Academy Weekend Preview March 31-April 1

Academy Weekend Preview March 31-April 1
March 30, 2012
All by itself in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, a small cluster of Denver-area clubs represent the only USSF Development Academy presence for miles around.
So naturally, whenever two of the three teams play each other, it’s a pretty big deal, as is the case this weekend when Real Colorado and the Colorado Rush square off on Saturday.
Adding incentive to the games is the need for both teams – especially at the U18 level – to pick up points this weekend. But regardless of what’s at stake in the standings, it’s a game both teams want to win.
“Real has long since been a good derby for us and for our club at all levels,” Rush U18 head coach Erik Bushey told “We’re excited to play them, certainly to kick off our league campaign. It’s a chance with one game to get off on the right foot and we’re hopeful that we can do that. We certainly expect a very good match, full of spirit, and a lot to play for.”
Neither U18 team has enjoyed much success outside of the division to this point, and each needs results in the division to hope for a playoff spot down the line. Ruben Siguenza, a Rush newcomer who scored a hat trick two weeks ago, will look to carry the scoring load.
While Siguenza and Jonathan Barahona are two big pieces for the Rush, both are recent additions from El Salvador. A lot is certain to fall on the shoulders of the established players like Joe Morales and Akio Ohtake-Gordon to push Rush towards a win.
“There’s a lot of local stories and friendships, but at the same time rivalries that exist, so I hope that for those guys who have been a part of it for a long time that it’s a memorable experience.”
Central Conference
It’s a tricky divisional weekend for Indiana United Fire Academy, as they take to the road and face Michigan sides Crew Soccer Academy Wolves and Vardar SC.
“I’d imagine there’s not going to be much between the teams this weekend,” Indiana United’s U18 coach John Higgins told “It makes it a little bit more difficult going on the road, I don’t think there’s any easy games on the road.”
Spring break is going to make this particular trip a bit more difficult, as it leaves the Fire’s U18s without leading scorer Thomas Sanner. The Princeton-bound forward has eight goals in eight starts this year and does well leading the line and holding up the ball.
Sporting Kansas City U18s have enjoyed an unbeaten start to their division schedule through two games, and welcome Colorado Rapids to town this weekend for an all-MLS battle in the Frontier Division on Sunday. Eduardo Moreno has enjoyed a strong start for KC’s U18s with five goals in seven games, while the Rapids will be missing Dillon Serna who is with the U.S. U18 team this week.
West Conference
The Vancouver Whitecaps continue to enjoy life in the Development Academy, as both U18 and U16 teams boast strong division records so far – with marks of 5-1-2 and 6-1-1 in the Northwest Division respectively.
This weekend’s test is the arrival of Pateadores, and while not a division game, it’s an opportunity to boost the U16s wild card chances. As usual, Vancouver’s preparations for the weekend are primarily introspective.
“Our general focus will always be on our players and our squad,” Whitecaps U16 coach Craig Dalrymple told “We’ve looked at their results and see that they’ve had a strong second third to the season, they seem to have got some decent results of late, have played a few MLS squads and have come out on the positive side of the results.
“We know it’s going to be a good challenge, and that’s what we expect.  That’s what we hope in the Academy, we want every game to test us.”
It’s been a good year also for Chivas USA U18s, currently leading LA Galaxy in the standings SoCal Division. Not too far behind is Real Salt Lake-AZ U18s, who travel to play Chivas on Saturday. The stakes are a little different at the U16 age group, as Real Salt Lake is currently atop the division, and the Chivas side is aiming to gain ground. 
East Conference
Two local Mid-Atlantic rivals begin their division schedule as D.C. United host nearby Baltimore Bays on Saturday. 
“It’s a neighborhood match, I wouldn’t call it a derby, but it’s two pretty successful local successful clubs that always bring a competitive nature and a competitive fight,” D.C.’s U16 head coach Tom Torres told
With both teams likely to be saddled with absences related to spring break, injury and national team duty, it won’t dull the competitive edge, but rather require some of the more fringe players on both sides to step up. D.C. won’t be able to call on starters like Lars Eckenrode, Rafael Fagundo and Suliaman Dainkeh, who are among the absences.
Elsewhere, the New York Red Bulls U18s have a chance to build on its four-game winning streak, with matchups against Empire United SC and Seacoast United. New York’s U16s are on a similar run of late, winners of five straight heading into this weekend.
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