The Ironbound Talent Center is Red Bulls’ longest serving cost-free RDS training location, with a history of identifying some of Red Bulls’ most promising prospects. As the Talent Center initiative starts to expand - with several new locations coming soon - we take a look back at the history of the program, and some of the top players to have been developed in partnership with Ironbound Soccer Club (ISC).
Sitting in the shadow of Red Bull Arena, Ironbound Soccer Club have been developing top-level soccer players long before Red Bulls’ arrival in Harrison. Catering to players in the Ironbound, Newark, and towns much further afield, ISC have a storied history of competing at the very highest level of youth soccer.
“When the team came to Harrison, one of our major priorities was to work with our neighboring clubs,” says Dave Jervis, Senior Director of Youth Programs. “We would have wanted to work closely with ISC irrespective of their player pool, but the fact that they had a proven history of producing such exceptional players made it an obvious choice.”
Indeed, over the years, ISC has possibly developed more players who have gone on to represent Red Bulls Academy than any other individual club. In 2018 alone, four players earned the opportunity to play in the region’s leading Development Academy club, and this year has been no different.
“This spring, five players from ISC have been made offers to play with Red Bulls Pre-Academy U10 and U11 teams.” said Simon Barrow, Senior Manager of Player Development. “This eclipses the number of players from any other one club, and truly shows that ISC do something a little different with their players. We’ve seen it time and time again with kids that come from this club, and we have a number of players who have originated from ISC, progressed to the RDS Pre-Academy teams, and then gone on to thrive within our Academy. Right now, we have a 2008 birth year who is excelling, despite playing an unprecedented two-years up.”
It’s not only the RDS, Pre-Academy, and Academy teams who have benefitted from the excellent work ISC coaches have been doing with their players over the years. Rather, the value of the partnership stretches way beyond the youth level.
Possibly most importantly, the influence of ISC has also been seen at the first team level for Red Bulls. Prior to joining the Academy, the talismanic Tyler Adams spent some of his formative years playing with club, developing the aggressive, dynamic, and determined style of play that he demonstrated in MLS, prior to taking his talents to RB Leipzig of the German BundesLiga and the U.S. Men’s National Team. To this day, the Ironbound influences can clearly be seen in his all-action playing style. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the hopes of a soccer nation depend largely on this young star, on whom ISC’s fingerprints are all too evident.
“Ironbound SC prides itself in providing their players opportunities to improve their skills and to showcase them, so they can advance to a higher level.” says John Soares, ISC’s Director of Operations. “The RDS Talent Center gives the players extra dedicated training to improve their skills and the opportunity to showcase them. We’re proud to see former ISC players such as Tyler Adams with the USMNT and John Tolkin with the U-17 USMNT.”
It’s not only the work of Ironbound SC and the Red Bulls Talent Center that refines this hotbed of talent, however. Soccer is inherently part of the culture in the local community, especially with the prevalence of Portuguese and Brazilian communities, and the effect on the players is clear for all to see. Stop by any field in the area, and even before the organized practices have started, kids are already forming their own pick-up games, and earning valuable practice time on their own accord. Moms and Dads line the park chatting cheerfully - often about the professional games they’ve recently been watching - but are essentially leaving the players to figure a few things out for themselves.
The value of this semi-supervised practice cannot be underestimated. The very fabric of soccer in the US is permeated by a regimented approach to coaching that limits young players opportunities to experiment, and ultimately push their own boundaries without fear of failure or reprimand. Such limitations are not evident in this community, as the players clearly flourish from this combination of structured practice, and unstructured play.
Barrow continues “Our goal with the Talent Center is to harness the innate love for the game, and passion for playing that these kids already have. Our job is really the easy bit - to provide players with a platform to be identified for opportunities at the next level, and then help provide the finer details that help them excel on that stage.”
Participation in the Ironbound Talent Center is entirely cost-free, and available exclusively to players registered with Ironbound Soccer Club. Try-outs are held in the fall season, and selected players typically benefit from 6 weeks of training in the subsequent fall and spring seasons.
For information on how to register for try-outs with Ironbound Soccer Club, click here, and begin your journey to the region’s most storied springboard for talented youth soccer players.