Chicago Fire Academy Player Development Update

We chat with Academy Director Larry Sunderland as he recaps this weekend's match-ups

The Chicago Fire U.S. Soccer Development Academy squads went 1-1-0 against local foe Sockers FC Saturday at the Toyota Park practice field.

The Academy U-17/18 team opened the day with a 1-0 win.

“It was a sloppy game, again,” admitted Academy Director Larry Sunderland. “We were not particularly good on the day.”

But his team picked up a crucial result.

Midfielder Brandon Medina scored the game-winner in the 56th minute on a free kick from 24 yards out that beautifully curled into the lower corner.

The Fire U-17/18s (10-5-6) are now unbeaten in seven matches since the winter break.

They maintain their hold on fourth place in the Mid-America Division and stay in a wild card position for the playoffs.

The playoff format consists of 19 seeded teams and 13 wild card team to make up a 32-team field. For the Fire’s division the top three teams automatically receive seeds, while most conferences have two seeded teams.

“It’s the luck of the draw where you end up in your bracket for playoffs. As long as you are in the playoffs the rest is [up to fate].”

The 18’s went into last year’s postseason the top rated team in the country but bowed out in the group stage.

“That was just a case of peaking early and coasting into the playoffs. It was an easy season for them because they were that good.”

The team sits in the eighth wild card spot with five matches left on the season. According to Sunderland, it’s an ideal situation after his team was complacent down the stretch last year.

Chicago travels to Columbus to face fifth place Crew Soccer Academy Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Obetz Training Facility.

“It’s another MLS game, we always look forward to it, because the soccer is much better. Both teams will try to play good soccer.”

The team wraps up the weekend Sunday when they take on Internationals FC just outside of Cleveland at 9 a.m.

The Chicago Fire U-15/16 side (12-4-6) fell to the Sockers FC 1-0 on Saturday.

“The 16’s disappointed it was a match we fairly dominated. We had one error and it cost us three points.

Despite having the majority of the run of play, a defensive lapse led to the lone goal of the game in the 46th minute.

“A lot of chances, [we] probably had 70 percent of the possession. We didn’t finish our chances and then we had one let down.”

The Fire dropped their first match in 11 games dating back to November 11, 2012.

The 16’s are searching for the form they had prior to the Winter break with another month to find it before the playoffs.

Even in defeat they held onto their second place standing and are currently seeded 15 league-wide.

Despite being placed in the group of death last year with Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake, the Fire 16s moved on to the Development Academy’s national finals in Houston, Texas.

The Fire will hope to emulate a run similar to last year when it lost in the semifinals to New York Red Bulls.

“The 16’s were coming into the up cycle and caught it at the right time. I’m getting the sense that they are doing that right now.”

The U-15/16 Academy faces Crew Soccer Academy and Internationals following the conclusion of the U-17/18s matches this weekend.

“[MLS Academies] respect what we all do. A lot of the time when we play games against other MLS teams we are looking at their players as much as we are looking at our own.”