Playing only club or academy soccer isn’t something new – in fact, it’s a growing trend. And you don’t have to look far to find an example. Marc Ybarra attended Skyline High School but never played for the Eagles, instead dedicating his soccer time to the Columbus Crew Academy. Ybarra is now a standout midfielder for Michigan.
Chung also is a standout midfielder and his game is only getting better. But don’t take our word for it.
“In his three years as a member of the Michigan Wolves Academy, Andy has been one of our most committed and consistent players,” says Lars Richters, academy director for the Wolves Academy. “He brings an outstanding work ethic to the field each day, and he has been a great leader by example.”
On the field, Richters says Chung is intelligent, composed and comfortable with a ball at his feet.
“His confidence and ability to find a pass – even under pressure – has had a great impact on our style of play and on the success of his teams,” Richters says. “Away from the field, Andy demonstrates the character and personal qualities that we strive to build in our young men. As a result of this wide range of abilities, we believe that Andy’s future in the sport – and in life – is very bright.”
Chung first became interested in soccer from watching games on TV.
“I liked how you used your feet instead of most sports that utilize your hands,” he said. “I also liked how every game could be decided by one play so you had to stay focused and composed all game.”
His still young soccer career began with Michigan Tigers FC.
“I started out on the second team as a u9, but made the first team for my u10 and u11 years,” says Chung. “During a State Cup game in my u11 year we were playing the Wolves second team. I happened to play well that game and their coach, Bryan Thorp, took notice. He got in contact with my parents and offered me a spot on their first team for the upcoming season. I took him up on the offer and I’ve been playing with the Wolves ever since.”
Chung says he has come to appreciate the Wolves for how well organized the club is and how great the facilities and coaching staff are compared to other places he’s been at. The Wolves also have given him a chance to compete against older players which has only improved his skills.
“The main challenge in facing players that are older than you is their physicality and/or athletic ability,” he says. “They’ve had an extra year to mature, and extra year to grow, an extra year to work out, etc. The solution to that is playing smarter and giving players less opportunities to use those strengths.”
Chung plays centerback for the Wolves, one of the most demanding positions on the pitch. He has played the full duration of every game he’s played in for as long as he can remember.
Wolves Coach Will Thornton says it’s been a pleasure watching him grow as a player and as a young man over the past two years.
“His dedication and commitment to becoming a great soccer player is evident in every practice and game that he is a part of,” Thornton said. “Not often do you see players who play Andy’s position with such a high level of technical and tactical ability. As a central defender, he’s poised with the ball at his feet, even under pressure, has an extended range of passing abilities, and defensively reads potential problem situations well, where he’s able to alleviate problems before it happens. As a team we always speak about solving problems, and then executing on your decision, Andy is a prime example of a soccer player who does both at a high level.”
Chung is not only humble but a man of few words – at least off the pitch.
“But on the field, I never shut up,” he says. “On the field I’m constantly organizing our lines, organizing specific players, giving information like “man on” or “time.” I’m a very vocal leader on the field, even if I’m not so much off the field.”
Andy is the son of Kenneth Chung and Laura Dills and the brother of standout swimmer Casey Chung. Casey, who won back-to-back state titles in the backstroke for Skyline and will swim next year at U-M, recently qualified for the Olympic Trials next month.
When asked whether Casey has had any influence on her younger brother, Andy said: “That’s a funny question because she hasn’t taught me anything about athletics or competing,” he says. “We don’t talk much about anything of that sort. I am proud of her and what she’s accomplished but she’s done it on her own and I’ve done what I’ve done on my own.”
Both kids are quick to kick praise over to their parents.
“I think from my parents we learned how to love our sports before anything else,” Andy says. “They were never ones to pressure us into playing or force us to do a sport or workout or anything of the sort. They let us choose what we wanted to do which I believe is a big reason why I continue to love the game of soccer.”
Chung, who has a 4.0 GPA at Pioneer, has a few years to decide where he wants to play soccer at the collegiate level. The NCAA rules forbid coaches from contacting players until Sept. 1 of their junior year.
It’s pretty clear that in a few months, Andy Chung’s phone is going to be ringing off the hook.