The Chicago Fire Academy U-18 squad made it two wins in two to open Group F play at this week’s U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs in Westfield, Ind.
The U-18 squad, seeded No. 15 in the USSDA playoffs as the champions of the Central Conference’s Mid-America Division, opened play Tuesday with a 2-0 victory over Sporting KC, receiving goals from a tandem of U.S. youth internationals. The Fire seized a late lead with an 86th-minute goal by Mauricio Pineda and iced the win when Cameron Lindley tallied four minutes later.
The U-18s were right back to action Wednesday morning and posted a 1-0 win over New York City-based BW Gottschee Academy. Djordje Mihalovic provided the match-winner in the 43rd minute.
The Fire round out group play Friday at 8 a.m. CT against the New York Red Bulls, the No. 4 overall seed in the event and the first-place team out of the East Conference’s Atlantic Division. The Red Bulls defeated BW Gottschee, 4-0, in its first game, before falling to Sporting KC, 1-0, Wednesday afternoon.
The Chicago Fire Academy team is among 32 clubs competing in the U-18 age group playoffs this week in Westfield. The top team from each of eight groups move on to a single-game knockout round held July 7-8 at the higher-seed’s home facility. From there, four winners move on to the Academy Championship games July 16-18 in Carson, Calif.
Also on Tuesday, the Chicago Fire U-16 squad scored a 1-0 victory against the Colorado Rush, bouncing back from a defeat by the same score Monday against Montreal Impact FC. Vitalis Takawira Jr.’s goal in the ninth minute stood up against the Rush, giving the Fire a split of their two matches at the National Showcase.
The Chicago Fire U-14s participated in the inaugural U.S. Soccer-sponsored National Showcase at that age level over the weekend, falling in a trio of matches against Chivas USA, Orlando City SC and FC Dallas Academies.
Chicago Fire Academy at USSDA Playoffs/National Showcase
Tuesday, June 23 -- Chicago Fire 2:0 Sporting KC
Wednesday, June 24 -- Chicago Fire 1:0 BW Gottschee Academy
Friday, June 26 -- Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls (8 a.m. CT)
Monday, June 22 -- Chicago Fire 0:1 Montreal Impact FC
Tuesday, June 23 -- Chicago Fire 1:0 Colorado Rush
Friday, June 19 -- Chicago Fire 1:5 Chivas USA
Saturday, June 20 -- Chicago Fire 0:2 Orlando City SC
Monday, June 22 -- Chicago Fire 1:3 FC Dallas
Chicago Fire Academy
The Chicago Fire U-18 and U-16 sides concluded U.S. Soccer Development Academy play over the weekend.
The U-18s defeated Crew SC Academy Wolves 2-0 on Saturday morning with goals from Ben Rhoder and Peter Schropp, and on Sunday topped Vardar, 2-0, courtesy of goals from Cameron Lindley and Ben Rhoder. The U-18s finished the regular season first in the Mid-America Division with a 14-4-9 record.
The U-16s fell 3-1 to Crew SC Academy Wolves on Saturday and defeated Vardar by a score of 3-2 behind a Vitalis Takawira Jr. strike and a Todor Atlija brace on Sunday. The U-16s finish the season with an 11-9-7 record, just out of a spot in the playoffs.
Chicago Fire PDL
The Chicago Fire PDL side defeated the St. Louis Lions 3-1 on Sunday evening at Toyota Park, led by a Joey Calistri brace in the 20th and 55th minutes and an 89th minute strike from Fletcher Ekern.
With a 2-0-2 record, the Fire sit in second place in the Heartland Division of the Central Conference, just one point behind the Springfield Synergy FC, who have played seven matches.
Next up the Fire host the Des Moines Menace on the Toyota Park Turf Field on Tuesday, June 9 at 10 a.m. CT.
Chicago Fire Homegrown prospect Harrison Shipp garnered another collegiate accolade Monday, as TopDrawerSoccer.com named the Notre Dame attacker its 2013 Collegiate Player of the Year.
Just over a week ago, Shipp led the Fighting Irish to its first ever NCAA College Cup, tallying the game-winning assist in a 2-1 win over Maryland in Chester, Pa.
Shipp's 12 goals and 10 assists for Notre Dame also made him a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy which is set to be awarded on January 10.
Though the club has not yet signed Shipp to a Homegrown deal, earlier this month MLS confirmed he was eligible to be signed directly by the Fire.
At a Season Ticket Holder Town Hall on December 14, the day before the College Cup final, Fire head coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop spoke highly of Shipp, comparing him to a young Mike Magee before insinuating the team would be bringing him in as a Homegrown player by saying, "We'll get him."
Two schools with Fire Academy ties will continue their quest for the 2013 NCAA College Cup in the tournament’s third round on Sunday.
Coming off the program’s first ever NCAA tournament win last Sunday vs. Akron, the #9 Marquette Golden Eagles travel to Charlottesville to take on perennial collegiate powerhouse #8 Virginia at noon CT.
Ex-Fire Academy goalkeeper Charlie Lyon made eight saves to push Marquette past the Zips in last week’s 1-0 overtime win and is joined by Fire alums Bryan Ciesulka, Brady Wahl, Louis Bennett II and Eric Pothast on the Golden Eagles squad.
Fans can catch the match LIVE via CBSSports.com beginning at noon CT.
Later that afternoon, catch much-talked about Fire Homegrown Prospect Harry Shipp as he leads #3 Notre Dame against #14 Wake Forest at 6pm CT in South Bend, Ind.
The ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Shipp tallied two goals in the Irish’s 4-0 second round win last weekend over Wisconsin to reserve Sunday’s date vs. the Demon Deacons and is joined in South Bend by fellow Fire Academy alum Danny Lojek.
Catch the game LIVE at 6pm CT on WatchND.com.
The Fire had a lot of youth representation in Charleston this past weekend...
Five Chicago-based Academy teams, along with three from the Indiana Fire Academy and one team from the Kentucky Fire Juniors all took part in the Carolina Challenge Academy Cup this past weekend.
The Chicago-based teams did best, going a combined 13-1-3 over the weekend and taking the tournament titles at U14, U16 and U18 level.
I took a break from first team training Monday to cover the U16 and U18 games. Read my recap here and check out select shots from their matches below...
Want to learn to play like a pro? Then train like a pro on one of the Chicago Fires Regional Talent Schools this winter. The RTS is an individual training program specifically designed for advanced travel soccer players looking to take their game to the next level.
The program consists of 90 minutes of instructional coaching over an 8 week period and presents a fantastic opportunity for soccer players aged 8-14 (Boys & Girls) to participate in an integrated supplementary training program beyond their club practices.
The Regional Talent Schools start the week of January 14th, in Waukegan, Naperville, Glendale Heights and Chicago, for more information go to http://www.chicago-fire.com/youth/rts
We here at Always on the Inside like seeing nice goals. We like it even more when nice goals are scored by product's of the club's player development system.
Today, we take a trip in the way back machine to two days ago when Fire U-16 Academy striker Luca Giovine hit an absolute blinder in the 66th minute to give the side a 2-0 lead over Portland Timbers at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcase in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Giovine would also assist on the third goal from Alex Underwood to give the Fire a 3-0 win over Portland.
Certainly the team highlight at the showcase was going 3-0-0 and defeating two MLS Academies, Giovine's second second strike of the three-game set takes individual honors.
Watch below (at the 44 second mark)....
The trophy cases in the Chicago Fire lobby got a new addition last week, courtesy of the youngest members of the Fire organization. The Chicago Fire U-10 Academy team, playing up an age group, won the U-11 Crew Fall Classic Championship with a commanding 7-2 victory over the Crew Juniors Gold East on October 7. Before heading out to training last Thursday, the team was on hand to personally place their trophy in its place of honor.
For the young team, the Crew Fall Classic was their first opportunity to play together in a tournament.
"They really impressed me a lot over the weekend," said Head Coach Charlie Trout. "They really came together as a team and performed at a very high level. They started to build an identity as a team and as the tournament went on, their individual personalities really started to show. It was a great experience for them and I feel like they turned a big corner that weekend."
Perhaps what made the victory even sweeter was that it was against the Crew.
"A lot of the boys support the Chicago Fire," said Trout. "They know how huge the rivalry is between the Fire and the Crew, so that added a little more excitement for them."
And if displaying their trophy alongside the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy from the Fire's historic 1998 MLS Cup victory wasn't enough excitement, the U-10s were given a special treat when Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas stopped by and addressed the team. Klopas spoke to the youngest members of the Fire family about the honor and responsibility that comes along with wearing the Fire badge.
"There have been times where Frank has come out and watched the boys train. You see the way they look over, see who he is and their excitement rises," said Trout. "For them to get the trophy that they worked so hard for and put it in the trophy cabinet that involves the whole club is fantastic for the young boys. It gives them such a confidence booster. It's great for them."
The Fire travel to LiveStrong Sporting Park on Friday night to face Sporting KC (LIVE 7:30pm CT on NBC Sports Network) in a game which could go a long way toward determining who wins the Eastern Conference crown. Both teams are playing well and it has all the makings of a classic. Here are a few things to watch out for from a tactical perspective...
Balls over the top: Fire defenders beware
Sporting KC have a tendency to look for balls into space behind the opposing teams outside defenders and the Fire will need to be wary of this tactic Friday night. KC attackers such as Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi and C.J. Sapong all like to make these runs which often drag a central defender out of position to cover, leaving space in the middle for the other attackers to move into.
PREVIEW: Fire vs. Sporting KC
The difficult part about defending these through balls is the fact that they can come from anywhere. In KC's last home match against Houston, it wasn't just midfielders like Roger Espinoza playing the balls into space but the defenders were getting in on the act, too.
Though he has played extremely well over the past month or so, Jalil Anibaba can sometimes stray too far forward which leaves space in behind him for players to run into and exploit. On the other side of the field, left back Gonzalo Segares also needs to be cautious.
High pressure: harass KC
In the Fire's past few matches, the team's policy of applying pressure to the opposition high up the field has been very effective. Not only does the pressure offer up the opportunity for a turnover, but it also disrupts the other team’s attacking rhythm.
In KC's last game away to Montreal, the Impact used the high pressure tactic and caused all sorts of problems for the away side. I look for the likes of Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko to be pressuring the KC players all night when they are in possession.
In the absence of Pavel Pardo, Alex has excelled in his new holding midfield position and his energy in the center of the park will be needed against Sporting KC. If he can also use his pace to pressure the KC midfield without straying too far out of position, it will be crucial to the Fire's chances of coming away with points.
Playoff atmosphere: keeping a cool head
There is so much riding on Friday night’s match and both teams know what is a stake, which is all the more reason for the Fire players to keep cool heads throughout the game. Kansas City has a tendency to get riled up very easily, starting with their coach, Peter Vermes. Players such as Kai Kamara and Michael Harrington also can get very emotional on the pitch, especially if they feel calls are not going their way.
With this in mind, I'm sure Frank Klopas has reiterated to his players not to let their emotions get the better of them in this high pressure game. For the most part, the Fire haven't had any problems with this aspect of their game this season but in a match of such importance where there isn't much between the teams, keeping your head can mean the difference between a positive and negative result.
Scoring first: stopping the bad habit
Though not necessarily a tactical point, a worrying trait that many would like to see addressed is reversing the trend of giving up the first goal.
This season, the Fire have gone a goal behind in games much too often for the coaches, fans and players liking. Though the team has often come back to tie the game and gone on to win it in many cases, sooner or later giving up the first goal is going to come back to haunt the Men in Red.
Clearly there is no one reason for going behind in so many games this season but if the team can reverse that trend it will make everyone happy. In the regular season to date, the Fire have only kept five clean sheets, the last of which came 11 games ago (1-0 July 14 vs. Vancouver). A clean sheet away from home Friday against Sporting KC would be a fantastic achievement.
Prediction: 1-0. Nyarko scores and Fire keep first clean sheet in 11 games to move into first place in the East.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.
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.”
- U-16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoff Standings
- U-18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoff Standings
Chicago Fire U16/U18 Academy Playoff 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|