The 2017 season marked perhaps the most important addition to the Otters franchise with the establishment of a reserve team. The Otters U-19s are an important step in aiding youth development in the Tri-Cities area and giving players the chance to make the jump to the Otters first team.
David Garrett, of One7 Ministries, was named head coach of the reserves and was tasked with putting together a talented team of players from around the region. Garrett did just that, making the reserves extremely competitive in just their first year.
The biggest success of the reserve team came at the US Club Soccer Southeast Regional Final. Over the span of the four-day tournament the Otters U-19s went undefeated and earned a place in the National Final. The reserves were led by top goal scorer Toby McGovern (DC United Academy), as well as part-time first-teamers Jordan Broadwater (ETSU) and Shalom Dutey (Liberty).
At the national final, the reserves won their first two games before falling in their final game to just miss out on the semifinals.
The Otters first team was able to utilize the reserve team and had a number of players earn minutes with the first team after playing with the reserves. Along with Broadwater and Dutey, Juan Carlos Ramirez (Montreat) was able to contribute heavily to both teams.
There was also a pair of 17-year-old midfielders who played roles with the first team. The first, Camilo Benitez (Sporting KC Academy), only made two appearances for the Otters, but he recorded a shot and performed well on both sides of the ball as the central midfielder.
The second was Jake Gusler (DC United Academy). Gusler started with the reserve team before quickly being signed by the first team. Gusler is the youngest player to ever appear for the Otters at 17-years-old, making seven appearances and playing just over 200 minutes for the season. Gusler primarily played on the left wing and used his superb movement and speed to work openings for himself and others.
The continued development of the reserve team will only continue to yield positive dividends for the team and the players, and is another key step in building the Otters franchise in the Tri-Cities!
The time of year has come for the fans to have their voices heard and vote on the Otters end of season awards! Topics include MVP, Young Player of the Year, Super Sub, and several more! Polls open Monday, August 7th, so be sure you follow Tri-Cities FC on Twitter and Facebook to cast your votes!