Irwin 11-year-old makes U.S. youth national team in futsal
Wrapped in a black-and-gold blanket with a tablet in his lap and a black Pittsburgh Riverhounds jacket on, 11-year-old Ty George of Irwin was exhausted on his plane ride home from Kansas City.
So much so he spent most of a 3½-hour trip curled up in a deep sleep.
This is was after three days (June 28-30) of competing for a roster spot on the boys 2008 birth-year United States Youth Futsal national team, a spot the goalkeeper earned, for a series of international friendlies in Barcelona from Dec. 26-Jan. 6.
“You could tell he put every ounce of his being into the tryouts. It’s a really cool thing he is about to do,” said Pittsburgh Assassins Futsal Club coach Mike Powers.
Futsal is a 5-on-5 version of indoor soccer played on a gym-floor surface.
The trip will consist of four games and four practice sessions. Other activities include tours of Barcelona including Camp Nou soccer stadium, the home of FC Barcelona and one of the world’s best soccer and futsal players ever, Lionel Messi.
George was one of 50 boys in his age group who earned a national team tryout after making it through regional tryouts, which took place at Pro Sports Monroeville last March.
Out of the 50 kids who competed for a national spot, 10 were named to the team. George is one of two goalkeepers and is the only Pennsylvania resident on the team.
Powers said George caught the eye of Otto Orf, a former USL and MISL goalkeeper who also was a member of the U.S. Futsal national team from 1996-2000. Orf serves as the US Futsal I.D. Director of Goaltending, based out of Kent, Ohio.
“(Ty) plays like he’s 7 feet tall and never settles for anything less than his best,” Powers said of the 5-foot goalie. “I haven’t seen a goalie like him in my 31 years of being in the sport.”
George will not be traveling overseas alone, however, as his parents, Jared and Kelly, and sister, Zoe, will be tagging along.
“I’m definitely excited. I can’t wait to go,” the youth futsal standout said. “I want to see how good the players are over there and (learn from the coaches) so I can come back and teach my teammates what they taught me.”
George has played soccer since he was 5 but only started playing futsal a little over a year ago.
Powers, who is on the national team staff but will not being attending the event, coaches George in both futsal and soccer.
George is a member of the Norwin Soccer Club traveling team, the Young Riverhounds Soccer Club and the Pittsburgh Assassins Futsal Club team in the Total Futsal league, all of which include Powers as a coach.
Powers will be coaching his Assassins team in the Pennsylvania Cup tournament during the trip.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better kid,” Powers said. “He comes from a fantastic family. To see him accomplish his dreams is very cool.”
George possesses a ravenous work ethic unlike any of his peers, according to his coaches and parents.
“We are very proud of him for how hard he works,” Jared George said. “He practices a lot. He can go seven days a week if we let him.”
Powers seconds that motion.
“His parents have sent me videos of Ty training in his basement (on days off from practice and games), shooting off the walls, trying to get his cardio and fitness levels up. He never takes a day off,” Powers said. “A lot of kids want things, but he puts in the work, being 100% dedicated to his craft. His commitment and passion is unsurpassed.”
Before he can travel to Barcelona to represent the U.S., George’s parents have made him accountable to raise money for the participation fee.
George has done so by selling U.S. Soccer insulated water bottles to family, friends and neighbors. He has raised around $2,000 of the $3,000 needed to participate in the games, according to George’s father.
The total does not include airfare or other travel costs.
“We wanted to see him earn his way a little bit,” Jared George said. “We didn’t want to (make any social media posts) for the first couple months. He was going door-to-door to our neighbors in the Norwin area trying to sell bottles himself.”
Powers believes George is a great example and someone to look up to for his peers and younger kids.
“In a world where so many professional athletes and celebrities are bad role models, Ty is the type of kid you hope to see become something someday because he’s a great person,” Powers said. “He would be the perfect role model for kids to look up to.”
Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.