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National Teams Aug 24, 2010

Local players aim to impress at U.S. U-15 Girls National Team camp

By Travis Clark

The U.S. U-17 Women’s World Cup isn’t until 2012, but for U.S. youth coach Mike Dickey, preparations for the tournament in Azerbaijan have already begun.

Dickey has called a broad-based group of players into his U-15 girls’ camp this week, giving two local girls a chance to stake their claim at the national level.

Andi Sullivan (Bethesda SC; Lorton, Va.) and Vanessa Kovar (VSA Heat; Manassas, Va.) have joined 22 other girls from across the nation in Sunrise, Fla., with the goal to impress coach Dickey and the U.S. youth technical staff. For the two girls from the Washington, D.C. metro area, it’s been a divergent path to Sunrise: Kovar, a striker, is getting a first look from Dickey, while the veteran coach is already familiar with Sullivan.

“[Kovar] is somebody that our scouts have recommended for an option to come in here and show us what she can do,” Dickey told Potomac Soccer Wire in a phone interview. “I’ll have a better read on her at the end of camp to see where she’s at right now.”

For Sullivan, this marks the second time she has received a call-up for a national team camp this year. During her first stint, the midfielder stood out, showing the sort of potential that could lead to a promising future in the women’s program.

“She’s got big upside, so we’re excited about her coming in,” Dickey said in praise of the Lorton native. “She’s got some technical ability that jumps out in certain areas that distinguish her.”

While Sullivan’s skill certainly stood out in the times Dickey has seen her, another useful trait was her ability to transition and learn quickly from the new surroundings. Youth internationals only have a few days to bond with a group gathered from different parts of the country and play well enough to impress scouts and coaches.

“She picks up quite a bit from the short time she’s here,“ said Dickey. “A real positive person as well – really good energy, great teammate. In her first camp, she took to the team real quickly and they took to her. You need someone that will come in during a short time and adapt quick, make friends and be a positive influence on the group.”

Women’s soccer in the United States has stood out for a number of reasons – the full national team has won two Women’s World Cups and three Olympic gold medals. A lot of that is chalked up to their athletic superiority, but the next generation of stars faces ever-increasing competition from around the world and this week Dickey is focused on nurturing the development of his squad’s ‘soccer brains.’

“This particular team, we have a lot of athletic players – a lot of kids that can get places fast,” he said. “But a lot of times they aren’t sure why they’re going there. We’re trying to help them to get their brains to play as fast as their bodies, and also get them to think about where their opponents are going.”

Dickey is quick to note that his players must show the capability to address their flaws and improve their game from one camp to the next. But Sullivan and Kovar will nonetheless get long looks in a short period of time this week as they look to take the first steps on the lengthy road to Azerbaijan in 2012.