Sports

Another goal: Wenzel earns coveted spot at elite soccer residency program in Florida

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Dan Wenzel has already experienced more during his first 15 years than a lot of people get to experience during their entire lifetime. And the Federal Way resident has his talent on the soccer field to thank.

Over the past year, Wenzel has played in Hong Kong, Czech Republic, Mexico and Orlando, Fla. and he currently has trips planned to Japan and England in the next couple months.

But Wenzel got the soccer invitation of a lifetime last weekend when he was notified by Alex Miranda, the coordinator for the under-17 US Men’s National Team, that he would be receiving an invitation to join the residency program at the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Wenzel, who recently finished his eighth-grade year at Sacajawea Middle School and was set to attend Tacoma’s Bellarmine Prep in the fall. “It is one of my dreams and I accomplished it.”

The program, which is fully funded by the United States Soccer Association, allows an athlete to finish four years of high school in an accelerated two and a half years, while giving them elite-level instruction in the sport. The IMG Academy is the largest multi-sport training facility in the world and encompasses the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, David Leadbetter Golf Academy, The Baseball Academy and The Basketball Academy, among others. Every year approximately 11,000 athletes (adults, juniors, collegiates, professionals) from over 75 countries train at IMG. Current D.C. United player Freddy Adu went through the IMG Soccer Academy, as did Maple Valley’s Nick Besagno — the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s Major League Soccer Draft.

“I think he is pretty adjusted to the idea of moving to Florida,” said Wenzel’s mother, Anita. “We kind of knew it would be coming. But it’s kind of unnatural to send your 15-year-old out of the house. It’s kind of bittersweet.”

Wenzel, a defensive center midfielder, will start his tenure at the IMG Soccer Academy Aug. 24 with about 30 other players his age, just days after returning from playing with the under-17 US National Team at a tournament in Japan Aug. 6-15.

“He has definitely racked up the frequent flier miles,” said Dan’s father, Tom. “He doesn’t live the life of a normal teenager. He is a pretty mature kid.”

Wenzel just returned from Hong Kong Sunday after playing in the Nike Manchester United Premier Cup as a pickup player with the Crossfire Premier 1990 boys team out of Redmond. Crossfire finished eighth out of 20 teams and returned as the most successful United States team ever at the Premier Cup. Crossfire reached the quarterfinals and played renowned club teams like Manchester United, Borussia DortmUnd and Arsenal.

“I am not sure that even pros get to ever play in an event like this,” said former Major League Soccer player and Crossfire technical director Peter Hatrup. “These boys have given younger players throughout Seattle a goal to strive for.”

Wenzel and Crossfire were the first US team to advance out of group play since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 1998 and went to the national/regional champion format. In fact, only one US team has finished in the top half (10th) and three have finished dead last.

“No one other than ourselves thought we could do what we did,” said Crossfire coach Bernie James. “This was a great result. I am proud of the boys and the respect we gained here in Hong Kong. We showed that we belonged. All our boys played great.”

O’Brien impresses at Adidas camp

Decatur senior-to-be Ciaran O’Brien was named as one of the top-10 players at the prestigious 2005 Adidas Elite Soccer Program, which was held earlier this month in Windor, Conn. The week-long soccer camp featured the top 144 high school-aged players in the United States.

The camp included six days of fitness sessions, motivational talks, college prep courses and several soccer games and after consulting with over two dozen college coaches and several of the staff coaches at camp, the top-10 players were named.

Here’s what an article on ESPN.com said about O’Brien’s game: “His primary position is as an attacking midfielder, but he spent much of the week playing as a striker or on the left side of the midfield. Either way, it was easy to see his talent as a playmaker, since he linked very well with those around him no matter where he lined up.”

“Best passer in the camp,” said one coach in attendance. “Just a smart player who knows the game.”

O’Brien has been an All-State midfielder after his last two seasons at Decatur. In the spring, he led the Gators in goals (nine) and assists (five). He has also spent time with the Under-18 national team this year and is heading over to England later this month to train with Blackburn of the English Premier League, which could yield a possible professional contract.

FC United 17 year olds playing in national championships in Orlando

Five players from Federal Way will play at the 2005 United States Club Soccer Championships in Orlando starting Friday with the FC United under-17 team. O’Brien, Daniel Wenzel, Micah Wenzel, Josh Norwood and Derek Woodworth qualified for the national championships by winning the regional championship in Boise July 5 with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rush. The FC United team finished second in the nation last year during the club season.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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