By Jimmy LaRoue
The U.S. Soccer Development Academy resumes play this weekend with a slate of more than 100 games as teams look to position themselves for the postseason. The top 32 teams in each age group will advance to the playoffs, where they will then compete for one of eight spots in the Academy finals week at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Two early games among the Under-15/16 and U-17/18 West Conference, Northwest Division teams from Vancouver Whitecaps and Cal Odyssey Thursday begin the slate.
Vancouver’s U-17/18s are third in the division at 5-1-2, and 12-4-3 overall and could leapfrog Seattle Sounders into second with the right results as teams fight for playoff berths. The Whitecaps, with seven games left in the regular season – four of those at home – are led by 16-goal scorer Caleb Clarke.
The U-18s tied 2-2 with Cal Odyssey in the two teams’ first matchup, as the Whitecaps finished the match with nine players following the ejections of Clarke and goalkeeper Sean Melvin.
“The U-18s still have a bad taste in their mouth after our last game with Cal Odyssey and they’ll be looking to get some revenge,” Whitecaps technical director and coach Richard Grootscholten said on the club’s website. “We missed a lot of opportunities to win that game and lost two points, in my opinion.”
First place De Anza Force doesn’t resume academy play until it hosts Vancouver Apr. 21. However, second-place Seattle is in action, hosting San Jose Earthquakes. The Sounders are led by 11-goal scorer Dominique Dismuke, who has seen time with the Sounders Reserves this season.
SoCal Division leaders Chivas USA hosts Pateadores, a team it beat 3-0 in October. Chivas, though, will be without goalkeeper Jake McGuire, who was called into the U.S. U-20 national team camp this week in Portland, Ore. Other academy teams will also be without key players this week due to the U-20 camp.
The U-16 Whitecaps defeated Cal Odyssey in the first matchup in February, 3-0, most recently coming off a 1-0 loss last month to Pateadores to break a five match unbeaten string. However, they will be without Titouan Chopin, still out with an ankle injury, while Brody Huitema and Sam Adekugbe will miss the match due to suspension, according to the club’s website.
“We’re going into the final games now,” Grootscholten said. “If we can focus on our own game and get some wins in the next three or four matches, we’ll make the playoffs, so it’s important that we put a winning team on the pitch.”
Early U-17/18 Frontier Division leaders Colorado Rapids travels to take on Minnesota Thunder Academy, who has played just one division game and seven overall, this Saturday.
The Rapids are 3-0-0 in division play and 7-0-2 overall, while the Thunder are 0-1-0 and 4-2-1 overall. Idrissa Camera leads the Rapids with five goals while Daniel Nevarez has four. Ismaila Jome has four goals to lead the Thunder.
The two teams’ U-15/16 teams are at the bottom of the division, but it’s still in the early stages.
In the Texas Division, FC Dallas’s dominant U-17/18 side, 15-1-1 in division play and 19-2-3 overall, takes on second-place Texans SC Houston (9-3-5 division, 13-4-7 overall) Sunday in a tantalizing matchup.
In the previous encounter between the two sides last October, FC Dallas’s Daniel Garcia picked up a first-half brace in a 2-0 win. Garcia leads FC Dallas with 17 goals, but he is in U-20 camp, while Jose de la Tejera has 10. FC Dallas will have to shut down Leobardo Vasquez (20 goals) and Christian Duarte (15 goals), who have a combined 35 goals this season.
In U-15/16 play, the first place Dallas Texans (12-1-4 Texas Division), 16-1-7 overall) will look to extend its four-match winning streak this weekend against fifth-place Lonestar SC (7-6-2 division, 10-9-3 overall). The Texans took a close, 3-2 encounter last month as a second half rally by Lonestar fell just short.
For East Conference teams, it’s still more intradivision matchups before division matches become the focus in May and June, as most teams in the Mid-Atlantic, Liberty and Northeast divisions have yet to play a divisional match. The Mid-Atlantic Division’s Baltimore Bays Chelsea faces Liberty Division’s PDA and New York Red Bulls over the weekend. The U-17/18 Bays are 7-4-0, while PDA is 9-2-2 and the Red Bulls are 7-3-3.
PDA’s U-15/16s are 11-1-1, while the Red Bulls are 9-3-1 and Bays Chelsea are 7-2-2. PDA is led by 12-goal scorer Max Kroschwitz, who in his last bit of action had a four-goal weekend two weeks ago. Alex Muyl leads the Red Bulls with nine goals. Patrick Koscher has five goals for Bays Chelsea.
The Northeast Division’s Oakwood Soccer Club (3-4-4) travels to the Maryland Soccerplex to take on Mid-Atlantic Division’s Potomac (1-5-4). Matthew Barry leads Oakwood with four goals, while Potomac’s Ronald Ventura has five goals early on in the team’s season.
FC Delco, at 6-2-4, hosts FC Greater Boston Saturday, and is led by Darius Madison with six goals and Brett Campbell with five.
D.C. United and Potomac will face the same two opponents this weekend in both U-15/16 and U-17/18 play.
United’s U-17/18s (4-5-3), coming off of a 2-0 loss to Baltimore Bays Chelsea two weeks ago, host South Central Premier Saturday, but will be without the services of Collin Martin, who is in U.S. U-20 National Team camp. Zachary Zurita leads South Central Premier with four goals. On Sunday, United will play Oakwood.
In U-15/16 play, Baltimore Bays Chelsea (7-2-2) last played May 25, defeating FC Greater Boston 1-0.
Potomac’s U-15/16s, like its older side, will be in action Saturday hosting Oakwood Soccer Club and Sunday South Central Premier.