The Chicago Fire U16 Academy team qualified for the United States Soccer Federation Development Academy league’s National Finals earlier this week after going 2-0-1 in the National Playoffs held in Brown’s Summit, NC. The U16 Academy advances to the USSFDA National Finals, to be held July 10-17 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.
The U16s began their quest for Carson last Friday, June 25, in a 0-0 draw with the Concorde Fire (GA). Goalkeeper Robert Euler played well at the back to preserve the shutout and earn a valuable point as a loss at any stage during the three-match round robin tournament almost assuredly spells doom for a team.
The following day the Fire downed Arsenal FC (CA) 2-0 behind goals from second half substitutes Elliot Borge and Patryk Ruta with Euler earning another clean sheet, giving the U16s the opportunity to clinch a national finals berth with a win in their final match against FC Westchester.
Though able to control it’s own destiny in the last group match this past Monday, the team came out sluggish in the first half, surrendering a goal and entering the interval down 1-0. Things looked bleak as the second half wore on but the Fire left it very, very late as Victor Pineda scored two goals in the last seven minutes to send the U16s to their first-ever national finals with a 2-1 win over FC Westchester.
The U16s returned to Chicago Tuesday and will train the next week at Toyota Park for the USSFDA National Finals. The side will use a July 5 match with the club’s Super-20 team as preparation for their group opponents, local rivals Chicago Sockers (July 10), D.C. United (July 12) and De Anza Force (CA) (July 14), with a possible championship match or placement game to be played July 16.
The Chicago Fire U18 Academy came up just short in joining their U16 counterparts at the National Finals in Carson, going 1-1-1 in their group encounters at the USSFDA National Playoffs.
The U18s came out strong in their first game Saturday, June 26 against Texas SC, as a 20th minute strike from Chris Prince took the team into the half 1-0 up. Bryan Ciesulka’s 80th minute tally looked to give the Fire their first three points of the tournament but the Houston-based club responded with two late goals from Anderson McDaniel and Juan Castillo and the Fire had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
The next day, the U18s took out their frustration on FC Westchester, destroying the New York-based club 5-2. Ciesulka hit the back of the net twice while single strikes from Connor Holloway and Jesse Ortiz and a Westchester own goal rounded out the scoring.
Sitting on four points, the win put the team in position to control their own destiny on the final day, needing a victory over group leaders Baltimore Bays Chelsea, who would enter the match with a perfect six points from two matches.
Scott Lakin gave the Fire a dream start in the 13th minute but it was all Baltimore from there on. The Fire dropped numbers behind the ball for much of the match and looked to be successful, but Baltimore’s Bryan Graham finally found the back of the net in the 85th minute to make it 1-1.
Needing a win in order to advance, the Fire pushed late for the go-ahead goal but were caught out with numbers forward and it was Graham again who punished the team in stoppage time.
The U18s finished their season with an 18-8-5 record.
The Chicago Fire PDL team fell 2-1 to the Dayton Dutch Lions in the two clubs’ first-ever meeting last Saturday at Miami Valley South Stadium in Bellbrook, OH.
The PDL-pro Dayton side got on the board with a 55th minute goal from Geert den Ouden and added insurance with another tally from George Davis in the 89thminute.
Fire midfielder Rich Balchan pulled one goal back in the 91st minute, but it wasn’t enough as the Fire fell 2-1.
The loss drops the PDL side to 7-3-1, but keeps the Fire atop the Great Lakes Division with 22 points, just one ahead of their next opponents Forest City London. The Canadian side will visit Toyota Park Monday, July 5 at 6pm.