Chicago Fire Player Development UpdateJuly 21, 2010 - Major League Soccer (MLS) Chicago Fire
The victory made the Chicago Fire the first MLS club to see one of its Academy teams win a national championship since the Development Academy's inception in 2007.
The U16 team made their way to the USSFDA National Finals in Carson, CA by finishing as USSFDA Central Conference and Frontier Division champions over the course of the side's 28-game regular season, finishing with a 12-5-9 (10-4-3 division) overall record and qualifying for the USSFDA National Playoffs in Greensboro, NC.
While in Greensboro, the Fire finished with a 2-0-1 record and made their way to the National Finals by virtue of a dramatic 2-1 come-from-behind victory in the final group game against FC Westchester (NY). U16 captain and midfielder Victor Pineda hit two goals in the last ten minutes of the match to send the Fire to Carson, CA.
The U16s actually made an easy go of it in Carson, qualifying for the USSFDA championship match by winning their first two matches 2-1 against the Chicago Sockers (July 10) and 2-0 over DC United on July 12. With their ticket to the title match already punched, the Fire U16s fell 2-0 to De Anza Force (CA) in the final group game on July 14.
In last Friday's national championship match, the Fire ran out to a 1-0 lead when Pineda's corner kick found a streaking Luis Medina who hit a screaming one-time volley past Odyssey keeper Matt Dishno in the 20th minute.
The "home" team responded through when Greg Antognoli slipped through the Fire backline and tucked a shot past goalkeeper Robert Euler in the 55th minute. The goal would send the match to extra time.
Both sides traded blows in the overtime periods, but neither could find the back of the net and penalties loomed to decide the winner.
The Fire shot first, sending Victor Pineda to the spot. Despite Dishno going to the correct side, Pineda's sniping shot to the right side netting put the Fire ahead 1-0. Cal goal scorer Antongnoli stepped up for the first Odyssey shot, and his effort to the right was initially blocked by Euler-but the powerful effort spun over the goal line to level the shootout tiebreaker.
Substitute Henrik Egly, brought on in the 108th minute with penalties in mind, made good on Head Coach Larry Sunderland's confidence, finishing to the right back post. Jon-Paul Medina then walked up for Odyssey, and it was here that Euler gave his team the advantage, diving to the left and palming away Medina's shot.
After both Luis Medina and Eduardo Cuautle for the Fire and Flores and Bijev for Odyssey traded goals, midfielder Andrew Connor stepped up and slotted the winning kick to the bottom left hand corner to give the Fire the 2010 USSF Development Academy National Championship.
The U16s returned to Chicago the next day and were greeted with by Fire first team players and staff ahead of that night's SuperLiga match against the New England Revolution.
The Chicago Fire have kept themselves mired in a tight battle for one of two Great Lakes Division playoff berths following a 3-0 win over the Indiana Invaders on July 13 and 2-0 win over the Cleveland Internationals July 19. Both matches were played at the Toyota Park Turf Field.
With one match remaining in the Premier Development League season, the side's two recent wins mean the Fire are still in with a shot of their 10th consecutive PDL playoff appearance, but will need to win their final game against PDL-Pro side Dayton Dutch Lions July 24 and have one of the division's leaders, Michigan Bucks or Forest City London drop points in their remaining two matches to move to the PDL postseason.
The Chicago Fire Super-20 team finished the 2010 regular season with a perfect 10-0-0 record, with a 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew Juniors on July 9 and a 3-0 win over Kings Soccer Academy (OH) July 11.
As a result of their perfect record, the Fire Super-20's have qualified for their fourth-straight USL Super-20 North American Finals. For the second consecutive year, the Fire will host the championship tournament at SportScore II Complex in Rockford, IL from July 29-August 1.
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