LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. — The fourth day at the Development Academy Showcase featured just the U18s, as the U16s took a break until finishing up play on Sunday. That allowed the U18s to polish up their week in Florida with games on Saturday, putting a bow on a rapid-fire week of soccer.
Here’s a glimpse at a couple top games from a mild, breezy Saturday morning chock full of U18 action.
Chicago Magic PSG 2-0 Solar Chelsea
The Magic had an incredibly difficult road to travel in Florida this week. They opened with a 3-1 loss to a loaded Bethesda-Olney side, then drew 0-0 with Capital Area Railhawks, and they finished up Saturday with a Solar Chelsea team that bumped off a selection of U17 MNT players 3-2 on Wednesday. No easy task.
But the Magic saved their best soccer for last, as they locked down Solar Chelsea’s indefatigable left midfielder Alan Winn and earned a deserved shutout. That capped Chicago’s week at 1-1-1, with a gradually ascending ladder of positive results in the bag. And it happened without star striker and Marquette commit Andrija Novakovich, who’s missed eight games with injury.
“We knew today we had to be patient to create the opportunities, find the opportunities and then put them away,” Magic technical director Louis Mateus said. “I was concerned that we were creating opportunities and not putting them away. Overall it shows me that we have a deep team. We have enough numbers in the team that I think we’ll be able to be competitive towards the end of the season.”
The Magic hadn’t trained outdoors in more than a month, and their last game together was in early November. The general lack of fitness showed in the earlier matches, but the team came together late in the week. On Saturday, they got a huge game from Wisconsin commit Michael Catalano, a linebacker of a midfielder with foot skills and speed to burn. He got the scoring started in a deft turn-and-strike from 15 yards just minutes before intermission and had the versatility to fall back when the Magic needed more strength at the back.
“He’s a very good player,” Mateus said. “He’s one of the top players in the country.”
Finally, the Magic put the capper on its time in Florida when Christian Henock cleaned up a rebound and sliced it to the far corner to double the lead with about 10 minutes to go to ice the game.
U.S. U17 MNT Showcase Team 3-0 New England Revolution
While the de facto U17 A-Team was busy playing (and winning) in the Nike Friendlies this week, a selection of their teammates in residency formed another team to play in the showcase this week. Their week got off to a rocky start with a loss to Solar Chelsea, and for a time it looked like they might bookend their stay at the showcase this week with losses.
But despite the Revs’ potent attack, the U17s managed to dodge a number of scares and scored all three goals in the final five minutes to put the game away. The tallies came from Sean Teixeira (New York Red Bulls), Weston McKennie (FC Dallas) and Devin Vega (San Antonio Scorpions).
The game was slow to take off, as both teams grappled for possession and failed to generate much in the way of substantive scoring chances. While the U17s largely relied on Chicago Magic forward Elijah Rice to generate traction on the left, the Revolution had a three-headed spear going forward that troubled the U17 back line. Eddie Venta-Yepes crashed in from the right, Daniel Apajee came in from the left and striker Amadu Kunateh completed the trident by proving himself to be a force in the middle.
With those three interchanging seamlessly, the Revs still failed to find the breakthrough they might’ve thought they deserved. That kept the door open for the U17s, which got a few grand finishes from some deft second-half subs. Teixeira scored first, banging his effort off the far post to give the U17s the lead with just less than five minutes to play.
Vega had a hand in each of the final two goals from his post on the right wing after being subbed on at half. He fed in the assist on McKennie’s goal to make it 2-0, and he scored one of his own with just seconds left to create the final scoreline, which perhaps wasn’t totally indicative of how close the Revs were to cracking it open.
Other notable U18 results:
Chivas USA 5-3 Colorado Rapids
Minnesota Thunder 4-4 Santa Cruz Breakers
Bethesda-Olney 0-3 FC Dallas
Sockers FC 2-3 Carolina Rapids
Seattle Sounders 2-4 New York Red Bulls