Chicago Fire Player Development Update: Climbing the Tables
In a perfect 4-0-0 run-out this past weekend, the Chicago Fire U-15/16 and U-17/18 Deveopmental Academy sides made up significant ground in the league standings.
“I think it came at the right time for us to have a good weekend to climb the tables,” said Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland. “It appears that they are beginning to regroup and refocus their energies and the results from this weekend back that up.”
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In the final game of the weekend and most significant for either side, the U-17/18 Academy squad edged then-first place Shattuck-Saint Mary’s (MN) 2-1, Sunday.
“The 18’s have been an up-and-down team all year. They haven’t been able to put together two good outings all year. They showed they can be a team that can battle and grind.”
Defender Jake Taylor bagged the first goal in the 16th minute on a header off midfielder Ricardo Aldape’s corner kick. Defender Cody Witkowski doubled the lead with what turned out to be the decisive goal in the 44th minute.
“Jake has been very good on set pieces and good in the air. Cody made a very good run off the backline, snuck in behind them coming off the weak side got across and finished off the goal real well.”
Despite being down a man for the closing 10 minutes, the Fire showed resolve as they held on for three points.
Shattuck-Saint Mary’s Michael Bajza pulled one back with a man advantage in the 90th minute.
In their first game of the weekend Saturday, the U17/U18 side topped Minnesota with a barrage of goals in a 4-1 win.
Brandon Medina netted the opening goal in the 20th minute and midfielder Hayden Cochran made it 2-0 two minutes before halftime.
“Both Brandon’s and Hayden’s goals were sequences. Good possession sequences that ended with a look at goal and they tucked in rebounds.”
In the second half, goals came in the 55th minute on forward Jeffrey Farina’s penalty kick and Andres Chalbaud in the 80th.
“We had a number of penalty kicks from guys breaking down, getting in the box and getting fouled. We had three penalty kicks this weekend.”
With the two wins, the U-17/18 side moved to 9-5-5 and fourth place in the Mid-American Division standings.
The Chicago U15/16 followed up their older counter parts, defeating the Minnesota Thunder Academy 2-1, Saturday.
Defender Michael Jimenez opened the Fire’s scoring account in the 58th minute. Midfielder Martin Alba’s tally in the 75th minute would prove to be the game-winner.
Minnesota’s Ralph Cooper scored a consolation goal in the 77th minute.
In the team’s second game on Sunday, Chicago recorded a second successive 2-1 against Shattuck-Saint Mary’s Soccer Academy.
Forward Alex Underwood found the net first in the 12th minute.
Luke Haakenson knotted the match for Saint Mary’s in the 25th minute. That set the stage for Alba’s winner in the 79th minute.
The Fire U15/U16s (11-3-6) have climbed to the second spot in the Mid American division largely with momentum from superb fall slate, and now sit nine points behind leader Crew Soccer Academy Wolves (Michigan).
“The 16’s were in very good form as we finished the fall season. We went into the Winter Showcase and won three matches against MLS opponents.”
Sunderland said his teams are hitting their peak at an opportune point in the year.
“Our season is such a long one that if you get out of the gate too fast, it hurts you down the stretch. With our teams, we prefer to come on into form as you enter the playoffs.”
The Developmental Academy sides are back in action this Saturday with a local derby against Chicago Magic at the College of Dupage. The U17/U18s kickoff at 1:30pm before the U15/U16s play at 4pm.