Greenwich United’s premier soccer program scores a win with town’s families

Members of Greenwich United pose for a photo prior to a recent match.

Members of Greenwich United pose for a photo prior to a recent match.

Greenwich United’s soccer program was formed under the joint auspices of two travel programs in town, the Greenwich Soccer Association (GSA) and Old Greenwich-Riverside Community Center (OGRCC).

The idea behind the merger was to provide the highest level of coaching in the state with highly regarded local high school, collegiate and ODP coaches, while aligning each year’s team with the appropriate level of competition to challenge and grow the players.

Over the past several years, Greenwich United has created several premier teams, the latest being this past seasons U-12 Arsenal team. According to U-12 Arsenal coach Kurt Putnam, the team was put into place to build on the excellent foundation skills developed by both travel programs in town.

“We don’t advocate or support premier for anything less than teams that we feel can compete at the highest levels within the state and surrounding vicinities,” said Putnam, who also is the coaching director of Greenwich United and the varsity head coach at Greenwich High School. “We believed as joint boards that we could support premier level of play through the application of a simple performance metric of CT Cup, Division 1 and tournament results.”

So far it would seem that this metric is bearing just rewards with this past season’s U12 Greenwich United Arsenal team currently having a top five ranking for all state-wide U-12 teams and, at one point, a ranking in the top 30 for all teams in the Northeast.

During the Fall 2012 season, the U-12 Greenwich United Arsenal team went 7-0-0, scoring 32 goals and conceding only five. A few short months later, the Spring 2013 team, with a reconfigured league schedule, went 6-0-1, scoring 28 goals and conceding six. They ended the year without a league match loss.

The team’s first two tournaments resulted in wins, beating FC Westchester and CFC Samba Azul, and then capturing the State Cup victory against local rivals Shoreline FC. However Greenwich United Aresenal were defeated 1-0 to Everton America Regional, a highly selective program based in Norwalk.

While the team ranked as high as No. 3 in the state during the winter, a step up in tournament competition throughout the Spring season, including the top divisional flights of the Manhattan SC and Needham tournaments versus highly-ranked teams from Massachusetts and New York, proved more humbling.

The season came to a close last week with a friendly match against local premier New York Soccer Club, but it wasn’t against the boys U-12 team, instead the U-12 Girls team, currently ranked 12th in the entire country.

Both coaches knew that the contrasting styles would suit both teams to learn and grow from each other. The girls brought a physical and technical game, often standing a foot above the boys. The boys brought a fast-paced, high pressure, counter-attacking game and it was the latter that proved successful with a 4-2 win for the boys. Both coaches intend doing the same before the fall season starts in late August, since local competition for both teams is somewhat scarce.

Interestingly, while the Greenwich High School Varsity Boys team, coached by Kurt Putnam, looks like a mini United Nations, so too does the U-12 Greenwich United Arsenal premier team. Boys come from all corners of the world, from Japan, Argentina, Spain, France, Sweden, Chile, Holland and the United States. Putnam has no doubts that these boys will continue the success demonstrated over the last couple of years.

As boys leave U-11 and enter U-12, many parents are faced with the difficult decision of what program their boys should play in. Youth soccer is not always a clear path but John Jee, the former OGRCC U-11 boys team manager said it best.

“What we found as our group entered into this process was that joining Kurt Putnam’s Greenwich United program (administered by the OGRCC) was the best path forward,” Jee said. “Where many soccer clubs were concerned about creating teams for like-ability competition in a hyped up premier team, Kurt’s record of achievement, the current success of his boys U-12 team, the motivation and concern his coaches showed at his Cardinal Soccer Spring Break Program, and his passion for development of young players drew us to his program. It’s this trust that we have in him, and his coach Alan Marsh, to do the best for our players developmentally that ultimately drew our players to select his program.

“This next year is a big jump for us, as we leave eight-on-eight play on small-sided fields to 11-on-11 using regulation fields,” added Jee. “There is much to learn, uncertainty of adolescence, and years more to progress in a very competitive sport. His development of Greenwich soccer players throughout the middle school years has shown much promise as they enter his program at GHS.”

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