Cody who? Well, that was my reaction when I first read this article from USL.com. It had slipped by me previously, but this time, while quickly skimming, I noticed this line: “Cody returned to his home in Minnesota”, so I read on. It seems that Cody is a 15 year old goalkeeper who formerly played for Bangu FC. His father is English and from the Coventry area in England.
You have quite a goalkeeper there. Jermain Defoe, midfielder for Portsmouth and England National player to Cody Cropper’s mother.
Cody’s father wanted him to have the best chance he could to play at a high level and evidently Minnesota didn’t have the system in place at the time. So to achieve those goals and according to Cody’s father, “to possibly play for the U.S. Youth National Team,” Joe Cropper enrolled his son with a Super Y team from USL that played in Pittsburgh for the Reading Rage during the summer. Cropper was also a member the 2008 Super Y-League Select Team and one of the top-rated players in USL’s Super Y-League ODP system.
I still find it a bit confusing myself but the Super-Y, works in conjunction with the Olympic Development Program (ODP) which is sponsored by Adidas, which used to be the only game in town for developing young talent that would play at the next level. That was until US Soccer did a total evaluation of the ODP system and found it had many holes for players to fall through, therefore creating the new Developmental Academies which are sponsored by Nike. This in itself is worthy of a detailed story. For now however, we will focus on young Cody and his Super Y development.
In Europe, there is a different mentality about the game. In the U.S., middle to upper-class kids play soccer. It is treated like a game. Over there, it is not the wealthy that play football, it is a way to make a better life for you and your family. They approach it with a different vigor, one that is hard to duplicate.
According to USL.com, during the camps, Cropper proved to be one of the top two goalkeepers in the SYL ODP system, earning himself a trip to West Ham United with the Super Y-League Select Team. He also established ties with USL Premier Development League Head Coach Brendan Burke of the Reading Rage.
“Brendan noticed him and saw that he had some potential,” added Mr. Cropper. “In the end we came to the agreement that the best thing for Cody was for him to play at a higher level than he was used to and become more of an intense player in training.”
“Cody is not far off of making it,” said Burke. “I noticed from the start that there was something special about him, especially for a guy his age.”
Cody came back to MN this fall and played for his high school team Maple Grove as a 10th grader this fall and his performance earned him honorable mention for the MN State High School All State team as a goalkeeper.
According to USL.com, Cody’s father said, “I knew the traditional ODP system was not the only way to make that happen. So I contacted the top clubs in Europe and got maybe 30 responses. From that, we selected a handful of clubs and through several trials he has had average to great success.”
“His best success has been with Wolverhampton,” said Mr. Cropper. “He has been there twice now and has earned an invitation to return for a third time this February. They have told us that his performance in a match on February 7th will determine whether they sign him or not, so we are keeping our fingers crossed. During his first two trials, he had the opportunity to train with the Reserve Team.”
I contacted Thunder Academy Director Mark Abboud, who told me that Cody is headed back to England this January for another trial (the third as mentioned above) with Wolverhampton.
According to Abboud, Cody is currently signed up with the U-16 Thunder Academy Blue team and is taking goalkeeper training with Nick Platter this winter.
Mr. Cropper had a few other interesting things to tell USL.com. “In the last year, Cody has grown as a player. He takes training a lot more seriously and even demands more from his teammates at times. That comes from the experience he has had in England and with Brendan with the Rage. He has told me the training sessions in England are beyond intense and that he doesn’t even have time to breathe in shooting drills. Every ball is on target and players can strike the ball with either the inside or the outside of their foot.”
“The whole process has been an incredible learning experience for him and a real blessing,” said Mr. Cropper. “In Europe, there is a different mentality about the game. In the U.S., middle to upper-class kids play soccer. It is treated like a game. Over there, it is not the wealthy that play football, it is a way to make a better life for you and your family. They approach it with a different vigor, one that is hard to duplicate.”
“In his trial with Portsmouth, Cody had the opportunity to play in a match with the club’s U16’s,” said Mr. Cropper. “He played well, but they lost 1-0 to South Hampton. Again, the club liked him, but they had a problem signing him because of his age. During his trial there, he got to train with the starting goalkeeper. Jermain Defoe walks up and starts taking shots on him. I asked Cody if he stopped any and he said ‘yea, I saved a few.’ Afterwards Defoe walked by Cody’s mother and said ‘you have quite a goalkeeper there.’ What a compliment.”
IMS will continue to watch the Cody Cropper story as it develops.