Arie Ammann’s growth into one of the most promising boys’ goalkeepers in the Mid-Atlantic region might seem like a natural progression, given his father Mike’s successful professional career as a netminder for English club Charlton Athletic and three Major League Soccer clubs from 1994-2002.
But the younger Ammann was actually a striker for much of his youth career before deciding to switch to goalkeeping just two years ago when he and his coaches were discussing the next step in his development – an announcement that caught his father off-guard.
“He said, ‘I’ll do ODP, but only as a goalkeeper,’” recalls Mike in a conversation with Potomac Soccer Wire. “I said, ‘Well, we better start training.’
“My initial thought was, we’ ll go to ODP, he’ll get cut, and that will squash his dream of being a goalkeeper and he’ll just play on the field,” he added. “But he made the district team, he made the state team, regional called back, so now I’m like, ‘Oh crap, I’ve created a monster.’”
Arie has made the move look easy, making the most of his athleticism and rangy frame as well as some extensive tutoring from two well-qualified experts – his father and John O’ Hara, the veteran ‘keepers trainer who also coached Arie’s former club team at Great Falls Soccer.
His father is eager to help his son succeed, but he readily admits that he “walks on eggshells” in trying not to apply excess pressure or criticism.
“It can be challenging,” said Mike. “But he’s got a good attitude about it. I think he’s gotten to a point where he respects my decisions and judgment. He knows I’ve been there as a player…It’s never going to be an easy relationship because I’m the dad and the coach, but he enjoys it, he likes being pushed.”
A year ago Arie made the move to McLean to take part in U.S. Soccer Development Academy play, widely considered the top boys’ competition in the nation. While his team’s uneven results against the nation’s elite didn’t always look good on paper, they provided Arie with excellent preparation for his long-term goal of making the U.S. U-17 National Team and starting a pro career of his own.
“He got a lot of action, a lot of decision-making had to take place and I think it helped his development more so than anything else,” noted Mike. “It was very beneficial.”
U.S. U-17s coach Wilmer Cabrera suggested that Arie bulk up his frame after evaluating him over the summer, so a protein-heavy nutrition program has ensued and he’s already added 10 pounds of muscle.
Yet he also impressed English Premier League heavyweights Tottenham Hotspur in a trial stint around the same time, and with his father’s Swiss heritage providing a European passport, a move overseas may open up when he turns 16. And college soccer is still an option, too.
“He wants to be a pro, first and foremost,” said Mike, whose own career was cut short by serious injury. “But he also sees the reality of players – he saw me getting injured and finishing my career at 30 years old. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, and you need a job, and in order to get a job in this country typically you need a degree. So we talk about that a lot.”
Whichever path he chooses, Arie Ammann will be one to watch in the years ahead.