U.S. Soccer Development Academy Championships U-15/16 semifinals set
CHICAGO (Via U.S. Soccer) – The Knockout Round, also known as the quarterfinals of the U-15/16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Championship, saw four dominant performances send Real Salt Lake Arizona, Atlanta United FC, FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps to Carson, Calif. for the 2017 Academy Championships. The two semifinals games are set to take place on Friday, July 14, at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center, where FC Dallas will face Real Salt Lake and Atlanta will take on Vancouver.
The round began on Thursday afternoon, when the Casa Grande-based talent factory Real Salt Lake Arizona stormed into Missouri’s Children’s’ Mercy Park and took down Sporting Kansas City, 3-0. Following an actual weather-related delay in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. U-17 MNT teammates Andrew Carleton and Zyen Jones found the right rhythm and connections to speed Atlanta United FC past Bethesda Soccer Club 4-1, setting another milestone for the first year Academy program.
Needing a statement win to show that the squad was serious about winning their third National Championship in a row, FC Dallas found the spark they needed in Jesus Ferreira, who’s hat trick sealed a 5-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids. In the final game of the night, an international trip for Seattle Sounders FC, the emerald city U-15/16 side fell 3-0 to Canadian powerhouse Vancouver Whitecaps.
Following Friday night’s quarterfinal U-17/18 games, the final four teams from each age group will travel to Carson, California on July 13th. That night, the eight teams will gather at the 10th annual Opening Ceremony awards banquet, where the Academy end of year awards will be announced. Awards include Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, Best XI, Community Award and Respect Award for each of the three conferences. With all four semifinal games taking place on Friday, July 14th, all eight teams will have one rest day before getting back on the field for the championship and third place games, set for Sunday, July 16.
KNOCKOUT ROUND RECAPS:
Real Salt Lake Arizona 3, Sporting Kansas City 0
Real Salt Lake (AZ) U-15/16 got on the scoresheet early and never looked back as they eliminated Sporting Kansas City U-15/16 at Children’s Mercy Park. Juan Obeso opened the scoring in the 6th minute with a clinical volley from outside the area. From there, Benjamin Ortiz tapped the ball home from just a couple yards out in the 30th minute, and substitute Julian Vazquez capped off the scoring in the 57th minute when he calmly finished near post after a great run down the left flank. Sporting Kansas City was unable to get anything going in the midfield, as RSL continuously controlled possession and attacked through the wings. After a Mason Visconti red card put the home side down to 10 men in the 68th minute, RSL buttoned up and polished off a resounding 3-0 road win.
Atlanta United FC 4, Bethesda Soccer Club 1
In its first year of existence, Atlanta United FC U-15/16 earned the program’s first trip to the Academy Championships, with a 4-1 win over Bethesda SC U-15/16. In front of 750 fans at The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, severe weather forced a 30-minute delay in 14th minute, but it didn’t slow down Atlanta United FC. Storming out of the delay in the 18th minute, Atlanta forward Zyen Jones played a low, hard cross into the 6-yard box that was knocked around before his teammate Dylan Gaither poked the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead. In the 34th minute, Atlanta sprung Jones free on a counter attack, where Jones used a 1-on-1 with the Bethesda goalkeeper to feed a streaking Carlton, who tapped it into the open net for a 2-0 lead. Moments before halftime in the 40th minute, a Gaither back post cross found the head of James Brighton to give Atlanta a 3-0 cushion. 28 minutes into the second half, Atlanta put the game away for good when Carlton played a short corner in front of goal, only to meet the foot of his U-17 World Cup Qualifying CONCACAF teammate, Jones. Bethesda would not quit. Gabe Segal finally got Bethesda on the board in the 79th, a free kick that he received with his chest and finished past the Atlanta keeper. The final whistle blew moments later as dozens of excited fans stormed the field to celebrate with United’s players.
FC Dallas 5, Colorado Rapids 0
Under the sweltering heat in Frisco, Texas, and in front of over 700 fans, two Frontier division powerhouses met for the third time this season. After splitting the regular season series 3-1 in favor of Colorado and 2-0 later going to Dallas, the third meeting was promising from the onset. Rapids’ goalkeeper Trevor Mowry came up huge in the 3rd minute as FC Dallas put unrelenting pressure on the visitors. What looked to then be an opportunity for Colorado Rapids, Michael Collodi and the FC Dallas defense made a furry of goal line saves to keep the game level 0-0. Both teams came into the game with a bit of nerves, settling in after the first 10 minutes of play. Jesus Ferreira of FC Dallas capitalized off a Colorado defensive mistake in the 13′ to make it 1-0. Oliver Larraz was great in midfield for the Rapids cleaning up loose balls and controlling the speed of play for the visitors. However, FC Dallas continued to put on the pressure as Ferreira finished with a hat trick on the night, with additional goals coming from second half substitute Jalen James and stalwart defender Alex Bautista.
“We are going to approach this trip as not just being happy to be there, but wanting to go there and take care of business,” FC Dallas U-15/16 head coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “Our preparation starts tonight. Tomorrow we’ve got a training and a regen. We have a week of preparation to focus on, so we’re going to take it one training at a time and one moment at a time. We’re going to compete again, push each other, get out of our comfort zones, because that’s what we do. We are developing players and at the same time, we don’t know any other way. That’s our culture.”
Vancouver Whitecaps 3, Seattle Sounders FC 0
The Cascadian matchup is a familiar feature for the Northwest Academy Clubs. The quarterfinal was the fourth meeting between the teams this season. Vancouver held a 2-1 advantage following a win in the finale of the regular season.
The game started at a fast pace with the first chance of the game coming in the 4th minute. A looping volley was sent towards the Vancouver goal that bounced off the top of the crossbar, serving as the first test for Vancouver goalkeeper, Evan Ince. The high pressure continued from Seattle, often initiated by the front three attackers. As the half progressed, Vancouver absorbed the pressure and settled into the game, which allowed them to begin building through the middle of the field. Despite the increased Vancouver ball possession, Seattle continued to bring pressure and created the best chance from a wide position set piece. However, Vancouver used this opportunity to respond on the counter attack and convert their first chance to take a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute on a great individual effort from Alessandro Hojabprour. After crossing midfield, he cut inside on the dribble and hit a hard shot low and to the right of the Seattle goalkeeper and into the net. Seattle responded with more initiative and had another chance in the 33rd minute when a cross was flicked on and then headed wide of the net. Once again, Vancouver responded at the other end when Sangha Gurman sent a cross in that was initially deflected, but then hammered home by Jose Hernandez to make it 2-0. The Whitecaps started off the second half where they left off. Jake Ruby‘s hard shot from distance was saved, but Jefferson Alade was there to clean it up poking the third and final goal of the game into the back of the net for the home side. Despite the score, Seattle continued to press on to get on the board and drew a penalty kick. Ince was up to the challenge again and prevented the Sounders from scoring when he dove to his left and pushed the spot kick wide of the mark. That would remain the theme for the night, as he thwarted any Seattle attack, including a reaction save in the 80th minute to maintain the clean sheet.
July 14 (1) FC Dallas vs. (9) Real Salt Lake AZ
July 14 (3) Atlanta United FC vs. (8) Vancouver Whitecaps
(*) Overall seed, based on points-per-game-played-average during 2016-2017 regular season.