Deering High freshman Elsa Freeman has arrived where only a select few Maine youth soccer players have gone.

Freeman, 14, is participating this weekend at the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development National Training Camp in Tampa, Florida. Freeman is on a team of girls born in 2007, along with 20 other elite players from around the country.

She was chosen for the camp after participating in the Interregional ODP tryout camp in November as a member of the Region I team, which had players from Maine to Virginia.

Elsa Freeman

Freeman is just the third Maine ODP player in the past 10 years to progress through the steps of making the state’s ODP program, the Region I (Maine to Virginia) team, and then advance to the national training camp, according to Shari Levesque, the executive director of Soccer Maine.

“It is a huge and difficult accomplishment for a player from Maine to be recognized through the National ODP program,” Levesque said in an email.

“We usually have three or four players a year who are identified for region competitions and it’s not often they go beyond that, and she did,” said Andy Halligan, the director of Soccer Maine’s ODP program. “With Elsa, she’s gotten better every year and right now she’s on a pathway to be phenomenal, to reach the pinnacle of soccer.”

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For Freeman, the national training camp is a chance to show her skills on the national stage.

“I was kind of surprised,” to be chosen “but also very excited that I got this opportunity to play at a higher level,” Freeman said Friday afternoon in a telephone interview.

The national training camp includes boys and girls from the 2004-2008 birth years. Only six players from New England (five girls, one boy) were selected for the 10 teams. The camp draws college coaches from across the country, as well as scouts for U.S. Soccer national teams, which operate separately from the ODP programs.

“I really want to play in college, especially at a Division I college,” said Freeman, who added that her ultimate goal would be to play at the University of North Carolina, a program that has won 21 NCAA championships.

Freeman arrived in Florida on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, she and her new teammates on the 2007 team had two training sessions. Friday morning, the squad beat the 2006 age group team from world-renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, 3-1. The schedule called for two more training sessions and two more games against other Florida-based club programs prior to the camp wrapping up on Sunday.

“I think I played well,” she said of her performance in Friday’s game. “I kind of just play the game, but I also have goals in the game that I need to do, like supporting players, making runs. And defending.”

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In her freshman season at Deering, Freeman, who is 5-foot-7, played either midfield or striker. She scored 17 goals in 14 games. She was named the SMAA’s Rookie of the Year and was the only freshman selected to the Maine Soccer Coaches’ Association’s Southern Maine All-State team.

A product of the Portland Area Youth Soccer Association, where her mother, Ann Freeman, has been a longtime coach, Freeman played club soccer with Seacoast United Maine until 2019. She now plays for Seacoast United’s Girls Academy 2007 team, based in New Hampshire.

Like other players in the Maine ODP program, Freeman joins that program for training sessions two times a month.

“She has the right body, the right physique, she’s very technical, her soccer IQ is very high and she loves to play the game,” Halligan said. “She’s very strong for her age group. The coaches who have coached Elsa have said she’s like a woman among girls when she plays. She just dominates the playing field.”

At the national training camp, Freeman is playing at right back. It’s a new position, but that is where she played in November at the ODP Interregional Event in Orlando.

Two other Maine ODP players participated at the Interregional event, Noelle Mallory of Cape Elizabeth and Grace Marquis of Hampden. Mallory and Marquis are 2008 birth year players.

The last Mainer to make it to the national training camp was goalkeeper Josh Hancock of Windham in 2020. Hancock, who still participates in Maine ODP workouts, is now a sophomore at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire.

Prior to Hancock, Opal Curless of Mount Desert Island advanced to the national camp in 2013. Curless played in college at Syracuse and Florida Gulf Coast. Abby Pyne of Dixmont, who had her collegiate playing career at Duke derailed by a serious knee injury, made youth national teams from 2010-13.


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