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Five Western PA-based players to join MLS Developmental Academies

Ben Martino is one of three area players to be heading to Philadelphia Union Academy. Photo credit - Riverhounds SC

Three area boys soccer prospects will be taking their talents to Eastern PA to be a part of the Philadelphia Union Youth Academy system, another will be going to the DC United Youth Academy and another to Columbus Crew in the Fall.

Riverhounds Development Academy goalkeeper Ben Martino, who attended Taylor Allderdice High School, along with members from Allegheny Force Football Club, Joel Torbic and Aldair Flowers, will move on to the Union’s Academy, located in Wayne, PA, while Pablo Linzoain will head to DC United Acadmey and Josh Veychek goes West to Columbus Crew Academy.

Scheduled to begin his stint for the MLS Development Academy organization this August, the 16-year-old Martino last played for the 2002 Riverhounds Developmental Academy Boys team under coach Bryan Cartwright.

“Ben is proof that in our system with the right attitude and hard work you can achieve all your goals and dreams,” Cartwright said. “With the guidance of our Director of Goalkeeping Hunter Gilstrap, we have produced some great goalkeepers. We are so proud of Ben and can’t wait to see what his future holds.”

Martino has competed for the RDA for the last five years, in addition to training with the Riverhounds Goalkeeping Academy for one year prior. Taught by Gilstrap and Assistant Director of Goalkeeping Will Marshall, he has furthered his technical skills as well as aspects in the mental approach to the position. Martino will join Dane Jacomen, who entered the D.C. United Academy system in 2017, as recent RDA goalkeepers to be accepted into an MLS-level Academy. Like Jacomen, Martino also attended Taylor Allderdice High School during his time with the RDA.

In addition to Martino, the remaining youth prospects who are moving on — are younger players who have been with Allegheny Force Football Club (AFFC) during the early formative years of their development.

Torbic, who turns 14 in September, is from the State College area, has made a two-plus hour commute regularly to train and compete with AFFC over the past four years. Torbic has participated internationally with Wolves Academy (England) against Stoke City and was part of ID2 U.S. National team, an elite group consisting of some of the best players in the US.

ID2 U.S. National team players have had the opportunity to play on the Senior U.S National team and have moved on to some of the best soccer clubs in world football.  This list includes players like Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund/ Chelsea FC, Tim Weah of PSG, DeAndre Yedlin of New Castle United, Tyler Adams of RB Leipzig, Matt Olosunde of Manchester United, Josh Sargent of Werner Bremen… to name a few have been with ID2.

Torbic is the oldest among the group from AFFC.

Linzoain, 13, is from Fox Chapel, Flowers, 12, hails from Plum, and Veychek,12, lives in Westmoreland County (has been in Penn-Trafford School District).

“This is very exciting,” Thomas Louisy, Director of Coaching for AFFC. “We provide opportunities for these young players to train with us with a focus on player development, and play in tournaments against top-level competition. We are not one of the big clubs, but we’re a close-knit group — and we’ve built a culture that’s been the biggest aspect of their development.”

Each player from AFFC made very positive impressions with each Academy coaching staff — and were offered opportunities to be a part of each residential program.  In fact, Louisy said that after the first 20 minutes of Flowers’ tryout session, the Union Academy were calling him to see if they could bring him to Eastern PA.

Louisy said that while his players regularly train with him three days per week, plus competition, that’s not enough for them if they’re aspiring to play at the highest level. In addition to playing against other DA teams — Louisy said that they’ll have opportunities to play in competitions in Europe as well.

“In the Academy, they’ll train in the morning, go to classes during the day, then have another training later in the day,” Louisy said. “I was often giving these players additional things to work on when they went home, and they really worked hard, even when not training with us.”

The Union’s Academy features an innovative, first-of-its-kind soccer specific independent school partner, YSC Academy.

The Development Academy season opens on August 31.

“In the end, we want to do what’s best for the kids, and their development,” Louisy said. “At this point, I don’t think Pittsburgh area clubs are equipped to provide the training and educational support that they can be provided at these Developmental Academies.”



John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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