Youth Soccer News: Sixteen Team Reach Development Academy Playoff Finals Week
The 2011-2012 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season has reached finals week, with eight teams ready to compete for the championship at each level (U-15/16 and U-17/18). The race to the wire will include two U-15/16 teams making their first ever appearance in the Development Academy Finals, Charlotte Soccer Academy and St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri. At the U-17/18 level Vancouver Whitecaps FC reached the final in their first year in the Development Academy.
One of the hottest teams in the playoffs has to be New York Red Bulls U-15/16. The team is unbeaten in their last eight games, including three straight wins in the Academy Playoffs. This year marks their return to the postseason after a three-year drought, last appearing during the 2008-2009 season when they finished in seventh place.
It was not an easy run for the Red Bulls, who finished second in the Atlantic Division and barely edged out Albertson SC on goal differential for the automatic berth. Once in, however, they wasted no time making their run to the top of Group 1, scoring seven goals and giving up only one. The team was led on the pitch by Alex Muyl (13 regular season goals), Amando Moreno and Ismar Tandir with two goals each in the playoffs.
The Red Bulls first opponent during Finals Week will be Pateadores SC U-15/16, who overcame long odds to avoid elimination and earn the right to advance. Down by two goals in their final match against Albertson SC, Pateadores got three second-half goals, two by Brian Pacheco and one an own-goal, to get the win that moved them into the final round. For Pateadores, three was the lucky number as they also drew the Dallas Texans 3-3 and defeated New England Revolution 3-0.
This marks the second straight year Pateadores have reached the postseason at the U-15/16 level, although their return was not an easy one. While their SoCal Division record (5-5-6) was not stellar, with a sixth-place finish, their overall record (14-5-11) and goal differential (+15) helped them earn a wild card berth – which they took full advantage of. The U-15/16 squad hopes to mirror the success of the U-17/18 squad in 2010-2011 when they took the Academy championship at their level.
Another wild card team making the most of their opportunity was North Carolina Fusion U-17/18. This was the third year the team has reached the postseason, but the first time they have advanced beyond the group stage – and it took every ounce of determination they could muster to do it. Although they managed 36 goals during Atlantic Division play, their 9-4-1 record was only good enough for fourth place. However, their points-per-game and 16-7-5 overall record gave them one of the top wild card slots.
In the group competition, Fusion needed clutch goals in each match to finally advance to Final Week. Against FC DELCO they needed to come from behind for a draw, then scored the winning goal against Shattuck-Saint Mary’s in the 85th minute. In their final group match they managed a 1-0 win against Crossfire Premier, who only needed a draw to win Group 1. They will open Finals Week competition against the Whitecaps.
For Vancouver’s U-17/18 team, it has been a magical season. Playing in their first Development Academy season, the Whitecaps used a 10-2-2 (20-6-3 overall) record to edge out De Anza Force in the Northwest Division. The team was led by Caleb Clarke who netted 24 goals over a regular season in which the offense scored 16 more goals than the next best squad, De Anza Force. They also gave up the third fewest goals in the division.
In the playoffs, however, the magic appeared to disappear as the Whitecaps lost their opening match to the wild card Pateadores. The team rebounded and went on to defeat Weston FC 4-0 and Texans SC Houston 2-0 to finish in a three-way tie for top spot with six points. Vancouver received the pass to Finals Week based on goal differential.
Development Academy Finals Week begins on Monday, July 16, for U-17/18 and Tuesday, July 17, for U-15/16. Following group play, the U-17/18 finals will take place on Sunday, July 22, with the U-15/16 matches on Monday, July 23. Group and semi-final games will be played at Houston Amateur Sports Park with championship matches at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Related Articles: U.S. Development Academy on SoccerNation