As Ajax marched to the 2019 UEFA Champions League semifinals, the Dutch powerhouse blew European teams away with their pace and precision. Serbian midfielder Dusan Tadic pulled the strings, Brazilian forward David Neres bolted forward, Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Omana shined bright and Matthijs de Ligt thrived at center back.
The Dutchman deserves a special mention because at 19, he captained one of Europe’s premier clubs, showing poise and calm beyond his years. More than anything, de Ligt displayed the leadership qualities you simply can’t teach.
That reference comes to mind when looking at the arc of Beachside SC U-17 midfielder Liam Coffey, a co-captain for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoff-bound team. Coffey, of course, is not at de Ligt’s level, but the same ideas apply: playing with a maturity one wouldn’t expect and inspiring teammates to reach their fullest potential.