Fulham has long been a familiar landing spot for established US internationals. Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, Kasey Keller, Eddie Lewis, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Marcus Hahnemann all enjoyed success with the London outfit. More recently, two of the most promising US youth players have begun to make their mark on the London club. Emerson Hyndman has started in the center of midfield for Fulham’s first team and Luca de la Torre is playing with Fulham’s U18s this season.
Beyond Hyndman and Luca de la Torre, Fulham is also home to promising potential USA Youth Internationals William and Michael Moravek. Fulham’s Moravek brothers are son’s of long time East Coast footballing pioneer, Bill Moravek.
To understand just where the Moravek brother’s are, and where they’re going, it is important to understand just what Bill Moravek has accomplished in his career. “I’ve been a scout for EPL sides Southampton and Fulham as well as been an Academy Coach for Southampton. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be an Assistant Coach for the Jamaican National Team, the Head Coach for British Virgin Islands and Seba United FC (Now known as Montego Bay United in Jamaica’s first division).” Moravek has also coached at NCAA D1 Longwood University, D2 Shepherd University, and was a volunteer assistant at D1 Howard University back in the 90s. He also had a brief stint with the now defunct Maryland Mania of the USL.
Moravek’s football CV is one of the most impressive I’ve come across throughout my time, yet his Washington DC based Summer Academy program could be his most influential contribution to youth soccer in the Mid-Atlantic Region. “When I was at Clemson University, I worked for Loudoun County Parks and Recreation as a Summer Camp Counselor. It was not a football camp but a camp where we did many different types of activities throughout the summer. It was so much fun working with the kids and a great feeling to give back to the community. A few years after I graduated, Moravek Soccer School was formed and soccer camps followed shortly after.”
Players from all over Virginia, Maryland and the DC area attend Moravek Summer Soccer Camps and many from other regions of the USA and overseas. The school conducts day camps in Loudoun County, Virigina and a residential camp for elite youth players at Frostburg State University in Maryland. Coaching staff have come from the USA and from top Academy programs overseas in Fulham, Arsenal, Southampton as well as PSV Eindhoven among others. “I want coaches that are up to date on all the latest trends in the modern game, but more importantly, I want coaches who are able to impart their knowledge in an enthusiastic and caring manner. When students leave our program, we want them to have had a very positive learning experience that they can take with them as they continue on their development path.”
Some of the Moravek’s most gifted alumni are Moravek’s sons 2002 William and 2004 Michael. Bill knew, however, if the opportunity presented itself to move abroad and enroll his sons in an English Academy he would. “There was no particular reason to leave the US. William and Michael were with a very good Academy club in Bethesda-Olney. We thought it would be a good cultural experience to live in a different country as they were both born in England. As they were developing I was taking them over to train with a variety of different clubs including Arsenal, Southampton, Chelsea, West Ham and Manchester United, and of course Fulham. As they continued to progress there was an interest in their abilities [from a number of clubs] so in January of 2011, we took the opportunity to move to England so they could gain a different experience.”
Moravek is well acclimated to the English game and knew the importance of finding the right spot to help develop his sons. “We were drawn to Fulham due to the location in London and its proximity to the city center for my wife’s work. We were also very impressed with academy director Huw Jennings and head scout Malcolm Elias. They were both instrumental in building Southampton’s Academy and discovering the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain among many others. I also worked with both gentleman when I was an academy coach at Southampton so I was very comfortable in having them help guide the boys in their development process. There was interest from other clubs to have both William and Michael, but in the end, for us, it could only be Fulham FC. Over the past four seasons Fulham’s Academy has sky-rocketed to one of the most successful in Europe. Much of that success can be attributed to the work Jennings and Elias have done.”
According to a number of people we speak to at Fulham, both William and Michael are highly regarded in the Academy. William played with the Fulham U12′s last season and is in a special program that utilizes Fulham’s ability to get more contact time with its young academy players. William gets out of school early each day to train Monday through Thursday and twice one of those days. They also get training time with coaches on Saturday and then have matches on Sunday. The selected players get 6-7 training sessions a week and a match on Sunday. These select U12, U13 and U14s train together everyday, and William is the youngest of the entire crop of select players. “Being so young and then going into that new environment in school, with older guys, and being the youngest in the select training program is a great challenge,” Bill said about William’s “full time program” with Fulham’s Academy. William has been fortunate enough to be chosen for a number of tournaments the Fulham youth have been involved in. “William’s been to Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Germany, France, Holland and the Czech Republic, with Fulham.”
William, who just turned 12, will likely compete with the Fulham U13s this season. He is a midfielder who’s most natural position is either a #8 or #10. He is also able to play out wide on either flank, because he is capable of playing with both feet.
Michael, who was a member of the U10 Fulham squad this past season, is a part of the regular academy program due to his age. This program consists of training three times a week then a match on Sundays “He had a normal training schedule last year, but we are hopeful, once he’s a U12, that he will be selected to the “full time” program so he will be afforded the same opportunity as William. We have every reason to believe that he has the potential to get there.” Michael is off to Austria this month on tour with the 2004s where they will compete against Barcelona, Borrusia Dortmund, FC Porto and Juventus, along with a host of other clubs from throughout Europe.
Like his older brother William, Michael can use both his feet, so his preferred position is on either flank, but he’s also been deployed as an attacking fullback at Fulham.
Moravek went on to detail just how much the Fulham Academy has helped his boys mature in both football and life. “We have seen tremendous growth in all areas, they’ve both taken more responsibility for their own development and been very diligent in their studies at school.”
Despite their growth Moravek is quick to temper any hype. “William and Michael have made massive strides here in their development but have a long way to go in the process. There are no guarantees in football. Just because they are here doesn’t mean they will get an automatic call up to the youth national teams. There are many fabulous players being developed in the USA and there are others scattered across Europe to compete with, so nothing should be assumed.” Having said that, Moravek cannot help but to dream of the day when his sons stand side by side and sing the National Anthem of the USA. “Many people have asked me about national teams, and IF they had the opportunity to be asked, without a shadow of a doubt I would want them to represent the USA.”
Moravek is very in-tune with the grassroots efforts in US club soccer, and knows just how far the US has come over the last few years in terms of cultivating top talent. “We [USA] have always had good players, but the quality of the kids in the USA has exploded over the past 5-7 years in my opinion. My sons trained up in age with Brian Klebian’s teams at Chivas USA, as well as the LA Galaxy last summer, and we’ve been back to train with our old club Bethesda-Olney on a number of occasions and there are some fantastic prospects at those clubs. I was very impressed with what Sacha Van der Most and Brian Klebian have been doing at Chivas USA and Jonathan Colton at Bethesda-Olney. I know there are many other clubs in the USA that are also developing top level talent. The growth of the USSDA and MLS has been incredible and the quality of the league has increased significantly over the years. With this growth also comes more pathways for development for these young players which is excellent.”
It is clear that Bill Moravek is as well cultivated a football mind the US has ever seen, and there is little doubt his sons will get the greatest development possible. While his story and journey will not be shared by many US youth players or parents, Moravek believes there is a fast-growing culture of knowledgeable coaches who are doing excellent work state-side. As for his sons, I think we, as US youth soccer supporters, should heed his advice and allow his sons to develop at their own pace, and not anoint them the next best thing.