(Via U.S. Soccer) – It took 120 minutes and nine penalty kick attempts to crown a winner in the first U-17/18 semifinal game of the Development Academy Championships Friday night. In the end, Texans SC Houston scored in stoppage time of the second half to send the game into extra time, where, after a scoreless 30 minutes, the Texas team outlasted Colorado Rapids 3-2 on penalties.
With the win, Texans SC Houston becomes the first ever Development Academy program to advance to the championship game in either age group.
“When you throw numbers in the box and you’re going for it, you never know what could happen,” Texans SC Houston head coach Eric Quill said. “We got lucky and sometimes you need some luck. That is a really, really good Colorado Rapids team that is really well coached and organized. It was fun to watch them. They were everywhere, all night long… But this group, all year long, has found a way. They’re special.”
After 23 minutes of a scoreless deadlock, Texans SC Houston’s Alex Bruce finally got the scoring started. After an attempted through ball was played toward Bruce on the right flank, the attacker found himself jockeying for position on the ball with a Rapids defender. After out-muscling his defender to take command of the ball, Bruce broke free with the ball, took a touch and stabbed the ball past the charging goalkeeper, floating to the right sideline of Houston crowd of supporters to celebrate as the ball rolled into the net.
Looking to bounce back in the second half, Colorado did just that in the first 60 seconds of play. After a free kick was awarded to the Rapids a few yards outside the top of the box’s left corner, Samuel Vines took care of the rest in world-class fashion. Using his left foot, the defender targeted the ball over the Galaxy wall, curling from left to right. Using the Carson wind, the ball curled beautifully into the net. A dream second half start for the Rapids put them right back into the game.
As Colorado continued to lean on their momentous start to the half, their attacking push was once again rewarded in the 78th minute. After Enoch Mushagalusa broke a loose ball down the left flank, the forward cut back into the middle and fed Gregory Tracey who, instead of taking his shot at the charging goalkeeper, threaded the ball across the box, finding Damen Marcu for the easy finish. With 12 minutes left in regulation, the Rapids were leaning towards the finish line.
With three minutes of stoppage time added by the referee, Texans SC Houston began to throw numbers forward in search of the desperation equalizer. In the 90+2 minute, Houston found their miracle goal. After a long throw-in attempt kept numbers in the box, Bryant Huerta sent the Colorado clearance back into the danger zone, where Bruce flicked the ball over the keeper and into the right side of the net for his most important goal of the season to force extra time.
After neither team produced a score in the additional 30 minutes, the game was decided in penalty kicks. Houston converted their first two attempts and their goalkeeper, Gregory Baxa, saved the Rapids’ initial pair. Needing a conversion on their fourth attempt to clinch their spot in the final, Houston would miss and allow the Rapids to force a final, tenth attempt from Houston. Fortunately for the Texans, Colorado’s final kicker would slice the over the crossbar, sending an elated Houston team into a team dogpile.
The Texans will look to put their name officially in the record books when they take on the winner of the LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders U-17/18 semifinal. Fans can watch the U-17/18 final live on the Development Academy Facebook page, Sunday July 16 at 6:00 p.m. PT.