After spending the past year with the D.C. United Academy, Adam Hassan is back for more — re-signing with the Major League Soccer club for the 2018-2019 season, to compete on its U-19 developmental squad.
The 5-foot-10 midfielder/defender bypassed his junior year at Steinbrenner High School last August, to enter the D.C. United Academy U-17 program.
The Lutz resident earned that opportunity after his game film and a tryout caught the eye of D.C. United staff.
In May, the Washington D.C.-based club formally invited Hassan back for another season.
In a recent interview with The Laker/Lutz News, Hassan called it “an honor” and “very cool” to again don the pro team’s badge.
For him and others, re-upping with the MLS development academy creates a more systematic route to play in college, and perhaps, the pro ranks someday.
He is among a rare group of a few dozen players chosen to join the Academy, which scouts regionally and internationally for young talent exhibiting professional potential.
Through it, Hassan and others have received access to top-caliber coaching and advanced training methods, and have the opportunity to play in arguably the most competitive league in North America, the United States Soccer Developmental Academy (USSDA).
Stepping into a program and league with such prestige was initially surreal for Hassan, who also played club soccer with the Lutz-based Tampa Rangers for several years.
He explained: “I’d definitely say at first, it was a bit intimidating. I mean, you’re walking in with kids over on the (U.S.) national team, or just on their way. I like the challenge. It’s fun, so I was a bit excited as well — a mixture of nervous and excited.”
The uptick in competition wasn’t the only adjustment he had to make.
It was also leaving behind family and friends in Lutz, and gaining familiarity with new coaches and teammates.
“It’s just a completely new environment,” Hassan said, noting it took about a month to really feel comfortable with his surroundings.
Part of that new environment is more structured soccer training, at a higher frequency than high schoolers typically receive.
It often means practice sessions twice a day, plus more instruction, more drills, more workouts and more competitive matches.
The development teams practice just like the pros, using the same training facilities at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.
“It’s almost like a full-time job,” he said.
“I definitely had to improve my time management skills,” added Hassan, who will also manage his soccer schedule with his Florida Virtual School course load.
“It’s a complete, professional environment,” he said.
He added: “They’re molding us to be the professionals, so they give us the same environment, so we can become the best that we can.”
So far, the move up north appears to be paying off.
By training regularly with Academy coaches, including Ryan Martin and Nate Kish—both experienced former Division I college assistants — Hassan said he’s made definite strides in his overall skill level and touch. His ability to think quickly in game action has improved, too.
Everything has sharpened, he said. “My mind has sped up, because you have to play quickly to compete.”
Hassan also said he straightened out his long-ball — an attempt to move the ball a long distance down the field via a long aerial kick to an attacking player — which, at times, had a tendency to curve away from his intended target.
“I finally was able to fix it and drive it down the line. I was able to get it right where I want it to go, and still at a high pace,” Hassan said.
One noted difference between high school ball and his new team is playing time, where it comes at a premium in development academies.
Back in 2016, Hassan was the only sophomore in Steinbrenner’s starting lineup, playing a total of 1,350 minutes — more than any 10th-grader in school history.
With the D.C. United Academy, however, Hassan has had to grind his way to more action.
He began the 2017-2018 season playing about 5 minutes per game. He eventually worked his way up to playing halves after improving his skills during the course of the season. “You have to inch your way in by slowly working harder and harder, and, correcting all (your) flaws,” he said.
This summer, Hassan has been soaking up his time back in Lutz.
But, he’s also been focused on “getting right back into shape” through an offseason workout and training regimen prescribed by D.C. United Academy staff.
Hassan is set to return to Washington D.C., on Aug. 5.
He’s looking forward to continuing to develop his soccer skills and reconnecting with teammates.
Earning more playing time and making the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs are a couple of his goals for the 2018-2019 campaign. “I always want to get better,” he said.
Hassan, too, hopes to get on the radar college soccer programs this season and earn some college scholarship offers. He also wants to play professionally some day, either in the U.S. or overseas.
He’s seems to be in the right place to do so.
In 2016, D.C. United sent 16 players to Division I soccer programs. Additionally, eight Academy players have gone on to professional homegrown contracts since its inception in 2005.
Published July 18, 2018