COSTA MESA, Calif. – Chivas USA Academy left Orange County with four points from two Development Academy games against Strikers FC on Saturday, but it sure felt like six points after the Chivas USA U16 squad scored twice in the final ten minutes to salvage a point in an exhilarating 3-3 draw in the later game.
In the morning fixture, Chivas USA U18 looked uninterested but still managed to pull out a 2-0 victory over Strikers FC thanks to goals from Brendan Hines-Ike and Rene Santos. U.S. U18 midfielder Marco Delgado provided both assists in an otherwise unremarkable game.
Hines-Ike’s goal, which was his first of the season, came in the 32nd minute off a corner kick by Delgado. The midfielder delivered a flawless service to the center of the box and Hines-Ike rose above a sea of red jerseys to nod the ball into the net for the opening goal.
In the second half, the overall quality of the contest remained the same, but Chivas USA did produce a touch of class with its second goal. Delgado stole the ball from a Strikers defender and raced toward the net, but slowed down when he realized the center back had cut off his angle on goal.
Delgado then pulled off a slick inside-out move, which left his mark wobbling like an empty water bottle caught in the wind.
Granted time and space, the midfielder easily picked out Rene Santos at the top of the box, who put just enough on his shot to squeeze it inside the far post to double the Chivas USA lead.
The possession evened after the second goal, but Strikers were unable to generate quality chances in the final third. The 2-0 win looked nice for the road team, but it was far from a pleasing performance for those involved.
“We work so hard during the week to make the game on the weekend the showcase for us, and we certainly did not do that today,” Chivas USA U18 head coach Dan Calichman told TopDrawerSoccer.com after the game. “That being said, I am thrilled we picked up three points and the shutout, but very, very sloppy for us, so as the coach I am not happy with our performance.”
Chivas USA U18 has now won eight games in a row and sits atop the SoCal Division in the Development Academy, but that is purely academic to the coach at this point.
“I don’t think it means that much,” said Calichman when asked about the significance of being in the top spot at this point. “We are worried about where we are at the end of the season.”
Both clubs appeared to save most of the fireworks for the second game though, as the two teams combined for six goals in the contest.
Strikers took an early lead when Christian Thierjung slipped a ball into the box for Paul Salcedo Borrego. The forward made no mistake about his finish and buried the ball into the back of the net to excite the home crowd.
Chivas USA nearly had an answer in the 31st minute when Edzon Cuevas slalomed through three defenders before hitting a rocket off his right boot from 20 yards out, but the shot only chipped the paint off the crossbar.
The MLS Academy did find the equalizer though, and it came only seconds before the half time whistle. Ever Delatorre raced to the end line and delivered a pinpoint perfect cross to Jorge Ruiz’s head for the tying goal.
Strikers returned to the field in the second half looking to regain the lead, and made efficient use of their chances thanks to the play of Borrego.
Borrego’s second goal was a mirror image of the first with Thierjung once again slotting the ball to him for an easy finish against a keeper rushing off his line.
Thierjung’s afternoon was not over quite yet. The elusive winger added a goal to his two assists in the 55th minute when he beat his defender and ripped a shot past the keeper to give the home team a 3-1 advantage.
With only 25 minutes remaining, and little to show offensively in the second half, it looked like Chivas USA was doomed to defeat. But the Strikers and their fans learned one important lesson on Saturday: never count out Jorge Ruiz.
In the 70th minute, the 14-year-old forward buried a free kick from 25 yards out in to the upper corner of the net to bring Chivas USA within one goal.
With only moments remaining in the second minute of stoppage time, it was Ruiz again providing the magic. He beat two defenders down the sideline, then passed it off to Ryo Fujii, who floated the shot over the Strikers goalie for the tying goal.
“Jorgie has been great,” Chivas USA head coach Mike Munoz said about the star of the game. “He just got called into the U15 national team, so he is very excited. And it shows that it doesn’t matter how old he is, he deserves to be playing at this level.”
Munoz added that right back Malcolm Jones was also called into the U15 national camp, which will be held in March.
Chivas USA Academy has next weekend off before it returns to the field on February 18 for the mini-SuperClasico against LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.