Yates takes 1st step on fast track

Curley All-Metro player chosen for U-17 residency

Soccer

August 17, 2004|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

It's an attractive scenario: a free ride to potential soccer fame with a possible pro contract waiting in the wings.

That's what is facing 16-year-old Drew Yates as he prepares to spend the next 16 months absorbed in soccer in Bradenton, Fla., instead of finishing the last two years of his All-Metro career at Archbishop Curley.

Yates was selected by the U.S. Soccer Federation June 6 after tryouts to take part in an all-expenses-paid Under-17 national team residency program.

Yates will be a pool player in selected matches. He is one of 40 players seeking a spot on the squad of 18 that will represent the United States in the U-17 world championships in Peru in the fall of 2005.

"Drew has the talent and technical ability to be in the final 11," said his Casa Mia club coach, Steve Nichols. "He's as talented on the ball as anybody I've seen. Right now, he's immature physically and maybe a little immature emotionally."

Nichols sees Yates' future in the game as a fairly simple read, "If he matures, he'll turn pro as soon as his residency is up [December 2005]. If he doesn't, he'll play at Maryland."

Yates, who leaves for Bradenton on Monday, has orally committed to the Terps and would enter school in January 2006 because of an accelerated high school graduation program he will be receiving in the U-17 residency program.

It's obvious where Yates' heart lies.

"I've always known what I wanted to do with my life -- I want to play professional soccer," he said. "It depends on how much I develop [in the residency program]."

The decision to attend the program was easy for Yates, "since I've been thinking about it for two years.

"I'll miss my teammates and all my friends at Curley and I'm sorry to be leaving such a strong high school program," he said. "But I'll get a chance to come home every couple months for two or three days."

"Home" at that time will be Severna Park, where his family has moved to from Pasadena, where they had lived the past two years since Yates enrolled at Curley in the ninth grade.

The gifted center midfielder is a Bowie native who first attracted the attention of Curley coach Barry Stitz while playing for the Baltimore Bays U-17 outdoor team.

Stitz watched Yates lift Curley from an 8-15-1 team his freshman season to a 22-1-2 squad last season, with the only loss coming in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinals, where the No. 1 Friars were upset, 4-0, by Calvert Hall.

The 6-foot-1, 160-pound Yates scored 10 goals and had 16 assists as a sophomore, second on the team in points. He was a first-team All-Metro pick.

"He's the total package," Stitz said. "He's improved the one area he needs to work on, his overall strength and size, and now he has a great soccer opportunity. I expect him to be successful."

Yates has been the center of attention on a soccer field since he began starring in backyard soccer games in Bowie at age 6.

His father, William, coached Drew from 6 to 13 years old and said he realized his son was going to be "a special player because he always came out of the bunch with the ball. It was like a piece of candy to him."

Drew's mother, Christina, said she was sorry to see him leave Curley, but "this is what he wanted, and since it was an all-boys school, he wasn't leaving as much a social life behind."

Yates becomes the third Baltimore-area player to enter the U-17 residency program in its six-year existence, following former Curley phenom Santino Quaranta and former McDonogh standout Devin Barclay.

Before being passed by the celebrated Freddy Adu, D.C. United's Quaranta, at 16 years, four months, was the youngest player ever drafted by Major League Soccer in 2001, as well as the youngest in league history to play, start a match, score a goal and be selected to the All-Star team.

Quaranta scored nine goals and had eight assists in his first three seasons but has been hampered by a groin injury this season.

Barclay plays for the Columbus Crew of the MLS.

A fourth Baltimore-area player, Kyle Beckerman, who played at Arundel High, was a member of the U-17 national team, but he did not attend the U-17 residency program.

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