Part two of a three part series in which Ryan Martin, Director of the DC United Academy, discusses the culture, tactics, and future of DC United.
If you missed part one of the series, focused on Martin’s background and developing a culture for the program, you can find it here!
On the development of tactics
While Ryan Martin was successful in his endeavor to work and create a roster out of nothing with John Harkes at Cincinnati, directing an academy which has been in place for over 10 years is a completely different challenge.
Previously run by Nolan Sheldon, now the Assistant Coach for DC United, Ryan remarked that he likes and wants to build off of what Nolan has started within the Academy. Discussing the system in place, he noted that Nolan put together a good methodology for DC United, off of the French federation system and the MLS. While Ryan believes that the current system in place is very good, he also thinks that there is a disconnect between the different youth teams and the first team.
Moving forward, Ryan has said before, and reiterated, that he’d like to implement a style of play which is easily identifiable. His goal is that when college recruiters are looking at DC youth teams, any player can be identified and that their style and skill is understood across U14, U16, and U18 teams, “because that’s the way DC United teams play.”
In order to create this style of play, and describe what this style of play would look like, he presented some great details into the plans for DC’s Academy. He noted that, “the first phase is to establish a positional breakdown of what we’re looking for by position. That goes from physical traits, to mental traits, technical ability, tactical awareness, and that starts with Ben”. A tactician, Ryan discussed how Ben Olsen (DC’s Head Coach) chooses what he’s looking for in positional players, and how it’s Ryan’s job to make sure these positional players are learning their roles.
“We want to create an attacking style,” his energy rising as he explained this style, “I want to be able to drop my number 6 in between my two center-backs, and push my outside backs high.” He delved deeper, relaying the need to develop “a goal keeper that can build from the back” and then went into the attacking style, requiring “tactical versatility in my midfield, and then when we get to the attacking third, we’ve got to be able to spring in behind and we’ve got to be able to press at all times. I want to be able to press from a turnover but also from different lines of the field and have players that can understand and read the game.”
Watching DC United play last year, it became clear as the season went on that fullbacks were moving higher up the field, taking on midfielders, one-on-one, with Kemp in particular pressing up high at times. Everything that Ryan relayed here, makes sense in how DC played as the season developed, and Ryan’s job is cut out for him to produce players that can make this style of play stronger.
On getting players to the first team
With a clear style of play defined and an objective set to graduate players to the first team, Ryan expressed that “my job as a youth academy coordinator is to develop players to play for Ben Olsen and play on the first team, my job isn’t based on results.”
This flexibility allows him to focus on players developing in their roles and personal development, rather than relying on one player or one tactic to win youth games. As the coach for the U-16 team while directing the Academy, Ryan is able to focus on producing the right players for Ben Olsen, by focusing on skill sets and tactical awareness.
Having recently completed his A license, Ryan has the tactical mind, experience, and plan to develop DC’s Academy into one which will continue to produce great players for DC United’s first team, if not at a greater rate.