St. Louis Scott Gallagher is pleased to announce US Soccer has selected Jack Maher (1999) and Gabe Kash (1999) to attend a U18 National Team Camp to be held at the National Team Training Center in Carson, California October 20-26 The selection of Maher and Kash to this Youth National Team camp marks the 6 National Team opportunity for an SLSG Illinois player in the past 20 months, however, this is the first time that two players from SLSG Illinois have been called into the same camp. Over the course of the week, players will train as well as have the opportunity to represent their country in international matches versus the Canadian Youth National Team.
For Kash, this is his 4 stint with the national team having participated in camps as a U15 and a U16. In the spring of 2014, Kash traveled with the national team to the Della Nazionale Tournament in Italy where he represented his country in matches against China, Mexico, the Czech Republic. Zambia and Japan.
Kash, who was born in Ethopia, moved to the United States when he was four years old and resides in Charleston, Illinois with his parents Rich and Mary. Gabe joined St. Louis Scott Gallagher as a U13 and travels upwards of 2 hours, one way, to get to training and matches at the SLSG Collinsville Facility. Gabe currently plays with the SLSG Illinois U18 Development Academy team coached by Kevin Stoll where he is a regular starter even though he is competing against players born in 1997 and 1998.
According to U18 Head Coach, Kevin Stoll, “Gabe is a very committed and talented young player who looks to attack at any opportunity he can. His ability to get up and down the outside channel for 90 minutes is fantastic and when getting forward he can play inside to deliver a final pass as well as get to the end line to provide service which makes him very difficult to defend.”
After joining St. Louis Scott Gallagher, Gabe quickly progressed in the program and, along with fellow U18 National Team call-up Jack Maher, was a key member of the U14 SLSG Illinois National Championship side that defeated MLS Youth Academies New York Red Bull and FC Dallas on their path to hoisting the National Premier League Champions Cup in July of 2013. In August of that same year, Kash was identified at a US Soccer Market Training Center hosted in Collinsville, Illinois by Carson Porter, who was at that time a US Soccer Technical Advisor. Shortly thereafter, he was called into an October camp with the U15 National Team.
One week before he was set to depart for his first national team camp, however, Gabe suffered a serious injury in an Academy match after challenging for a cross with an opposing goalkeeper. The ensuing collision resulted in a broken femur and a dislocated patella. Gabe underwent surgery later that same evening to reattach the ball of his femur to the rest of the bone and reset his patella.
According to SLSG Illinois Academy Director, Blake Decker, who was Gabe’s team coach at the time, “This was a terribly difficult situation for any 13 year old to go through. The injury itself was a very serious one, however, when you combine that with the excitement that comes with a national team opportunity being completely extinguished by injury, surgery and a long rehabilitation period, it has the potential to be demoralizing. It would have been easy, and understandable, for Gabe to give in to self-pity, but he did the opposite and became fervently focused on his rehab and earning another opportunity with the national team.”
Kash did just that, outperforming doctors’ projections for his recovery by over a month. By the second week of January, 4 months after his surgery, he was back training with the team in preparation for the Academy Futsal Regional Showcase in February where national scouts would be present to observe his performance, assess any lasting impact of the injury on his ability and determine his readiness for a youth national team camp. The week following the showcase, Kash was invited into a camp scheduled for late March and has since been a consistent member of the ’99 pool.
Of Kash’s longevity in the ’99 pool, Dale Schilly, SLSG Illinois Program Director and Saint Louis FC Head Coach, commented, “Getting called into a national team camp is extremely difficult, staying in the pool for multiple cycles is even more challenging and is a credit to Gabe’s mentality. He is an extremely creative and confident young player who possesses a strong sense of self-belief as well as a very calm disposition. It is this mentality that allows him to compete successfully in high-pressure situations with little to no affect on his performance. In pressurized situations that other players would find intolerable, Gabe remains calm and composed.”
For Althoff Catholic High School student and Caseyville native, Jack Maher, this is the first opportunity he has had with the US National Team. Maher, who started his soccer playing in Belleville at the BFC, came to St. Louis Scott Gallagher as a U13 by way of an inter-club affiliation between SLSG Illinois and the BFC, now Metro East Legacy. The club affiliation program, which ran from 2010-2012, was designed to use the strengths of each program to help offset the limitations of the other.
According to Decker, who was, at the time, responsible for the technical oversight of the joint club program, “BFC, and now Metro East Legacy, has quality players from the St. Clair region and quality people in their organizational leadership positions. For our part, we had experienced directors to provide technical oversight for multiple age groups and, most importantly, a pathway for the elite level player to receive regional and national exposure through the National Premier League and US Development Academy. Jack was most certainly one of those players and his inclusion in this National Team camp is a shared success story for both SLSG and the BFC. Let me be clear in saying that this achievement is Jack’s, and no one else, but it is also good example of what can achieve when clubs work together for the good of the player.”
After transitioning from the joint club program fully to St. Louis Scott Gallagher, Jack experienced a year of extreme challenges and triumph. After a fall season, which saw him called into the Region II team of the Olympic Development Program to represent the Midwestern States in Casa Grande, Arizona at the home of MLS Academy, Real Salt Lake, Jack was invited to attend the Spring Region II Camp. One week before the camp, however, Jack fell ill with what was diagnosed at the time as strep. Within 4 days of the initial diagnosis, he was hospitalized at Children’s Hospital and shortly, thereafter, was placed in the Intensive Care Unit after his body began to shut down. During this time, which took place over days, doctors were baffled by what was causing the illness and were unsure whether or not Maher would survive.
As fortune would have it, a hospital staffer who typically worked on a different floor, was filling in during his hospitalization and recognized his symptoms as potentially those of a rare Auto Immune Disease. After adjusting his treatment, Jack’s body responded positively and slowly started to improve thus starting what would be a long journey back to recovery. The illness caused each and every joint in Maher’s body to fill with fluid and it would be months before Jack regained normal movement and, even after regaining movement, he would experience extreme pain when performing normal tasks such as sitting up or walking.
After several weeks of rehabilitation, Jack was able to return to school on a limited basis; 2 months after that, he returned to training in a limited capacity; in late June he debuted in his first match since February which was a National Premier League Regional Play-Off match, where he scored a hat-trick against the Chicago Magic. One month later, on a cool Colorado Summer morning, Jack started and played 70 minutes as a center back for SLSG Illinois U14 Pre-Academy in their 3-1 defeat of FC Dallas in the 2013 NPL National Championship Match. It was an elating end to a 6-month ordeal that saw him go from near death to national champion.
When asked to comment on Maher’s perseverance during the 6-month ordeal, Decker replied, “I first met Jack when I coached him as a U11 and, in the years I have known him, he is quite possibly the most mature and selfless young man I have had the opportunity to work with. He possesses the intelligence, discipline, drive and perspective of someone twice his age and is the true definition of a servant-leader. All during the time he was ill and during his rehabilitation period, I never once heard him complain about how much pain he was in even though it was significant; quite the contrary, he did everything he could not to show his pain outwardly to others. This is the essence of Jack. It is never about him; it is always about others, about the group, about the team. He is the prime example of what an individual can achieve through selflessness.”
According to SLSG Illinois U16 Coach, Shawn Hewitt, “I’ve had the good fortune of working with Jack over these past two seasons and can say with absolute certitude that Jack’s commitment to excellence is second to none. He not only strives to be the best himself, but he also pushes and carries others along the way through his leadership qualities and game insight. These qualities have earned him the respect of his peers and the coaching staff alike.”
Prior to the camp later this month, both Kash and Maher will feature for the SLSG Illinois U18 US Development Academy on October 17 as SLSG Illinois takes on fellow Mid-America Conference opponent, Cleveland Internationals, in Academy league play. Kick-off is scheduled for 12:30 PM. The following day, the SLSG Illinois U18 Academy will face MLS Youth Academy Columbus Crew at 9:00 AM. Both matches will be played at the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Collinsville Complex.