Jourdan Gooden saw professional soccer for the first time in January of last year when Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire came to the Naples area for its preseason training camp at Ave Maria University.
At the time, Gooden was a star center/defender at Gateway Charter School in Fort Myers. The experience of personally seeing how the pros trained and prepared for the pitch left an indelible mark on Gooden and provided a blueprint for his soccer aspirations.
As a member of the Chicago Fire Juniors-Florida program, it also helped Gooden earn a spot in the team’s youth academy in Chicago, placing Gooden among the highest levels of the sport outside of being a professional.
“It gave me the opportunity to see where I want to be,” Gooden said by phone from Chicago, where he also attends prestigious Lake Forest Academy. “Seeing the Fire at their preseason training in Florida put me in the atmosphere of the real thing.
“Knowing the Southwest Florida soccer culture, and the lack of pro teams, people in the area need to see what I saw.”
The Fire returned to the Ave Maria campus again this year for their preseason training camp. The first team arrived this week and will stay through Feb. 3. Practice times, open to the public, are scheduled daily from 9 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.
Special events and clinics associated with the camp, began Jan. 28 with a Chicago Fire Juniors Player-only Clinic from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The Youth Elite Soccer Regional Talent School started today and runs through Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. It is open to boys and girls U8 to U14 and U15 to U18 years old. Each player will receive a personal evaluation from members and coaches on the Fire’s staff.
“It’s a huge experience for young soccer players,” said Dwight Morgan, the Fire Juniors-Florida club administrator and boys head coach at Golden Gate High. “The evaluations at the regional training school are rare for players to get and will give kids an opportunity they normally wouldn’t have.”
Also tomorrow, the Fire will take on D.C. United at Florida Gulf Coast University. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. On Feb. 1, the Fire will play FGCU at Ave Maria at 7 p.m. All participants in the YES RTS will get the opportunity to watch the Chicago Fire players live after training next to them all weekend.
“We’re happy to be returning to Ave Maria to begin our 2012 preseason preparations,” Chicago coach Frank Klopas said. “The town and university have outstanding facilities and served as excellent hosts during our stay last year.
“Our return also allows us the ability to visit and play in front of our juniors club in Florida who have made great strides heading into the third year of our partnership.”
The team and Morgan are both high on the Youth Elite Soccer Regional Talent School aspect offered during the camp.
The RTS is described as “an individual training program specifically designed for advanced travel soccer players looking to take their game to the next level."
“The program consists of 180 minutes of instructional coaching per day over two days and presents a fantastic opportunity for soccer players aged 8-14 and 15-18 (Boys & Girls) to participate in a comprehensive supplementary training program beyond their club practices.”
Much of the RTS’s focus will be on fast foot work development and improving players’ ability to master the ball. Fast foot work repetitions, nutritional and liquid consumption diaries and player self appraisals are just some of the tools introduced to young players.