The Chicago Fire welcomed Academy a special guest to the Windy City Tuesday night as the Mexican U17 Men’s National Team graced the Toyota Park pitch, defeating the highly rated Chicago Fire U18 Academy 2-0.
“Tonight’s result aside, this was a great opportunity for our guys to get a match against very strong opposition as we get set to restart our Academy season in April,” said head coach Larry Sunderland. “I’m proud of the effort the team put out tonight.”
As hosts of this June’s 14th FIFA U17 World Championships, Mexico didn’t have to take part in the recent CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which saw the United States remain the only nation to qualify for every U17 tournament as they clinched their first CONCACAF crown at the age level since 1992.
As such, the younger el Tricolor side came north for a meeting with one of the country’s top Academy programs, which features many members of the 2010 US Soccer Development Academy U16/U17 national championship team.
A vibrant crowd of 1,738, along with a boisterous group from Section 8 Chicago who stood and sang in preparation for the first team’s home opener on March 26, watched as the Mexican U17 team did well to lock the hosts in their own half, keeping Sam Euler’s goal under siege for most of the first interval.
The Fire did well to frustrate the Mexican attackers but finally gave way in the 41st minute when striker Eduardo Fierro Guerro ran into space at the top right of the 18 yard-box. Holding up the ball for his partner up top Marcelo Dominguez, Guerro chipped a beautiful ball to the penalty spot which Dominguez one touched past Euler to give Mexico a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
In the second frame, the Mexican side looked to close out the match with a fury of opportunities that forced Euler into five spectacular saves within the half’s first 10 minutes.
Led by the Fire’s first team member Victor Pineda, who was also celebrating his 18th birthday, the home side slowly gained more possession over the course of the second half, earning a number of dangerous opportunities but failed to really threaten Richard Alcaraz’s goal.
Mexico put the game on ice in the 81st minute when Jonathan Espericueta-Escamilla curled in an incredible effort from the corner kick, beating Euler to the outside post to put the final score at 2-0.
The Fire Academy played a similar match in 2010, defeating the U.S. U17 national team 4-0 at Toyota Park before the first team’s Opening Night match against San Jose on April 10.
Sunderland’s side will now look to the restart of the Academy season as the club welcomes the league’s Michigan contingent to Toyota Park, taking on Derby County Wolves on Saturday, April 2 (U18s at 11am, U16s at 1:30pm) and Vardar on Sunday, April 3 (same times).
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.