFC has included a new standard fee for three annual exchange trips for their academy teams, but hopes that the players and families will recognize that these matches are invaluable for the players’ development.
“We can expose our players to a quality of opposition that they may not come across often in Christchurch and we are the only club in the region that offers regular exchanges like this in our programme,” says Williamson.
The Under-17 academy squad arguably had one of the toughest assignments in Auckland, losing against Western Springs and the Wellington Phoenix Soccer School U16 and U17 teams.
The Under-13s also played in Auckland and did not fare much better against Wellington Phoenix and Western Springs. Williamson said the physicality of the Phoenix team was a step up for the Christchurch United players, against a Phoenix squad which had just returned from a successful tour of Japan.
The Under-14 side hosted Wellington Phoenix at the Christchurch Football Centre and competed very well, narrowly losing the first two matches, 3-2 and 4-2, before drawing the final match on Sunday.
The Under-15 squad traveled to Wellington and recorded a good win against Waterside Karori, but the quick turnaround against the Ole Academy proofed too much for the visitors who were outclassed by the talented Ole Academy squad.
“Of course we would have hoped for better results, but last year we had similar results at the start of the year, but we ended up beating the same teams at the end of the year,” says Williamson.