The Chicago Fire Academy saw one of it’s most successful two-day spells in club history as the U18, U16 and U14 sides posted a combined 5-0-1 record this past weekend.
The Chicago Fire U18 and U16s opened up their 2010/11 USSDA season Saturday morning at the Toyota Park turf field by dispatching Shattuck-St. Mary’s Academy 2-1 and 1-0 respectively.
Victor Pineda, who signed with the club’s first team in
August after helping the U16s to the USSDA National Championship in July,
rejoined his Academy teammates, now U18s in Saturday’s first match.
A number of Fire fans asked why Pineda was eligible to play in the match as he’s sign a first team contract, but because of a change in rules from the NCAA and US Soccer that went into effect August 1, amateur players are allowed to play with professionals without compromising their collegiate eligibility as long as they remain age-eligible and are part of one professional organization.
“We’re happy that the NCAA and US Soccer have changed to allow age-eligible first team players to play in Academy games,” said Fire Director of Player Development John Dorn. “Victor’s certainly been in the right environment since we’ve signed him – we can see the things he’s been doing – the difference in his training – the things he’s doing are so much more advanced, but the hard part for Victor is that he needs games. He hasn’t played a competitive game since July, so the change in rules certainly helps a player like him who’s training everyday with the first team but can actually still play in a competitive environment every week.”
After a chippy first ten minutes, Fire midfielder Luis Medina was taken down in the box following a corner kick in the 12th minute. Pineda stepped to the spot and put the 18s ahead 1-0 a minute later.
Already drizzling, conditions worsened around the 25th minute when a downpour occurred making passes and plays difficult to complete. The Fire went into the half with the 1-0 lead in their grasp.
The 18s dominated the second frame but didn’t find their insurance goal until Medina and Pineda played a one-two on the right side which the Fire first teamer centered to Brady Wahl at the top right corner of the 18-yard box. The substitute midfielder made no mistake curling a low shot to the opposite post in the 80th minute.
Shattuck-Saint Mary’s pulled one back five minutes later but
the Fire U18s held on for a 2-1 victory to open the new campaign.
The Chicago Fire U16s followed up the older side’s performance with a 1-0 win over St. Mary’s. Manny Rios opened the Fire account in the 10th minute and goalkeeper Christian Lomelli made a number of key saves to preserve the victory.
“We played an awful lot of good football in stretches with 16s Saturday,” said Dorn “This 16s group reminds me a lot of last year’s 16’s group – there’s a lot of football in them. We have a whole new backline, generally our attacking players come back but our backline is completely new – all four starters on last year’s backline have moved up to the 18s. This year we have to look at a whole new backline and how we do with that. We had a shutout Saturday, so we took a lot out of that game with our defense.”
The Fire welcomed the Minnesota Thunder Academy to Toyota Park Sunday, with the U18s falling behind 1-0 in the 35th minute, but just a minute later, Luis Barajas equalized and the game ended 1-1.
Like theU18s the U16s fell behind 1-0 in the 17th minute but pulled the match level when Joel Salmeron was chopped down in the box a minute later. The ensuing penalty kick saw Drew Conner, the player that scored the winning penalty kick in July’s national championship match, equalize from the spot.
Yasir Herrera pulled the U16s ahead off a feed from Benjamin Kucera in the 31st minute and Jesus Medina put that match on ice after a nice combination from Salmeron and AJ Jeffries in the 56th.
Goalkeeper Kyle Del Santo made a number of saves to keep the U16s ahead late.
Notes: Victor Pineda will join the U.S. U18s for training camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA from November 20-28.
The Chicago Fire U14 Academy extended their inaugural season record to 14-1-0 with a 7-0 win at FC Milwaukee on Saturday and an 8-4 victory over the Minnesota Thunder Sunday at Toyota Park.