Next step: The US Soccer National Championships.

Style, culture and grit see the 2006 boys win their National League P.R.O. group.

Our 2006 boys became the first boys' Arsenal team to qualify for, play in and ultimately emerge victorious from the National League.

The boys entered the deciding weekend of matches in Phoenix, AZ sitting top of the table.

Three strong performances (2W, 1D) earned them the title of Champions of their group, qualifying them to participate in the US Youth Soccer National Championship tournament this summer.

“The experience of competing and winning the National League P.R.O. has strengthened our team's friendships, improved our technical and tactical soccer skills, and given our entire club confidence in our playing style,” says teammate Amir Awais.

Years of preparation have led to this success.

“Competing against the top teams in the nation requires a level of skill that our team has never required before entering this league,” Amir continued.

The 2006 boys player pool has established a training culture that demands excellence, accountability, and intensity.

Over the course of several seasons, the core principle for the boys has been to be a ball-oriented and ball-dominant team, both in and out of possession.

This requires the players to be confident and brave on the ball, break lines of pressure with dribbling and passing, and to regain possession quickly when the ball is lost.

“In preparation for the National P.R.O League,” says Coach Jonathan Velotta, “We have tried to hone in on these principles: to dominate the ball in more advanced positions and to regain possession higher up the field.”

“When the team lost in the Regional Semi-final last year to Arlington Soccer Academy, the eventual National Champion,” Coach Velotta recalls, “We talked as a group about gaining the 5% we needed to improve in order to compete at a national level. In addition to improving our core principles, we acknowledged that we needed to add more tactical sophistication and adapt to different situations based on the demands of the individual games.”

And the boys rose to the challenge, training more often and more intensely in the months leading up to the National League.

“We've improved our overall game management, mid and low black defending and attacking and defending box organization,” Coach Velotta said.

“To summarize, these boys have combined a high standard of physical and mental commitment with an elite level of technical and tactical execution, leading to success on a national stage.”

When reflecting on the training received, teammate Koven Johnson agreed: “The coaches are top class and go out of their way to ensure a healthy and enjoyable training environment that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Featured team in the National League.

Following their win, the boys were the centerpiece in a recap created by the National League.

But to the boys, it's about more than just the soccer.

"Playing across the United States against the best in the nation brought our team together on and off the pitch in ways that were not possible in Pittsburgh," Amir says, when asked how this has helped everyone grow.

"Even though we won the league, in every single game, there were stretches where we were not the 'better team.' In each match, the players on the pitch, on the bench, and the coaches had to develop new strategies on the fly to get us back on top of the game."

And it was in these moments that the team began to believe they could reach that next level.

"Formulating and executing these strategies built trust within each other that we will carry to every future game that we play."

But for some, the biggest achievement has been the bonds forged with each other.

"For me, the best part is the sense of community and family that this group of boys have," says Koven.

"I’ve been at the club for almost 9 years now and have grown up with Arsenal as a big part of my childhood. It holds a special place in my heart. I'm communicating with the guys daily and we organize times to hangout outside of our training schedule, and the chemistry we developed is seen on the pitch."

"It’s a truly remarkable group," Koven adds, "And I’m grateful to be part of it."

Our club model creates sustained success.

“We believe in our philosophy, and it produces results,” says Coach Velotta. This belief is echoed by the players.

“We have been taught ever since we were around eight years old how to play out of the back and control the game's tempo,” Amir recalls. “When we were around ten years old, our team rarely played against another team that played this possession-based style.”

But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing and national competition.

“Even though years ago,” Amir added, “When we believed that our team played soccer how it was meant to be played, we didn't always get the outcome that we felt suited us for how well we played most games.”

These tough results did not deter the team from staying on their path and refining their style, with the hope that it would eventually bear fruit.

“The years of practicing and believing in our style of play have brought us to become champions of the National League and proven to our club—and to others—that our style of play works beautifully.”

Congratulations to the boys, coaching staff and families! We're excited to see where the team goes next.

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1 Comment

  1. 2022-2023 Tryouts - Arsenal FC of Pittsburgh on April 18, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    […] The environments are designed to help individual players. For example, if a player needs extra help, he or she can train with a younger group. Similarly, a player who is 'ready' can be pushed by playing with older or more skilled players. We are always challenging our players to play outside their comfort zones. […]

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