The North American All Stars, a team of 16 elite youth soccer players 13 and 14 years old from Northeast Ohio and Pennsylvania, recently completed a summer tour of northern England, and a Green resident was part of the effort.
Stefan Dobrijevic was one of the 16 players on the team, which finished the trip with a 5-1 record, outscoring opponents 33-3 in wins against professional youth academies of Wigan Athletic, Crewe Alexandra, Wolverhampton, Coventry City, and Kawasaki Frontale of Japan’s J-League.
“Playing against one of the best teams in the world in our age group and realizing that we are up to the task,” Dobrijevic said when asked his favorite part of the trip.
Dobrijevic was part of the North American Alll Stars when Stan Shulman started the club three years ago and has played forward, striker and outside midfielder, but said in club soccer players have to be willing to play any position on the field.
He started playing soccer when he was 5 years old and after seven years with Cleveland United, moved last winter to International Soccer Academy.
The North American All Stars’ lone loss on the trip came to an older Derby County team consisting of a combination of U-15 and U-16 players that each finished at or near the top of the top of their respective divisions.
Most members of the North American All Stars are members of the Internationals Soccer Academy as part of the US Soccer Development Academy and train 10 months a year. Their coach for the trip was Stan Shulman and opposing coaches from the trip were impressed enough that the director of the prestigious Youdan Trophy Tournament in Sheffield, England, extended an invitation to next year’s competition that will include world-renowned youth academies including Manchester United.
Before the tournament, the North American All Stars also have invitations to play friendly matches with some of the top English Premier League youth academies in London.
Several members of this year’s team also competed in Sweden last year with a strong showing in the Gothia Cup tournament and in Denmark, where they won the Dana Cup, the third-largest youth soccer tournament in the world.
In between games, Dobrijevic and his teammates also had professional training sessions at Liverpool and Bolton Academies. Both of his parents are from Europe, so the trip was a return to familiar ground and because he eats some traditional British foods at home, the cuisine on the trip was a reminder of home for Dobrijevic.
During down time, the team enjoyed touring the Bolton Wanderer’s Macron stadium and iconic English soccer stadiums Old Trafford (Manchester United) and Anfield (Liverpool). The club also stayed one night at St. George’s Park, home of the training center for England’s National soccer team.
In the wake of their success on the field and enjoyment off of it, Dobrijevic was happy to be part of the experience.
“We came undefeated and with no goals scored against us while scoring 35 goals on our rivals,” he said. “That was first time ever done by anyone in the 40-year-old tradition of that tournament.”
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB