Ruling forces soccer players to decide between teams

By: Matt Long/Telegraph Sports Editor
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An ultimatum handed down by the U.S. Soccer Federation asking players in its Development Academy to choose between the academy and their high school teams didn’t affect local teams much. Only three players between the two Folsom schools and Oak Ridge High play with the Loomis-based California Development Academy and only one, Folsom’s Matt Richard, chose to stay with the academy. Vista’s Brandon Wallace decided to play for his high school team, while Oak Ridge’s Lee Barclay is out for the high school season anyway with a broken ankle so the ruling didn’t affect him much at all. While Richard declined to comment on the story, Wallace had no problem deciding to stay with Vista del Lago, even though he said leaving the CDA probably hurts his chances of earning a scholarship. “It’s my senior year, and I just want to try to enjoy it,” Wallace said. “I didn’t really feel welcomed at the CDA, and I wanted to come back to where I thrive. The CDA is a high-quality club, and I was a little disappointed to leave, but I wasn’t happy there and felt I needed to do it.” While Vista del Lago coach Joe Esfandiary was pleased Wallace chose to stay on his team, he said it’s unfair that the CDA players had to pick one team or the other halfway through the high school season. Folsom High coach Ray Robitaille feels the ruling is out of line. “There is something inherently wrong with forcing a child to choose between a protracted dream of only potential involvement in the national team pool and the reality of being a student athlete and playing with pride for their community high school. The tradition of earning a school varsity letter and all the social content that a 12-week school program represents can certainly fit in with what has become elite soccer programs doing big business making money trading one set of hopes and dreams of children at the expense of another.” Oak Ridge coach Henry Reis, who coaches at the club level, understands both sides. “I’m at the club level as well, so I kind of look at it both ways,” Reis said. “If the academy level is at the level where these kids are being looked at by the national team then I can understand not playing high school due to the risk of injuries and that kind of stuff. But I don’t think every kid is going to get a scholarship to begin with and who knows what’s going to happen in a couple of years. “You have to protect your league players for the national pool. As a parent of a player at that level you have to think, well, maybe high school is not for us, but I think the rest of them or at least quite a few deserve to have the option. “I think it’s kind of disappointing for the kids who made a commitment to their high school coaches, to the program and to the other players. I think it’s unfair. It’s only 10 weeks and you’re done. What kind of difference is it going to make?” Brett Ransford contributed to this story.