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Chicago Fire sweeps preseason tournament

Published: February 29, 2012
 
The Development Academy Carolina Challenge Cup is quickly becoming a favorite for several east coast professional academies in late February.

Held in conjunction with the pro tournament of the same name, six Development Academy teams descended on Charleston, South Carolina over the weekend with an eye on the resumption of the USSF DA slate in March.

D.C. United, Chicago Fire, Indiana United Fire, South Carolina United Battery, Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls sent their respective U16 and U18 sides to contest the tournament that wrapped up on Monday night.

boys club soccer player kyle del santoKyle Dal Santo
After three group games, the Chicago Fire emerged victorious at both age levels, going 5-0-1 in six games, outscoring their opponents 11-1 in the process. More importantly for the Fire was getting back into action after a lengthy break.

“It was a long winter for us, long grind,” head coach Larry Sunderland told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “To get some games that meant something was good. We haven’t played a game that has meant something since December.”

Despite last playing competitively at the Winter Showcase, both Chicago’s U16 and U18 teams excelled down in Charleston. Behind the play of goalkeeper Kyle Dal Santo, Louis Bennett and Marcus Epps, Chicago defeated New York, D.C. United and South Carolina Battery to claim the U16 crown.

With the variety of different teams on display, Sunderland was particularly happy for his younger charges. 

“The nice thing about the tournament is that we played teams and every team played a different style, which was really good for us to see,” he said.
 
“It’s one thing when we talk about the 18s, but it was really good for the 16s to see, maybe mature them a little bit, to get them to understand how they have to adapt sometimes to the course of the game and the way the opponent is playing.”

Meanwhile, the Fire’s U18 group clinched the title thanks to a 2-0 win on Monday over South Carolina, with Joseph Calistri’s long distance goal putting the game away. Drew Conner and homegrown professional signing Kellen Gulley put in solid shifts for the victorious U18 side.

Making the achievement even more significant was the firepower at that level, including New York, Columbus and D.C. United, with the latter featuring Patrick Foss and Jalen Robinson – although stalwart Collin Martin was absent because of U.S. U20 obligations.

“Overall I think we were really pleased,” D.C. U18 coach Nolan Sheldon told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “We definitely got a lot out of the three matches that each team was able to play. I would say that there were some moments throughout each of the three games where things were really, really good, maybe the best they’ve been all year in terms of the level of play.”

The Crew used the event as a chance to bring down not just their two Development Academy sides to compete in the Challenge Cup, but to also take three of their pre-Academy teams on the road to play in friendlies against CASL Chelsea and South Carolina United.

“It was pretty special,” Crew Soccer Academy Director Andrew Arthurs told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “We have a lot of interaction with our first team players and coaches here in Columbus, but that was the first time we’d been on the road with the first team. To have all of those levels in one hotel and connecting over the course of four or five days was a great experience.”

According to Arthurs, Akron-bound center back Andrew Souders was one of the standouts for the U18s, as well as defender Alex Ranalli, forward Brett Elder, and midfielder Zach Mason as the Crew finished fourth place at that age level, and fifth at the U16.

One of the unique features of the tournament was the chance to pit MLS Academy sides against each other, as D.C. squared off against the Fire and Crew. It’s a unique element to the Development Academy that adds a bit more motivation to those sorts of games.

“We get up for them – we’re definitely excited,” Sheldon said. “If you’re going to look at the schedule and you’re going to get New York Red Bull, Fire or Crew, they definitely jump off the page a little bit more than some other teams may.”

And while the Fire emerged from this particular competition on top, it’s clear that every team involved in South Carolina has a lot of potential as the Development Academy season continues in full force this spring.

Final Standings


U16
W
L
T
GF
GA
PTS
Chicago Fire
3
0
0
6
1
9
D.C. United
1
1
1
4
3
4
Indiana Fire
1
1
1
5
5
4
SCU Battery            
1
1
1
2
3
4
Columbus Crew
0
1
2
0
2
2
New York Red Bulls
0
2
1
2
5
1
             
U18
W
L
T
GF
GA
PTS
Chicgo Fire
2
0
1
5
0
7
New York Red Bulls
2
1
0
5
3
6
D.C. United
1
0
2
5
4
5
Columbus Crew
1
2
0
5
7
3
SCU Battery
1
2
0
4
3
3
Indiana Fire
0
2
1
3
7
1
 
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