DALLAS, Texas – There was plenty on the line when US Soccer Development Academy foes FC Dallas and St. Louis Scott Gallagher met in their Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup U17 group finale on Wednesday afternoon. With only the group winner advancing to the quarterfinals, FCD needed just a draw to win the group while a win would send the St. Louis club into the top spot while sending the local side out of the tournament.
In a game played in extremely windy conditions - though thankfully coming from the south instead of the blustery north winds that plagued the tournament earlier in the week – FC Dallas came out the victors on a late goal from midfielder Ethan Sonis.
With the wind at their backs, FCD put an enormous amount of pressure on Scott Gallagher, but the visiting side held strong and the defense led by Tommy Lee, Salvatore Caruso and Tyler Muehling, kept Dallas off the board through the first half.
An attack led down the wings by Martin Salas and Antonio Aguilar looked to feed star forward Santiago Agudelo and it was the big Colombian-American forward who nearly put FCD in front in the 13th minute. Agudelo headed a corner from Aaron Meyer past goalkeeper Eddie Starr, but the referee determined the forward to have pushed a defender and disallowed the goal.
Now with the wind on their side and needing a goal to go through, Scott Gallagher pushed for the breakthrough and nearly found it through Connor Clasby. The best player for SLSG on the day, Clasby got behind the Dallas defense, but couldn’t slide the ball under FCD ‘keeper Estevan Vasquez early in the second half.
The game became quite chippy as the game went on and tempers ran high. Sonis was bloodied by a high boot from an SLSG midfielder while hard tackles from the Dallas defenders brought howls from the Gallager attackers. The match looked as if it was headed into a scoreless draw that would put Dallas through, but FCD made sure of things just before stoppage time. Sonis, the vocal leader of the team, received a ball 35 years from goal and seeing the goalkeeper out of position, let fly on a shot that floated over Starr and into the goal prompting wild celebrations.
With the win, Dallas moves on to the quarterfinals where they’ll take on FRAM Soccer Club from Southern California. For Sonis, a midfielder with just one goal in 18 USSDA matches for FCD this season, the strike is one he’ll no-doubt remember for quite some time.
“He’s like the coach that you need inside the field,” coach Josema Bazan said about Sonis. “He organizes the defensive part and knows how to move the ball. Maybe he’s not the player that’s going to put in the great ball, but he’s the guy that you need.”
Heading Into the Knockout Round
The group stage is over at Dallas Cup 34 and Thursday sees the start of the win-or-go-home knockout rounds. Some of the marquee matchups include RSL-AZ against IMG Academy and Houston Dynamo U18s up against Central California Blues in the U19 division. A cross-country battle in the U17 division sees Santa Clara Sporting take on Penn Fusion while Solar Chelsea take on CZ Elite in a can’t-miss U16 battle.