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Academy U-16s Advance to National Finals with 2-1 Victory Friday Morning over Real Salt Lake-AZ

29 June 10:37 am

Academy U-16s Advance to National Finals with 2-1 Victory Friday Morning over Real Salt Lake-AZ

By Jeff Crandall

Coming off a Thursday in which the club saw a favored U-18 side bow out of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Playoffs, the U-16s resurrected the chance Friday, with a 2-1 group finale win over Real Salt Lake-Arizona to advance to next month’s National Finals in Houston.

The two teams entered Friday morning’s match with identical 2-0-0 records but RSL-Arizona held the second tie breaker with eight goals scored to the Fire’s seven, meaning the Boys in Red would have to win the match outright to advance.

Larry Sunderland’s side struck first blood when Collin Fernandez broke up a play in the attacking end, worked up the right and slotted a ball across for Jeff Farina who coolly slipped his fifth goal of the tournament past the RSL keeper in the 26th minute to take the Fire into the half up 1-0.

The side would find some more breathing room in the 63rd when Christian Hennock received the ball after a build up out of the back, strode towards goal up the right put a ball in leaving Marcus Epps an easy opportunity to knock home his fourth of the tournament and give the Fire a two-goal advantage.

Needing just two goals to advance, RSL poured on the pressure in the final 15 minutes and pulled one back in the 70th when a ball knocked across the box was redirected into the back of the net by a Fire player to take things to 2-1.

Despite the goal, the team was able to sustain the remaining pressure and grind out the 2-1 result to finish a perfect 3-0-0 atop what was deemed the tournament’s “Group of Death”. Together Farina and Epps accounted for all nine of the team’s goals in the three matches.

“RSL pushed very well at the end there,” said Sunderland. “I think being based in Arizona, they dealt with the heat much better than us and pressed us a lot longer. They’re a very good team but we did well to finish the chances we created and then completed it with a strong defensive performance.”

The win makes the Fire U-16s one of eight qualifiers to the U.S.S.D.A. Finals next month in Houston where the team will take part in another round-robin tournament, with the group winners playing for national title.

“Navigating this group and beating a team like RSL to qualify -- we have to take a lot of confident from that with us into the finals next month,” continued Sunderland. “I’m very proud of the way this team has performed and peaked just at the right time.”

Chicago Fire U16/U18 Academy Playoff Results

DATE TIME CHICAGO FIRE OPPONENT RESULTS
6/25 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Concorde Fire (GA) 1-2 L
6/26 4:00pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Clearwater Chargers (FL) 4-2 W
6/26 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Albertson SC (NY) 2-1 W
6/27 6:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Seattle Sounders FC (WA) 3-0 W
6/28 11:00am CT Chicago Fire U-18 Solar Chelsea SC (TX) 1-3 L
6/29 9:00am CT Chicago Fire U-16 Real Salt Lake (AZ) 2-1 W