A Win And You're In

U18's keep national hopes alive

The Chicago Fire Academy U-17/18 team had to overcome more than just FCWestchester to keep their hopes of a trip to the nationals alive atSunday's Development Academy playoffs.Chicago had to deal with the hottest day of the year in the Greensboro, North Carolina area, where temperatures soared to 95 degrees and the sun and humidity made things even worse.

But the Fire got past an FC Westchester team that was also fighting to stay in the mix in pool play by scoring four times in the second half toclaim a 5-2 victory at Bryan Park.As a result, Chicago (16-7-5) will face Baltimore Bays Chelsea (22-4-6) on Tuesday at 9 a.m. with the winner of that match advancing to the quarterfinals in Carson, California.

The Fire bounced back from a disappointing 2-2 draw against Texas SC DTH in their initial match on Saturday to improve to 1-0-1 in pool play. Meanwhile, Baltimore defeated Texas SC DTH 5-2 on Sunday to improve to 2-0 in pool play, setting the stage for Tuesday's clash with the Fire.

Bryan Ciesiulka scored a pair of goals while Connor Holloway and JesseOrtiz also chipped in with scores for the Fire during Sunday's victory.Harry Shipp, Patrick Doody, Scott Lakin and Ortiz handed out the assists for Chicago, which also benefitted from an own goal by FC Westchester.

After both squads wore white jerseys during the opening half of play, the Fire donned the red in the second half and took on a different look.Their play also was much improved following the break as they finally managed to take control of the match against FC Westchester (12-13-6).

Ciesiulka, playing in only his second match since returning from a two and a half month absence due to injury, put the Fire in front for good. After entering at the break, Ciesiulka connected during the 57th minute,
following a nice assist from Doody, to give Chicago a 2-1 advantage.

"It's pretty hot," Ciesiulka said. "The coaches keep telling us
to stay hydrated and taking care of our bodies is the most important thing to get mentally focused.

"We were planning the whole time that we'd have to meet Baltimore to advance. Hopefully we can go out and take care of business and get three points against them. "It's been tough coming back and trying to get my legs back is going to take a little bit of time but I have a great group of guys who have been helping me out."

The Fire went ahead 3-1 in the 67th minute after an FC Westchester defender headed the ball into his own net while attempting a clear a shot. In the 70th minute, Lakin made a long run up the sideline before feeding off to Ortiz, who connected from close range to make it a 4 1 match.

FC Westchester got a goal back in the 72nd minute but the Fire responded when Ciesiulka scored in the 86th minute, off of a pass from Ortiz. Chicago grabbed the early lead when it executed a quick free kick in which Shipp fed the ball to Holloway, who hit a liner in the 18th minute.

As the first half was winding down, FC Westchester evened things up during the 38th minute when Noah Cadet got past defenders and connected.