Louisville City 2021 Academy Signings
For those of you who have been following my writing and follow me on Twitter will know that I am very passionate about the academy. This investment in youth players will be a critical component of the club’s future. Being able to develop professional talent will create a continuity of play style for the clubs as these players earn first-team minutes and potentially earn the club a profit for their transfer to a bigger club. While not playing in the highest division has its drawbacks, this setup can help to ensure that Louisville has a presence in the greater soccer scene in the country. Ideally, I’d like to see the club become the North American version of Ajax, a club known for developing some of the best talents in the world, all while competing in a league outside of the Big Five.
The story of Elijah Wynder becoming the first academy player to see first-team minutes was the beginning. This offseason, the club has taken the next big step forward. Louisville City FC has signed seven players to USL Academy contracts that permit representing the first team while preserving amateur status and NCAA eligibility. In addition to any first-team duties, all seven players are expected to see time for LouCity’s USL Academy League side launching this year. The USL Academy League bridges clubs’ youth programs and their professional clubs, creating a clearer trajectory to pro careers. The players are forwards Dino Hodzic and Hunter Sekelsky; midfielder Carlos Moguel Jr.; as well as defenders Anthony Cano, Owen Damm, Sebastian Sanchez, and Joshua Wynder.
“These academy signings are another step for our club in creating a true pathway for our elite youth players to reach their full potential," said LouCity's head coach and sporting director, John Hackworth. "We have already had several of them training with us during this preseason. We will continue to integrate them with the first team and look forward to seeing them develop as players and people.”
“This is an exciting time for our academy, and in particular these players,” said Mario Sanchez, the academy’s director. "Each of these young men have consistently performed at a high level in training and in games, which has earned them the opportunity to continue along our pathway toward one day hopefully playing and earning a first-team contract with LouCity. With the upcoming launch of the USL Academy League, we are able to create a clear course for our academy players, which aligns with the vision and mission of our academy.”
More of these signings were certainly expected, but seven!? A fantastic step in the right direction. Given that the USL's regular season will be longer than last, a couple of these players may get to see the pitch. If the group goes as I expect, the odds of them getting time increases even further. Even if minutes are not seen in competitive matches, the time these players will have training with the first team will go a long way in furthering their development. Below are the club-provided bios of the players. Keep an eye on these names, they could be stars in the making!
Anthony Cano is a defender from Bowling Green, Ky. The South Warren High School senior has twice been recognized as a first-team All-State selection. Cano was also awarded as KHSSCA player of the year in 2020. He is the son of Diana and Jose Cano.
Owen Damm, from Versailles, Ky., is a first-team All-State selection out of Woodford County High School. The senior, son of mom Heechung Ko and dad John, plays outside back.
Dino Hodzic is a senior at Ballard High School. The forward has been recognized as a first-team All-State selection. He is the son of Medija and Suljo Hodzic.
Carlos Moguel Jr. is a senior at Martha Layne Collins High School. The midfielder from Shelbyville, Ky., has been recognized as a Courier Journal All-Area, All-Louisville first team, and All-State selection. He is the son of Carmen Gonzalez and Carlos Moguel Sr.
Sebastian Sanchez, a defender, is also the son of the academy director Mario Sanchez and his wife, Shana. Sebastian was born in Akron, Ohio, and now attends Ballard High School. The junior has been recognized as a first-team All-State selection.
Hunter Sekelsky, the son of Brian and Rebecca Sekelsky, is a senior forward at the Louisville Collegiate School, where this past season he was recognized as a 2020 High School All-American and first-team All-State, among other honors.
Joshua Wynder, a central defender, is the younger brother of Elijah Wynder, the aforementioned pro. Joshua, born in 2005, has honed his skills against older teammates, earning his way on to a USL Academy deal as a standout for the LouCity Academy’s U-19 team. His parents are Ranae and Mike.