When you haven’t lost a game in 21 matches and the bulk of your team was the one that took a Development Academy national title in 2010, its fair to say you have a target on your back.
This was the case in the Fire U-18 Academy’s 2-1 loss to Concorde Fire (Ga.) to open the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Playoffs Tuesday night in Frisco, Texas.
Playing in the 94-degree early summer heat in Dallas, the Fire U-18s nearly went up in the 10th minute when Andrew Oliver had an effort cleared off the line.
The team continued to possess throughout the first half and got what seemed a back-breaking goal just before the interval. A long sequence of passes led to Oliver sliding Luis Barajas through the Concorde backline before the winger placed his shot past the opposing ‘keeper to give the Fire a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute.
The goal didn’t put the physically more dominant Georgian side down however as a scramble off a 35-yard free kick led to the equalizer in the 69th minute. Nineteen minutes later, a similar sequence off a free kick from nearly the same spot saw Concorde steal a late goal to upset the top-ranked Fire U-18s, 2-1.
“We didn’t play a complete 90 minutes,” Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland said following the match. “It never fails – when you cheat yourselves a little bit, it catches you. That’s what happened here.
“Concorde is a team we were going to have trouble with because they’re big, physical, direct and we’re a smaller team. Aside from those free kicks, they didn’t threaten us much but the muscle they play with kept them in the game. Credit to them for the win.”
With the gauntlet laid down and Solar Chelsea’s (Texas) 4-1 drubbing of Albertson SC (NY) Tuesday night, the Fire U-18s now have no more room for error and will likely need a little help in their remaining group matches. They also have little time to recover as their second game of the tournament comes tonight against Albertston at 8:30pm CT (LIVE on @ChiFireMatch).
While the U-18s prepare for another primetime match, their U-16 brethren will take their opening bow of the competition later this afternoon when they face Clearwater Charges (Florida) at 4pm CT (LIVE on @ChiFireMatch).
With the following two group matches coming against fellow MLS Academy sides Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake Arizona, a win Tuesday afternoon is considered key to advancement from the group.
- U-18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoff Standings
- U-16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoff Standings
|6/25||8:30pm CT||Chicago Fire U-18||Concorde Fire (GA)||1-2 L|
|6/26||4:00pm CT||Chicago Fire U-16||Clearwater Chargers (FL)||@ChiFireMatch|
|6/26||8:30pm CT||Chicago Fire U-18||Albertson SC (NY)||@ChiFireMatch|
|6/27||6:30pm CT||Chicago Fire U-16||Seattle Sounders FC (WA)||@ChiFireMatch|
|6/28||11:00am CT||Chicago Fire U-18||Solar Chelsea SC (TX)||@ChiFireMatch|
|6/29||9:00am CT||Chicago Fire U-16||Real Salt Lake (AZ)||@ChiFireMatch|