Derek Schutte prides himself on his soccer intelligence, and now he is getting a chance to study abroad.
Schutte, a 16-year-old Columbus East sophomore, has been selected to play for the Chicago Fire U16 squad in the Al Kass International Cup in Qatar.
It was the first United States program invited to play in the prestigious event, which matches the best young players from countries like Spain, France, Brazil, Portugal and England.
The Al Kass event begins today and runs through Jan. 23.
“Derek is being put into this group to show him where he is at,” said Phil Presser, the Indiana Fire Academy head coach. “Derek will have a chance to see what’s out there in the rest of the world. He is going to figure out exactly what he needs.”
Schutte plays for the Indiana Fire but was added to the Chicago Fire squad that is playing in Qatar. Presser said the two U.S. developmental soccer academies are like sister schools.
Presser is an Indiana University assistant coach who helped lead the Hoosiers to the national championship as a player in 1999.
Presser explained it is important for the Chicago Fire to fare well in Qatar after being awarded this opportunity. The team’s strengths and weaknesses were studied, and then the coaching staff attempted to add players to the roster who could make an impact.
“Physically, Derek is 6-foot-3, and for that size, he is very quick on the turn,” Presser said. “He runs a decent pace at 35 meters, so he has the physical element as well as the technical element.
“Derek is very focused on being able to play through pressure. He is growing into his element, a center back with very good feet. He has composed athleticism.
“He’s not the most vocal player that he needs to be. He’s not as aggressive as he needs to be.”
Schutte decided the year-round developmental academy was the best place for him to improve. He tried playing high school soccer this past season but returned to the Indiana Fire shortly after the season began.
His father, Todd Schutte, was the Columbus North girls head coach from 1993 though 1999.
“I grew up around soccer,” Derek Schutte said. “I always had a soccer ball.”
Although Todd Schutte was a high school coach, he doesn’t push his son to participate, or not participate, at the high school level.
“He has been playing since he was 4 years old,” Todd Schutte said. “I just want him to be happy.”
Todd Schutte and his wife, Avril Schutte, take turns driving their son to the University of Indianapolis, where he trains with the Indiana Fire. The Indiana Fire plays games at IUPUI.
Players with the Indiana Fire work for five months and then take a month off. Derek Schutte played for the Carmel United Under 14 team before joining the Indiana Fire.
Now he gets to see soccer on a worldwide level.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Derek Schutte said.