Napa Soccer Academy, the very first Admiral Sports Partner Club of the Month, is a program on the rise. Based in Napa, California, the club has made headlines with a well-known coach joining their ranks and a national team call-up coming for one of their standout players.
Gavin Taylor has quickly become a big name in the coaching ranks on America’s West Coast. Taylor moved from England, where he had been with Fulham FC for eight years, to start a very ambitious project with the Napa Soccer Academy. Equipped with a UEFA A license, Taylor brought a wealth of experience to the sport here in the U.S. He is after all a coach that led the Fulham U-18 team to a Premier League title along with winning the Dallas Cup. That is quite impressive, considering you are talking about competing with and beating some of the top youth teams in the world.
His credentials are literally world-class and include a plethora of licenses, awards, and certifications. His experience and qualification easily put him among the top coaches in North America. A few of those include the UEFA U17 – U21 A license, UEFA Coaching B License, FA Youth Award (Modules 1-3), FA Player + Match Analysis Award, FA Academy Youth Coaches Award, FA Fitness for Football Award, FA Psychology Award (Level 1 & 2), and the Community Sports Leaders Award. As we said his credentials are quite impressive.
Taylor has brought a progressive philosophy to Napa, one that provides incredible opportunities for developing players. His beliefs are very clear and straightforward.
“Fundamentally I believe in creating a positive learning environment for young players. A place where there is a culture of hard work, commitment, and dedication at every practice. Once you have this environment set you are on course to developing players for the future.”
Creating the right environment is just one piece of the puzzle. Style is another important consideration, according to Taylor.
“Like all coaches we strive to play a possession-based game where our teams build out from the back with purpose and creativity. We encourage every player to be creative and not fit to a simple team structure that can deny individual brilliance. We all love the game because of its ability to excite and that passion should never be removed at the expense of maybe winning a game.”
Creating exciting players of individual brilliance who can play at the very highest levels is their mission and as you will see with Eduardo “Lalo” Blancas, they are already seeing tangible results of their work.
Eduardo “Lalo” Blancas is truly unique because he is both a game-changer and a team player.
He described himself in a very modest and humble way, saying he always tries hardest in the field and does anything he can for his team.
Blancas can play any position, having played midfielder and forward for Napa and defender for the U.S. U-16 national team. Yes, Blancas has already become part of the U.S. national team program and played in the prestigious Torneo Delle Nazioni in late April. He would play a vital role in the Americans’ success at the event, one that included a U.S. victory over England and a very respectable sixth-place finish.
Taylor is not surprised by Blancas’ progress at the international level.
“He has the unique ability to make positives happen on the pitch at any moment. He can score and create goals in equal measure. I actually think he is more alive in pressure moments than in the normal flow of the game. From my experience it is that quality that sets apart good players and the very best players.”
Remember these compliments hold extra weight thanks to the fact that Taylor has worked with the likes of Patrick Roberts, Marcus Betinelli, Moussa Dembele, and Clint Dempsey.
Taylor found Blancas’ call-up to the national team to be very special because the Napa program is so very new. Some programs exist for decades and never get someone called up to a national team. It happened right away for Napa Soccer Academy and he sees this as a very good sign for the club.
“There is a group of people here in Napa who should share great pride in the achievement because they have played a huge role in his journey so far. I have been very fortunate to come in at a time when a lot of the foundation work was completed.”
Blancas credits his coaches and the club for the opportunity to represent his country in international play.
“My club has helped me develop as a footballer, by giving me the right training and treating my how I'm supposed to be treated. The coach that made a difference in my club is Eduardo Vargas because he has corrected me in every way possible.”
Simply put, the Napa Soccer Academy has provided Blancas with lots of opportunities, including the chance to represent his country. That is something he will cherish forever.