When Chris Roman reflects back on his youth soccer career, he jokes that he’s an "Oakwood lifer."
It’s a reference, of course, to the Greater Hartford-area club that’s emerged as a pillar of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, which launched in 2007, here in New England. For Roman, who calls South Glastonbury, Conn., home, playing with the Black and Blue is similarly a mainstay.
"I’ve been raised basically in the Oakwood club," Roman said with a chuckle.
It’s not a far-fetched statement in the eyes of Everald Benjamin, a longtime Oakwood coach who played at Southern Connecticut State University in the early 1990s.
Benjamin, along with Gary Cronin, would hold indoor training sessions a few years back. They quickly noticed that Roman’s athleticism was off the charts. Now 17, Roman quickly became the type of player who’d arrive a halfhour early and stay late, a habit that he’s retained.
"Even this year you see him becoming more strong with the speed of play and technical side and preparing for his next challenge," Benjamin said. "That’s what we’re trying to get these kids to understand, what it’ll take at the next level."