The Chicago Fire Academy U-16 team has answered the bell on a pretty regular basis during their late-season run of success. That trend continued Saturday when the Fire met local rivals Sockers FC in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals in Carson, California. About two minutes after seeing the Sockers score to even things at 1-1 late in the second half, the Fire responded with a goal of their own.
Keaton Albert connected on an attempt that found the opposite side of the net in the 71st minute to help the Fire claim a 2-1 win. Manny Rios started things on that score by passing to Elliot Borge before he found an open Albert, who fired a liner past keeper Jeff Gal. The Fire's second goal came in the 69th minute when the Sockers tied things on a liner from Damien Sampson that eluded keeper Sam Euler.
"The world stopped when I got my goal and it was so exciting," Albert said. "We wanted to push hard for five minutes after they scored because we wanted it that badly. "I thought we were nervous in the first half and we were struggling. So it was good to put that first half away and then come out in the second half and get back at it. "We knew that Sockers would be a hard team because they're rivals. To get three points after beating a good team in this group should give us momentum for our next game."
Following a scoreless opening half on a cool evening, the Fire grabbed the initial lead during the 55th minute. After the referee ruled that Rios was tackled in the box, Victor Pineda converted the penalty kick to give his team a 1-0 lead.
About four minutes later, Luis Barajas looked like he scored off a pass from Rios, but it was disallowed by an offsides call. The Fire (15-5-10) improved to 8-0-5 since their last defeat while the Sockers (15-3-1) saw a 7-0-3 unbeaten streak halted.
It was an unusual pool match for the finals, considering that the Fire and Sockers FC are members of the Frontier Division. Due to a scheduling issue, the Fire and Sockers met only once in the regular season, which ended in a 0-0 draw on June 5. The Fire meets D.C. United on Monday and take on De Anza Force two days later in their next two matches in Group 1 action.