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U18 Development Academy Playoff Preview

Article Written by Will Parchman
Published: June 24, 2013

After a grueling eight-month regular season, 80 U18 academy teams have been whittled down to 32 for this week's Development Academy Playoffs in Frisco.

FC Dallas defended its home turf ably last year, winning its group in Frisco before moving on to Finals Week in Houston a month later to win the entire tournament for the first time. FCD is back, but so too are 31 other hopefuls looking to make a mark.

Here's a breakdown of each team in each of the eight U18 groups in action this week, including schedules for every group game (all times local).

Group 1
Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Vancouver, Canada)
PA Classics (Manheim, Pa.)
Houston Dynamo (Houston, Texas)
Chicago Fire (Bridgeview, Ill.)

Group Preview:

This is a solid group with goal scorers for days. The 'Caps (19-6-3), Canada's only entrant in the Playoffs this week, are probably the frontrunners to get out alive. Much of that has to do with Brody Huitema, who leads the entire U18 academy system with 26 goals in 22 games this season. The Duke commit is a handful, and he might be the best forward in the competition. Yassin Essa, a frightful forward player in his own right, bagged 18 goals to lead the 'Caps to an academy-high 87 goals.

The Dynamo and Fire, while slightly less top-heavy, should be right there. The Fire (14-7-6) finished fifth in their division to snap up a wildcard spot, while the Dynamo (15-5-7) finished third to qualify automatically. Both have goal scorers to burn.

Houston homegrown product Bryan Salazar led the team through the season with 12 goals in 21 appearances, and stalwart defender and West Virginia commit Alex Ochoa anchored the back line by starting all 27 games. He's arguably the most accomplished defender in this group. The Dynamo surrendered 34 goals in 27 games, the third-lowest total in the division.

The Fire boasts Jeffrey Farina, the top-ranked forward in the Midwest Region who recently committed to Notre Dame. Farina has 17 goals this season, 13 clear of anyone else on the team.

The presence of forward Joey Julius, an SIUE commit, makes PA Classics (14-4-7) one to watch, as Julius bagged 16 goals in his 25 starts. The real story though is the Classics' defense, which could be a trump card in a group with so much scoring prowess. They gave up a minuscule 15 goals in their 25 matches during the regular season, the best total in the entire academy.

Player to Watch: Brody Huitema, Forward, Vancouver Whitecaps: Huitema is a cinch to score at least once in this tournament. He possesses guile and a predatory instinct around the box. He makes the 'Caps instantly dangerous in these playoffs and will take his talents to Duke in the fall.

Schedule:

Monday, June 24
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Chicago Fire — 7 p.m. — Field 4
PA Classics vs. Houston Dynamo — 7 p.m. — Field 6

Tuesday, June 25
Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 7:15 p.m. — Field 4
Chicago Fire vs. PA Classics — 7:15 p.m. — Field 5

Thursday, June 27
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. PA Classics — 9 a.m. — Field 4
Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo — 9 a.m. — Field 6

Group 2
Players Development Academy (Somorset, N.J.)
Real So Cal (Woodland Hills, Calif.)
Seattle Sounders FC (Seattle, Wash.)
IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

Group Preview:

This is a wide open group that has a pronounced cleft through its midsection. The Sounders (16-6-6) and PDA (19-3-3) both qualified through automatic bids, while IMG Academy (13-7-5) and Real So Cal (17-7-4) needed wild cards and have more question marks. The Sounders finished a respectable second in their division behind Vancouver, while PDA was second in the Atlantic Division with 51 goals to just 17 against.

The Sounders have a solid base, especially if they can squeeze a good week out of Jordan Morris. Morris scored 25 times in the league this year, second only to Vancouver's Huitema. He averaged a goal per game, and service from solid midfielders like Wake Forest commit Duncan McCormick is a big reason why. North Carolina commit Jalen Markey, the top-ranked player in the Northwest Region in the 2013 class, has also provided a tremendous presence for the Seattle club.

PDA, which is sending an academy-high 18 players to the next level in the '13 class, got it done with a stout defense, which carried them through 25 games with a scant 17 goals against. During one stretch in March and April, PDA recorded seven straight shutouts, or 630 straight minutes of scoreless ball. Alec Neumann, the younger brother of Georgetown's talented Steve Neumann, is the team's top goal scorer.

IMG Academy and Real So Cal will be hunting for upsets. Stanford commit Mark Verso leads the charge for Real So Cal with 15 goals, while all eyes will be on IMG Academy's Raul Gonzalez, a Memphis commit with 13 goals this season.

Player to Watch: Jordan Morris, Forward, Seattle Sounders: Morris is a supremely talented player who's already caught Tab Ramos' eye for the U.S. U20 team. He's a fun player to watch and should make an immediate impact in Frisco. 

Schedule:

Monday, June 24
PDA vs. IMG Academy — 7 p.m. — Field 8
Real So Cal vs. Seattle Sounders — 7 p.m. — Field 9

Tuesday, June 25
Seattle Sounders vs. PDA — 7:15 p.m. — Field 6
IMG Academy vs. Real So Cal — 7:15 — Field 8

Thursday, June 27
PDA vs. Real So Cal — 9 a.m. — Field 8
IMG Academy vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 a.m. — Field

Group 3
Albertson SC (Great Neck, N.Y.)
FC Dallas (Frisco, Texas)
Crew Soccer Academy (Columbus, Ohio)
Concorde Fire (Atlanta, Ga.)

Group Preview:

This isn't the same FC Dallas team that won the U18 academy playoffs last year with a 3-2 victory over Vancouver in the final. That team produced more than 10 players headed to play Division I soccer. Still, FCD (17-5-5) has talent left over, as evidenced by its first-place finish in the Frontier Division.

Bobby Edet is headed to Furman and leads the team with 17 goals, while Kristoffer Reaves, who started 20 games in the regular season, is a top outside back prospect and is on his way to Wake Forest.

Albertson SC (16-1-8) had a respectable season and should give FC Dallas chase for the top spot. Albertson finished second in the Northeast Division and has lost just once all season, a 1-0 setback against NYRB's uber talented U18 team in October. Dylan Greenberg is one of the names to remember here. He's a quality defender headed to Connecticut in the fall of 2014.

Crew Soccer Academy (15-8-4) had an incredibly strong regular season finish. They haven't lost since 2012, and four players have scored in double digits. One of those, Noah Hutchins, is headed to Kentucky. Notable defender Alex Bumpus will join him there.

Concorde Fire (13-9-3) was the second-to-last team to qualify for the playoffs after taking the 12th wildcard spot, and it'll be an uphill battle for the Fire to sneak through the group stage. 

Player to Watch: Cameron Moseley, Forward, Concorde Fire: The Fire still has some kinks to work out, but Moseley makes this team worth watching. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound brickhouse Duke commit is a unique talent and has 16 goals in 23 appearances this season.

Schedule:

Monday, June 24
Albertson SC vs. Concorde Fire — 7 p.m. — Field 11
FC Dallas vs. Crew Soccer Academy — 7 p.m. — Field 13

Tuesday, June 25
Crew Soccer Academy vs. Albertson SC — 9:30 p.m. — Field 4
Concorde Fire vs. FC Dallas — 9:30 a.m. — Field 5

Thursday, June 27
Albertson SC vs. FC Dallas — 9 a.m. — Field 11
Concorde Fire vs. Crew Soccer Academy — 9 a.m. — Field 13

Group 4
New York Red Bulls (Harrison, N.J.)
Weston FC (Weston, Fla.)
Chicago Magic (Frankfort, Ill.)
Strikers FC (Irvine, Calif.)

Group Preview:

The Red Bulls are loaded, and it's not a stretch to call them the prohibitive favorites in this tournament. They finished the regular season with an academy-best 19-1-5 mark and tied Baltimore Bays Chelsea with an academy-best 2.48 points per game. It'll take some doing to knock the Red Bulls off their perch.

Alex MuylAlex Muyl

Defender Matthews Miazga made waves when he signed a homegrown contract with the senior team in May, joining Santiago Castano and Amando Moreno after they signed in December. But there's plenty left in the cupboard. Staunch midfielder Arun Basuljevic is headed to Georgetown, while Ethan Decker, a talented attacking wide player with a bright future, is headed to Connecticut. Forward Alex Muyl, one of the top young attacking threats in the country, leads the team with 15 goals and is also off to Georgetown. Talent here runs deep.

The other three teams will have an uphill battle to snatch the qualifying spot for Finals Week. Weston FC, which is sending an incredible 16 players to college soccer next year, might have the best shot after winning the Southeast Division with a 15-6-4 record. They scored 69 goals, and Columbia commit Nicholas Pappacena led the way with 24 tallies in 23 games. If Weston FC can hold out at the back, they can be a threat.

Chicago Magic (15-8-4), which sports a partnership with heavy spenders Paris Saint Germain, was very good defensively. Led by keeper Andrew Putna, who showed capable organizational abilities, the Magic surrendered just 24 goals, good for seventh in the entire academy.

Strikers FC (14-9-5) was the last of 13 wildcard teams to qualify, and they were outscored 60-59 in the regular season.

Player to Watch: Adam Najem, Midfielder, New York Red Bulls: Najem is a crafty midfielder with ball skills, which explains his commitment to Akron. Take your pick with NYRB academy players, but Najem helps this U18 team go.

Schedule:

Monday, June 24
New York Red Bulls vs. Strikers FC — 7 p.m. — Field 15
Weston FC vs. Chicago Magic — 7 p.m. — Field 17

Tuesday, June 25
Chicago Magic vs. New York Red Bulls — 9:30 p.m. — Field 6
Strikers FC vs. Weston FC — 9:30 p.m. — Field 7

Thursday, June 27
New York Red Bulls vs. Weston FC — 11 a.m. — Field 8
Strikers FC vs. Chicago Magic — 11 a.m. — Field 9

Group 5
Shattuck St. Mary's (Faribault, Minn.)
Solar Chelsea SC (Dallas, Texas)
Kendall SC (Miami, Fla.)
Pateadores (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)

Group Preview:

Minneapolis boarding school Shattuck St. Mary's (19-6-2) is the only regular season group winner in Group 5, and their 59 points during the regular season was just off the academy-leading pace NYRB set with 62. They don't have many flashy scorers, but with eight college-bound players, they're bound to give a good account this week.

Solar Chelsea SC (16-6-5) is a Dallas-area juggernaut, and their defense is among the most feared in the academy. Much of that has to do with Trevor Haberkorn, a Furman-committed defender with U.S. U18 experience. Old Dominion pledge Jose Miralrio-Toledo's return of 10 goals in 21 starts is one of the team's best tallies.

Pateadores (15-10-3) snuck in via a wild card spot, and UCLA commit Kevin De La Torre is one to watch. He's scored 10 goals this year and is TDS' top-ranked Southern California recruit in the 2013 class not in either the Chivas USA or LA Galaxy systems.

Kendall SC (12-4-9) had the fewest points (49) of any non-wildcard qualifier despite losing just four times. Young striker Gabriel Osorio, who won't graduate high school until 2015, has already poured in a team-high 11 goals with the U18 team. Kendall FC might be outsiders in this group, but Osorio's soaring progress will be interesting to chart.

Player to Watch: Trevor Haberkorn, Defender, Solar Chelsea SC: Watching Haberkorn's progress will be interesting in itself, but doubly so because he has loftier aspirations than Furman. And rightfully so.

Schedule:

Monday, June 24
Shattuck St. Mary's vs. Pateadores — 9:15 p.m. — Field 4
Solar Chelsea SC vs. Kendall SC — 9:15 p.m. — Field 6

Tuesday, June 25
Kendall SC vs. Shattuck St. Mary's — 9:30 p.m. — Field 8
Pateadores vs. Solar Chelsea SC — 9:30 p.m. — Field 9

Thursday, June 27
Shattuck St. Mary's vs. Solar Chelsea SC — 11 a.m. — Field 4
Pateadores vs. Kendall SC — 11 a.m. — Field 6

Group 6
LA Galaxy (Carson, Calif.)
NE Revolution (Foxborough, Mass.)
Dallas Texans (Plano, Texas)
SJ Earthquakes (San Jose, Calif.)

Group Preview:

At first blush, this seems to be the Group of Death. Only one other group has three MLS academies, and the Texans are perennially one of the top elite academies in the country. Closer inspection reveals an existing if moderate gap between the Galaxy and everyone else.

The Galaxy (19-5-4) emerged from a group with RSL's academy as the group winners, which isn't a surprise considering the constant stream of talent that flows through the Galaxy's system. A few names to consider are Cal Poly commit Justin Dhillon (17 goals) and Raul Mendiola, who is rumored to be close to signing a homegrown contract with the Galaxy's senior team.

The Revs (15-5-5) have produced top young players like Diego Fagundez in the past, and the academy snapped up an automatic qualifier this year with strong forward play. Providence pledge Dominik Machado, who has six goals, has a lot of promise.

Dominik MachadoDominik Machado

The Texans (15-6-6), probably most famous for ushering Clint Dempsey through its ranks, got in as a wildcard without a destructive goal scorer. They scored just 42 goals in the regular season, second lowest in the academy, and they typically rely on a direct style of play. Speedy forward Christian Soldat is commonly asked to latch onto long balls and do the rest. He had seven goals in the regular season.

The 'Quakes (16-11-1) struggled through the season, losing 11 of their 28 games and clearing the cutoff for the playoffs by a mere two points. Still, there is talent here, and perhaps nobody is more highly regarded than Eli Padilla. He's been banging in goals for the 'Quakes' youth teams the past three seasons and leads the team again this year with 15 goals in 17 starts.

Player to Watch: Justin Dhillon, Forward, LA Galaxy: Dhillon is one of the most intriguing talents in the tournament. He could have a huge impact on a group the Galaxy will be expected to win.

Schedule:

Monday, June 24
LA Galaxy vs. SJ Earthquakes — 9:15 p.m. — Field 8
NE Revolution vs. Dallas Texans — 9:15 p.m. — Field 9

Tuesday, June 25
Dallas Texans vs. LA Galaxy — 9:30 p.m. — Field 11
SJ Earthquakes vs. NE Revolution — 9:30 p.m. — Field 12

Thursday, June 27
LA Galaxy vs. NE Revolution — 9 a.m. — Field 15
SJ Earthquakes vs. Dallas Texans — 9 a.m. — Field 17

Group 7
Baltimore Bays Chelsea (Forest Hill, Md.)
Indiana Fire (Carmel, Ind.)
Chivas USA (Carson, Calif.)
De Anza Force (Saratoga, Calif.)

Group Preview:

Baltimore Bays Chelsea (20-3-2) is the giant of this group. Ranked No. 2 on the TopDrawerSoccer.com U18 TeamRank, Baltimore tied NYRB for the most points in the academy during the regular season. It'll be a surprise if Baltimore doesn't make it out of a tricky group as the rep at Finals Week.

Baltimore is brimming with talent. Midfielder Jacori Hayes is stout in the middle, and the club with a Chelsea affiliation has goal scoring prowess for days. With Baltimore Bays Chelsea, it's more about avoiding a letdown than it is winning games. Those should come.

Indiana Fire (17-5-5) is the other automatic qualifier. The Fire are led by Joey Bastian who has a team-high eight goals and has DA experience after scoring in this competition last year. Midfielder Cameron Lindley, who spent time at Bradenton in 2012 with the U17 MNT, is a promising talent who will look to drive his team from the central midfield.

Chivas USA (15-8-5) and De Anza Force (15-8-5) were nearly identical in the regular season, with matching records and similar goal differentials. They'll meet on the final day of group play on Thursday morning.

Chivas USA sports one of the country's best in Caleb Calvert, who might be the best academy player in the entire country. He scored 22 of Chivas USA's 67 goals this season and will turn as many heads in Frisco as anybody. The question mark is who buttresses his play to take some of the pressure off. Still, Calvert is 6-2. It's hard to miss him.

As for the Force, it'll be equally hard to overlook forward Jason Romero. Unstoppable on his day, Romero has 22 goals this season.

Player to Watch: Yaw Amankwa, Forward, Baltimore Bays Chelsea: Amankwa is a prodigious talent. He scored twice in three minutes in late May in a 3-2 win over McLean, and he enters the postseason with 19 goals on his ledger.

Schedule:

Monday, June 24
Baltimore Bays Chelsea vs. De Anza Force — 9:15 p.m. — Field 11
Indiana Fire vs. Chivas USA — 9:15 p.m. — Field 13

Tuesday, June 25
Chivas USA vs. Baltimore Bays Chelsea — 9:30 p.m. — Field 13
De Anza Force vs. Indiana Fire — 9:30 p.m. — Field 14

Thursday, June 27
Baltimore Bays Chelsea vs. Indiana Fire — 11 a.m. — Field 11
De Anza Force vs. Chivas USA — 11 a.m. — Field 13

Group 8
Real Salt Lake (Casa Grande, Ariz.)
D.C. United (Washington, D.C.)
CASL Chelsea (Raleigh, N.C.)
St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri (Fenton, Mo.)

Group Preview:

This group should be deceptively tough, as three teams (RSL, DC United and CASL Chelsea) snapped up automatic bids to the tournament.

RSL's academy (19-5-4) is continually one to watch, and they finished the regular season with a resounding 8-2 win over Arsenal FC to streak into the postseason. It's unclear exactly how many academy regulars from Arizona will join the team on its trip to Frisco, but Jose Navarro has been one to watch. He's bagged a team-high 20 goals in 24 games this season. Defender Trevor Hyman, a Stanford commit, is stout helped limit opposition to just 35 goals.

D.C. United (17-6-2) also had a strong defense. They gave up just 29 goals in the regular season and feature a couple notable names. Ian Harkes, son of former USMNT star John Harkes, has featured in 15 games and has nine goals. Suliaman Dainkeh, a U18 MNT defender bound for Maryland, won't be available because he'll be taking classes in College Park.

CASL Chelsea (14-7-4) has a small side and lacks a big-time star power, but they've ground out results all year despite scoring just 37 goals to 28 against. The attack is led by Evan De Ycaza and Yanni Hachem.

St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri (14-9-4) went unbeaten in its last five regular season games to assure its wild card spot. Much like CASL Chelsea, St. Louis is as much about its hardened team ethic as anything.

Player to Watch: Scott Leeker, Goalkeeper, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri: Leeker is a Memphis pledge, and he's as adept a keeper as there is in these playoffs. The 6-4 netminder participated in Finals Week last year and knows the rigors of the tournament.

Schedule:

Monday, June 24
Real Salt Lake vs. St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri — 9:15 p.m. — Field 15
D.C. United vs. CASL Chelsea — 9:15 p.m. — Field 17

Tuesday, June 25
CASL Chelsea vs. Real Salt Lake — 9:30 p.m. — Field 15
St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri vs. D.C. United — 9:30 p.m. — Field 16

Thursday, June 27
Real Salt Lake vs. D.C. United — 11 a.m. — Field 15
St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri vs. CASL Chelsea — 11 a.m. — Field 17

 
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