For the first time in its three-year history, a McLean Youth Soccer (Va.) team — specifically, the Under-18 squad coached by Academy Director Ed Beach and assistant coach David Wood — reached the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs. And they did so in dramatic fashion.
McLean qualified for the playoffs on the last play of the last game of the season, in Saturday’s home game against playoff-bound CASL Chelsea FC Academy, though they had to wait for other games to play out over the course of the weekend to be certain they had made the cut.
McLean trailed 1-0 for the majority of the game, but in the second minute of second half stoppage time, McLean sent a long ball down the field which was chased down by forward Francesco Amorosino as it sailed over CASL’s last defender. As the ball entered the penalty area, Amorosino was brought down and the referee awarded a penalty kick.
Defender Peter Lam stepped up and buried the spot kick coolly for the 1-1 equalizer. Seconds later, the game was over.
Although McLean players cheered over the final result, the playoff berth was not a certainty at that time.
McLean’s U-18 academy side was confirmed for the playoffs late Sunday night when the final scores came in from other teams around the country. As it turned out, the 1-1 draw vs. CASL gave McLean the final point it needed to secure the berth.
McLean’s U-18 team is primarily made up of younger age players who will return to the same team next year. This team accelerated their development throughout the year while playing against older, more experienced teams. In the end, it all came to fruition and the team is heading to Dallas next week for the national playoffs.
All U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams, 78 of them spread out across the country, will finish their season in the Dallas area June 24-30. Playing at FC Dallas’ sprawling complex in Frisco, Texas, the top 32 playoff bound teams will split into 8 groups of four teams, with the group winners advancing to the National Academy Finals in July. The other 46 Academies will compete in the showcase portion of the event at the same site. McLean’s U-16 team will take part in that portion of the event.
On Monday, U.S. Soccer announced the playoff groups. McLean has been drawn into a group of several heavyweights: FC Dallas, Sockers FC of Chicago and Real Salt Lake AZ.