Written in dry erase marker on a mirror in Allison Davis’ bedroom are all the tasks she wants to accomplish today — school, homework, call a college coach, fly to Seattle for a soccer match …
The list keeps growing for the Summit High sophomore, who is in her first season playing with the Portland Thorns Development Academy.
U.S. Soccer created a boys academy in 2007 with a philosophy based on increased training and fewer games overall but more meaningful games using international rules of competition.
A girls development academy was added in 2017. The academy has 197 clubs, including the Thorns, across the country in age groups ranging from U-12 to U-18/19.
Davis, a goalkeeper on Summit’s 2017 state championship team, tried out for the Thorns U-16/17 team last May at Portland’s Providence Park, home of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Thorns and Major League Soccer’s Timbers.
“It was crazy for me, just going from watching in the stands to actually being on the field and just looking up and seeing the whole stadium around you,” says Davis, whose family owns Thorns season tickets. “I just loved it, and I wanted to keep going back.”
Kaley Kreutzer, a freshman at Bend High, also participated in the tryout.
“It was a dream. I never thought I’d play in Providence Park,” Kreutzer recalls. “I knew most of the girls from other programs, so that made it a lot easier, but it was just scary because everybody is really, really talented. It was fun to compete and play the best you could and see what happened.”
Both Davis and Kreutzer received an email the day after the tryout inviting them to join the club.
The U16-17 Thorns practice three days a week in Portland, and Davis and Kreutzer are required to attend at least one of those practices.
“We have a number of players on that team that are talented players but live out of the area,” academy director and U16/17 coach Laura Schott says. “We’d love to have them at all of them (practices), but that’s six hours of commuting for a two-hour practice. We set a minimum, but obviously we want to see them as much as possible.”
Davis’ and Kreutzer’s parents take turns driving the girls from Bend to Portland.
When they are not training with the Thorns, the girls practice with their former club team — the Bend FC Timbers — and work out at Boss Sports Performance in Bend.
Both girls have discussed moving to the Rose City.
“I love playing soccer, and I met my best friends on this team,” Davis says of the development academy. “Being able to play the sport that I love with the people that I love is just awesome. Because they are my best friends I want to be with them as much as I can. If I can be up there (Portland) as often as possible, that’s what I want to do.”
But Davis’ parents are not leaving their jobs in Bend. Her mom, Tina, works for the Deschutes Public Library, and her father, Rod, works for Bend-La Pine Schools.
“It’s something that she wants to do so we’re trying to see how we can make that happen,” Tina says of Allison living in Portland. “We don’t even know what it (living in Portland) looks like yet. There’s a good possibility that she’ll do her junior and senior years in the Portland area.”
While their home games are played in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, the developmental Thorns travel to Washington, Utah and California for conference games, and to Florida and Colorado for showcase tournaments in front of college coaches. The academy pays for flights and hotels.
This month alone, Davis is also flying to showcase camps in San Francisco and at the University of Pennsylvania.
“One of my goals is to go to the best college that I can go to,” says Davis, who is talking to coaches from Penn, the University of Washington, Boise State and the University of San Francisco. “Being in Bend for 16 years, I want to go to a city and experience something that I haven’t before.”
While Kreutzer, originally from Florida, is not as far along in the college recruiting process, her dream school is Florida State.
Over the last two years, 24 girls from the Thorns academy have committed to colleges, including eight in the class of 2019 to the likes of the University of Oregon and Stanford, according to the club’s website (www.port landthornsacademy.com.)
“I want to help each of our athletes maximize their potential and reach their dreams and be in an environment that’s conducive to development,” Schott, the academy director, says. “That’s the goal for us.”
Davis and Kreutzer, a midfielder, both start for the Thorns U-16/17 squad.
“She’s a really competitive, athletic and technically sound player that really, to progress, just needed a more competitive environment,” Schott says of Davis, who missed more than two months after breaking her right wrist in practice last October. “Now that she’s in that, I just see her continue to improve. She’s doing really well. She just keeps putting in the work and making the commitment to train. She’s really invested in her own development, and it’s really paying off.”
Kreutzer is in her second season with the academy after playing for the U-15 team last year. “Kaley’s really athletic,” Schott says. “She’s an intelligent midfielder. She can play-make on offense and she works really hard on defense.”
U.S. Soccer Development Academy policy prohibits its members, including Davis and Kreutzer, to play on their high school teams.
“It was a fun experience to play high school, but it’s not as competitive as DA (development academy),” says Davis, who cheered for Summit from the stands last fall. “I tried to be as supportive as I could even though I couldn’t be out there helping.”
While the Oregon School Activities Association soccer season lasts a maximum of 11 weeks, including the playoffs, the development academy season runs for 11 months, taking only July off.
The Thorns play 24 regular-season games and are 4-10-6 this season.
“It’s hard but so worth it,” Davis says. “It’s everything I’d imagined it would be and more.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, email@example.com