The Chicago Fire U-18 and U-16 Academy squads played their first Great Lakes Division conference games over the weekend. The U-18s won both matches, defeating Vardar SC Freiburg 6-0 and Crew Soccer Academy Wolves 2-1. The U-16s won one match and tied the second, defeating Vardar 1-0 and drawing the Wolves 2-2. The two Fire teams combined for a record of 3-0-1 over the course of the first weekend of conference play.
“Overall, the weekend was a great success for both teams,” said Chicago Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland. “Both the Vardar and Crew U-16 teams came in with strong records, so it was a good challenge for our U-16s, who held up well and came away with 4 of the possible 6 points. The U-18s are playing well, and that’s what we expect from them on a regular basis.”
The U-18s kicked off Saturday against Vardar SC Freiburg at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., the site of Super Bowl XVI and four first-round matches of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. In the 20th minute, the Fire struck first courtesy of a goal by Andrew Conner, and went into the half with a 1-0 lead. The Fire charged into the second half and scored immediately as Manny Chavez gave the Fire a 2-0 advantage in the 46th minute. The Fire put the game out of reach when second half substitute Joseph Calistri entered the match and scored four consecutive goals in the 69th, 76 th, 80th and 88th minutes. Goalkeeper Zak Allen recorded the shutout as the Fire U-18 squad opened their conference schedule with a resounding 6-0 victory.
In the second match of the day, the Fire U-16 squad challenged Vardar SC Freiburg and built on the early success of the U-18s. Louis Bennett tallied the game's only goal in the 21st minute and the Fire held on the preserve a 1-0 win.
On Sunday, March 25, the Fire U-18 squad took on the Crew Soccer Academy Wolves at Jaycee Park in Livonia, Mich. Calistri continued to showcase his goal scoring prowess when he found the back of the net in the 7th minute. The Fire went down a man in the 30th minute when Andrew Conner was sent off for a two-footed tackle. The Wolves equalized in the 45th minute, ending a shutout streak for the Fire U-18 squad that spanned more than 500 minutes, and the teams entered halftime tied 1-1. Kellen Gulley, the club’s second homegrown player, entered the match in the second half and would prove the difference. In the 75th minute, Gulley picked up the ball outside of the 18-yard box before bending the ball past Wolves goalkeeper Evan Kozlowski to give the U-18s a 2-1 victory.
The Chicago Fire's U-16s, facing a highly regarded Wolves team, came away with a 2-2 draw in the afternoon fixture. The Wolves struck first in the 14th minute, but John Moderwell found the equalizer just four minutes later to bring the Fire level 1-1. Brian Werchek found the back of the net in the 24th minute and sent the Fire into halftime with a 2-1 lead. The Wolves eventually found the equalizer in the 65th minute, and the match ended 2-2.
The Fire Academy teams return to action on Saturday, April 14 and Sunday, April 15, when the U-18 and U-16 teams host local rivals Sockers FC and FC Milwaukee at Toyota Park.
FIRE HOLDS SECOND ANNUAL CHICAGO FIRE JUNIORS SUMMIT AT TOYOTA PARK
The Chicago Fire welcomed 35 representatives from eight Fire Juniors affiliates across the country last week for the second annual Chicago Fire Juniors Summit at Toyota Park. More than 10,000 players across seven different states are represented by the various Fire Juniors affiliates.
Spanning three days, the annual event had four main objectives: engage with the plan across all aspects of their respective organizations for 2012, introduce a female initiative amongst all of the clubs, institute a full-scale child protection program and forge a greater connection to Chicago with a tournament that brings all Juniors clubs together in Chicago.
The Juniors affiliates took in a first team training session and participated in sessions with representatives from the Fire, including Vice President of Soccer Operations Gui Petrei, Director of Player Personnel Mike Jeffries and Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland.
The weekend concluded when the representatives from the different Fire Juniors clubs took in the Fire’s home opening 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union in front of 18,075 supporters at Toyota Park.