Real Jersey 13U Girls Dominate with Tough, Hard-working GRoup in
US YOUTH SOCCER NATIONAL LEAGUE MID ATLANTIC EDP CONFERENCE
In his team's first tournament of 2018, Real Jersey FC
2006 coach Rusty Aaronson had a really good inkling as to how special his team was. Real New Jersey was ready to participate in a Showcase in the eastern part of Massachusetts during St. Patrick's Day weekend, though Aaronson could not help but notice the challenging playing conditions.
It was cold, and there were 20-foot snow banks.
"I couldn't believe they were going to play this tournament," he added. "The windchill factor was six degrees. I actually called the tournament director and said, 'Hey, is this tournament still on? It's 14 degrees as the high.' And the guy told me it will be 20 when the sun's out. I actually was fighting with the guy, saying, 'I don't think it is safe that our kids come up.' But listen, the show goes, on, right?"
"I had a few girls that went out there in refused to wear under armor," Aaronson said. "That's what I'm dealing with. So, I mandated it the second game, it's just not safe enough. That's kind of a glimpse inside of what I'm working with. They're just a really good group of girls, just physically, mentally tough, and they're competitors.
"The thing I love about them is that they're super smart and super intelligent on top of that. They're a dream and I've had really good teams with this club."
Not surprisingly, that early success spilled over into the season. Real Jersey recorded an 9-0 mark in the US Youth Soccer National league EDP Mid-Atlantic Premier I, reeling off eight consecutive shutouts before surrendering its first and only goal with five minutes remaining of its final match, a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia Coppa FC Elite at Bob Bende Park in Medford, N.J. on Nov. 27. The side outscored its opposition, 16-1.
"That tells you the passion in which these girls defend, which is really important," Aaronson said. "It was a really good competitive game. It was a great finish to a really good season. I was very pleased."
In so many ways.
Aaronson particularly was encouraged on how his players picked up his teaching and tactics.
"Result-wise it was a real good season, but most importantly for the team and for me as their coach and instructor," he said. "I think more than the results the team had flashes of brilliance in regard to the way they were playing. And at a young age, I think it's really important that teams see that, and they go through that where everything that we're teaching them, comes together, whether its one game out of 10 or five games out of 10. If what we're teaching them both physically and mentally in regard to the game of soccer comes together in those flashes, then they just feed off of that. Then it's a really good teaching moment. We had several of those moments throughout the fall season. I've coached teams where you get a little of that. We had almost full games where this team just went out and excited and just were brilliant. Defensively, offensively. It's tough. When that happens as a coach, you just sit there and you say, 'Wow! We're really making some strides.' "
Aaronson said he was impressed with his team's mental toughness. "The mental toughness is something that you see it with individual kids, but rarely do you see it with 12- to 15-year-kids. I have that right up and down the roster. Our training environment is a little different than a lot of other clubs in terms of we're not a giant club. We're a smaller club. We only have 13 teams, but all of them are really good especially at the young age groups and it allows me to get the girls different looks, some different trainers, some guest trainers.
"Some kids who have done really well for the club have moved up and played for the national team and are playing professional right now and come down and jump in when we're doing drills. It really creates a pretty neat little culture. But we have training sessions where we actually have to tell the girls to calm down a little bit . I love the fact that I have to tell them 'Hey, easy we have a game in two days.' "
As club technical director and president, Aaronson said that "we instill a philosophy from the top down we want to play attractive soccer."
"We also want to play aggressive, attacking and sometimes that all doesn't come together," he said. "This team is a special team because they're super technical and a lot of them have real good super brains. I have a really good mixture of athletes, of really tough kids and some smart, smart soccer players. So the brains have to work in order for us to teach the style that we want to play."
A few weeks ago, Real New Jersey captured the New Jersey Girls U-13 State Cup, avenging a 1-0 lost in the 2017 competition to Cedar Stars. This time the score was reversed as Real tallied in the final minutes.
"The game could have gone either way," Aaronson said. "It was a pretty even match. Early on, I thought we had some good chances, but it was just one of those games with two good teams battling and we ended up getting one at the very end and the girls were just over the moon on that one."
So many players made contributions during the season, Aaronson said he felt it would be unfair to single anyone out.
"You know, if you asked me that a year ago, I probably would have given you three or four," he said. "But this year, I had girls step up. Some girls when the season ended last year, we had some girls that I was concerned about that may fall off a little bit this year and we had conversations with them. They took the summer and they really worked getting better. Three of them went from the middle of the pack to my top six, which that's the way it should work.
"In a competitive environment, good players pull some of the ones on the bottom and in the middle and that should flip-flop. A few girls grew a little bit, a few girls got a little more coordinated. Whatever the factor, whatever happened, I can tell you the ones that moved from the middle of the top put in the work and it was nice to see. Up and down our roster, it would be unfair to single one person out because I think they all stepped up."
After calling it a season, Aaronson has given his side some much needed rest and recover from some injuries suffered during the fall. He noted that some girls are dual-sports athletes and play basketball during the winter.
Recently, the team got together and "played a little fun futsal against the boys," he said.
"We have a club culture here where we're always going, but ... I would like them to shut down a little bit," Aaronson added. “We're never completely shutting down. We'll get started again after the new year. Right now, its rest, relax. Those who want to play a little futsal, go ahead. Nothing really organized and then we'll pick it back up, Jan. 10."