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Said and Dunn: Soccer star picks USD

After shining with California Development Academy, Placer senior verbally commits
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Austin Dunn remembers back when he was a 14-year-old and his teammates on Porterville’s under-19 club soccer team would call him, “Division I.” It turns out they were right on. Dunn moved to Auburn a year later, honed his soccer skills and earlier this month verbally committed to play soccer at the University of San Diego. “I honestly didn’t think it would ever happen,” said Dunn, a Placer high senior. “I really liked the school and the coaches at USD and committing early is a good thing, definitely.” Dunn played for the Hillmen his sophomore season, but he has opted to play for his club team — California Development Academy — exclusively since then. He credits the ultra-competitive club environment for helping him take his game to the next level. “The speed of play is another level,” Dunn said. “The ball gets whipped around a lot faster and the decision making is a lot faster. Once everyone stops growing physically everyone’s pretty even, so it’s the pace of the ball, not the pace of the players that is the difference.” Dunn said he had been considering St. Mary’s and Denver, but San Diego proved to be the perfect fit. Coach Paul O’Brien — Dunn’s original coach with Placer United — moved him from the midfield to central defense two years ago and it proved to be a wise move. Dunn is speedy and physical, with a unique ability to win balls in the air and lead his team from the back. “He’s very tough, which you need as a defender,” said Brian Willey, who coached Dunn’s CDA team last season. “He takes pride in stopping people. He has that mindset. He was a defender before I met him and I was instantly happy with what he was doing.” Dunn will play for the CDA under-18 team when the season begins in November. He’ll join many of the top players in the foothills and Sacramento on a team he thinks may have a shot at a national title. Del Oro senior Kolby Mitnick is one of the top players on Dunn’s CDA squad. CDA is a joint effort between the Placer United and San Juan soccer clubs to make the most of the area’s top talent on the pitch in conjunction with the U.S. Developmental Academy. The ultimate goal is to produce players for the national team, but the players often benefit in the form of college opportunities. “All the kids from last year’s (under-18) team are playing in college now,” O’Brien said. “Our goal is to get kids recognized and playing at a higher level we’re able to do that. Most want to go on to play in college and so far we’ve been successful at giving them that opportunity.” The CDA teams plays nearly 30 regular season games per season and travel to prestigious tournaments all over the west coast. “The whole point of the academy is to develop U.S. soccer and get kids into the national team pool,” Dunn said. “More young kids have been leaving the U.S., going to Europe to play because of the academies.” Willey said the academy has raised the competition level not only in matches, but also in the team’s four to five practices each week. “Every practice session last year was a battle for these guys,” Willey said. “There’s never an easy match at this level. We had an outstanding team, but wins were very difficult to come by.” Dunn said without the academy, he isn’t sure if he’d be on his way to playing college soccer. His father was in the Air Force when he was younger, which meant his family moved often. Dunn began to realize his soccer talent when his family was in Porterville, a remote town between Fresno and Bakersfield. He hooked up with O’Brien when he coached for Placer United and Dunn did the rest. He beat out hundreds of other kids to land a spot on CDA’s inaugural under-16 team last fall. He started 28 games last season, helping the team make the U.S. Soccer Academy playoffs in Greensboro, N.C. last June. That’s no small feat considering the CDA squad could produce more than a handful of Division I players. “It’s probably one of the more special groups to come out of this area,” Willey said. “I would say the majority of those players would probably be playing at Division I schools. That was definitely a special group.”