Academy Champs


Following an amazing run through the final part of the season, it only figured that the Chicago Fire Academy would be in one more thriller in its season finale. With the U.S. Soccer Development Academy's U-15/16 national championship at stake on Friday, the Fire and Cal Odyssey played to a 1-1 draw through regulation play at The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.

Then following 30 more minutes in two overtimes, the Fire once again rose to the occasion as they've done so many times during the final two months of the season. Chicago connected on all five of its penalty kicks while keeper Sam Euler came up with a big stop as it captured a 5-3 win in the shootout and a 2-1 victory in front of a large crowd that included Chicago Fire owner Andrew Hauptman.

As a result, the Fire (17-6-10) became the first Academy team from a Major League Soccer Club to capture the Development Academy championship. Cal Odyssey (20-8-5) fell in the U-15/16 championship match for the second straight year. A year ago, they lost in the finals to Michigan Derby County Wolves.

The Fire posted an impressive 10-1-5 mark since suffering their last regular season loss. That defeat came on Wednesday after they were already assured of playing in the finals. Victor Pineda started the penalty kicks in a good fashion with a liner past keeper Matt Dishno. Euler got a hand on as Antognoli but the ball dribbled into the net. After Henrik Egly connected to give the Fire a 2-1 lead, Euler was able to punch away an attempt from Jon-Paul Medina to give his team the advantage for good.

Luis Medina and Daniel Flores exchanged scores during the next round before Lalo Cuautle placed the Fire on the verge of the victory when he found the net. Villyan Bijev kept Cal Odyssey alive when he found the net to make it 4-3 but Drew Conner responded by wrapping things up with a score on his team's final try.

Both squads had chances in overtime as Manny Rios and Keaton Albert were stopped on attempts in the second OT before Euler tipped a liner and stopped a free kick from Flores. Cal Odyssey tied things during the 57th minute when Antognoli got free and connected from close range. Later in the second half, Luis Barajas bounced a shot off the crossbar.

Chicago moved in front in the 20th minute when Pineda sent a corner kick toward the opposite side of the net and Luis Medina lined a drive just inside the post. That came a short time after Barajas sent a liner that hit the post. Later in the opening half, Flores bounced an attempt off of the crossbar for Cal Odyssey.