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Smith chases soccer dream

From Special Reports – As the U.S. soccer team comes closer to playing for a World Cup title, Dustin Smith, a native of Troy, is dreaming of one day playing for the same U.S. team.

It’s a dream he’s had for some while now and now he’s doing something about it. Smith will be taking part in the Olympic Development Program’s 8-vs.-8 Festival in Conyers, Ga., this weekend. He’ll play his first game tonight.

Smith was one of 21 boys selected to represent the state of Alabama in the

regional games.

But it didn’t happen overnight.

Smith started playing soccer when he was 6-years-old for the Troy Parks and Recreation Department. He has played every year since and been involved in numerous tournaments across south Alabama. He has advanced to play with the Enterprise Wings Soccer Club for the past two seasons, traveling to play this year at Disney World’s Holiday Soccer Festival in Orlando, Fla.

He also was invited and played with the Capital City Streaks Soccer Club this season. A string of titles followed, including first place in the Capital City Streaks Tournament and the Canterbury Cup in Atlanta, Ga.

Smith said he likes playing striker on the field because it increasingly puts him in a scoring position.

"I like soccer because there’s always some action involved," he said.

Smith is known for his fast footwork and speed, both on the field and off. At Troy Elementary this year, he was clocked at six minutes, 47 seconds in the Super-Mile run. He has also received the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, meaning he is one of the fittest young athletes in the country, standing among the top 15 percent in the nation.

His father, Gene, said his son is a great soccer fan as well and has stayed up late to watch the USA’s drive for a World Cup title. Since the World Cup is being played in South Korea, start time for games have been well after midnight.

"That’s too late for me because I’ve got to get up and go to work," Smith joked. "But we tape the games and watch them later if we have to."

The Olympic Development Program (ODP) is a national identification and development program for high-level players. The program identifies and develops youth players throughout the country to represent their state association, region and the United States in soccer competition.

ODP teams are formed at the state association and regional levels and are made up of the best players in various age groups. At the state association level, pools of players are identified in each eligible age group and then brought together as a team to develop their skill through training and competition. From state pools and subsequent teams, players are identified for regional and national pools and teams.

Smith was skilled enough to make it into the 1999 State Select pool.