Dev. Academy Playoffs: U18 Preview

Dev. Academy Playoffs: U18 Preview
by Will Parchman
June 20, 2014


The Development Academy playoffs arrives on June 23 and runs through June 27 in Westfield, Ind just north of Indianapolis. Here’s a glimpse at all eight U18 groups and a look at who might make it through to the knockout stages.

Group A
Capital Area RailHawks
New England Revolution
Houston Dynamo
Chivas USA

Group Preview

As far as groups go, the generally held notion is that the more MLS academies crammed into the mix, the harder the group. There’s some truth to that, which means this group has firepower. It’s the only group in the playoffs with three MLS academies, and all three have some steel. This may not be the toughest group in Indianapolis, but it may be the deepest. 

MORE: U14 Showcase Best XI | ECNL postseason provides platform for top teams

In all, this should be a competitive group. Chivas USA, the Revolution and the Dynamo all finished within two points of one another in three different divisions, while the RailHawks might sneakily be tipped to win this group. They had a group-best 81 points in the regular season, and their 24-3-9 mark was one of the best in the entire academy.

That makes handicapping the winner in this group abnormally difficult. The MLS contingent will have to stop the RailHawks’ impressive attack, which generated 73 goals behind the leadership of No. 9 William Ramirez. There are six other players with at least four goals this season, so the RailHawks know how to spread around the attack. 

The saltiest defense in this group belongs to the Dynamo, who gave up just 30 goals in 27 games. The partnership up top of Elochukwu Ozumba and Christian Lucatero is dangerous, but the Dynamo lean heavily on defenders like the New Mexico-bound duo of Matthew Dorsey and Gabriel Camera to shut down attacks. That should serve them well in a group that contains attacking prowess like Chivas USA’s Paul Salcedo and New England’s Declan McCabe.

Player to Watch: Christian Lucatero, M, Houston Dynamo: Lucatero is one of the silkiest creative midfielders in the academy, and he’s played up for the Dynamo U18s to heavy effect this spring. Ozumba is one of the best finishers around, but he feeds off service from Lucatero, who can open up defenses like a can opener with his vision. Teams will try to phase him out by being physical, but there’s little question that if given the space to roam, Lucatero will cut this group to ribbons. 


Monday, June 23
CA RailHawks vs. Chivas USA — 10 a.m. — Field 11
New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo — 10 a.m. — Field 12

Tuesday, June 24
Houston Dynamo vs. CA RailHawks — 12:15 p.m. — Field 27
Chivas USA vs. New England Revolution — 12:15 p.m. — Field 28

Thursday, June 26
CA RailHawks vs. New England Revolution — 10 a.m. — Field 2
Chivas USA vs. Houston Dynamo — 10 a.m. — Field 3 

Group B
LA Galaxy
Montreal Impact
Chicago Magic
Real Colorado

Group Preview 

Any group that features the LA Galaxy’s vaunted U18 side ends up with a large portion of the spotlight. Even after Bradford Jamieson signed a Homegrown contract in the winter, this Galaxy side is particularly strong, as evidenced by their first-place finish in a division that includes Real Salt Lake AZ. The story of Group B will be catching up to the Galaxy. Can anyone do it?

One of the main reasons the Galaxy were so successful this season was the attacking partnership of Adonis Amaya and Christian Chavez. With the addition of creator Ryo Fujii and playmaker Axel Mendez, there aren’t many front lines in Indianapolis more talented than this one. If the back line can stay sturdy behind the leadership of captain Jeffrey Quezada and prized fullback Malcolm Jones, the Galaxy should ride their talent to a spot in the knockout rounds.

But this group is hardly bereft of talent elsewhere. The Chicago Magic are still dealing with the loss of forward Andrija Novakovich, who signed a professional contract for England’s Reading in April. The positive is that Novakovich had spent some time injured, which allowed the Magic to learn how to play without him. That allowed Dzenan Nezirevic to step up and score a team-best eight goals in the regular season. Midfielder Michael Catalano, who’s committed to Wisconsin, is another game-changer.

The Impact were very good in the regular season primarily due to the exploits of attacking players Fabio Morelli (12 goals) and Heikel Jarras (11 goals). The Impact’s 77 regular season goals was the best in a Northeast Division that includes the New York Red Bulls, so this attack is something to be feared. If the defense can hold up, the Impact look like the most likely challengers to the Galaxy’s throne. Real Colorado got into the playoffs as the ninth of 13 wild card teams and are led by Jesus Perez’s 16 goals.

Player to Watch: Adonis Amaya, F, LA Galaxy: The Galaxy are loaded with talent at every position, but there may not be a better pro prospect of the bunch than Amaya. The spindly forward tends to find space regardless of circumstance, and his 24 goals in 24 games makes him a sure bet to score at least twice in Indianapolis. Shutting down the UC Santa Barbara commit will be the chief concern of these three taxed back lines. 


Monday, June 23
LA Galaxy vs. Real Colorado — 12:15 p.m. — Field 11
Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Magic — 12:15 p.m. — Field 12

Tuesday, June 24
Chicago Magic vs. LA Galaxy — 10 a.m. — Field 2
Real Colorado vs. Montreal Impact — 10 a.m. — Field 3

Thursday, June 26
LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact — 10 a.m. — Field 11
Chicago Magic vs. Real Colorado — 10 a.m. — Field 12

Group C
Real So Cal
De Anza Force
Crew Soccer Academy

Group Preview

It’s an interesting twist that there are no MLS academies in this group. There are also three wild card entrants, making this one of the most top-heavy groups with PDA looking to take all nine points from three games. Still, there’s quality here, so Group C won’t exactly be a walkover either.

For PDA, it all starts with striker Brian White, who ripped up a tough division with 20 goals in 22 games this season. With solid creative support behind him, teams will struggle to keep up with his ability to find open spaces and score goals. But the real backbone of this team is its defense, which was the second-best in the entire academy with just 18 goals against during the regular season. PDA’s 62 goals proved it can score, but the real challenge for opposition will be finding a way to do the same.

Each of Real So Cal, De Anza Force and Crew SA qualified through the wild card system, but that might be a tad misleading. Real So Cal was the top-rated wild card team in the academy, and De Anza made the playoffs as the No. 3. Real So Cal leans on the prowess of Carlos Gonzalez (14 goals) up top, while midfielder Colin Hyatt, who scored 11 in 25 games, provides the injection from midfield.

The Force scored plenty of goals in the regular season, but their defense was porous at times, and they’ll have to cope with a solid attacking group to get out alive. In a wide open grouping like this, though, that’s certainly possible. With Carlos Delgadillo and Aravind Sivukumar playing off one another, this should be a fun team to watch. The Crew have talent and should be able to hold their own, with players like Silankonet Bayo and Andrew McKelvey leading the way.

Player to Watch: Carlos Delgadillo, F, De Anza Force: Delgadillo’s been a known quantity in the academy for a while after coming up with the Force youth teams in earlier showcases and playoffs. That’s only increased the profile of one of the best attacking players in the academy. Delgadillo is slippery up top, and his 17 goals this season speak to his ability to find and exploit creases in opposing defenses. If he can get consistent service and the defense puts together a good week, the Force might win this group. 


Monday, June 23
PDA vs. Crew SA — 12:15 p.m. — Field 27
Real So Cal vs. De Anza Force — 12:15 p.m. — Field 28

Tuesday, June 24
De Anza Force vs. PDA — 10 p.m. — Field 6
Crew SA vs. Real So Cal — 12:15 p.m. — Field 7

Thursday, June 26
PDA vs. Real So Cal — 10 a.m. — Field 10
De Anza Force vs. Crew SA — 10 a.m. — Field 9 

Group D
Chicago Fire
FC Dallas
Charlotte SA
Portland Timbers 

Group Preview

Talk about a marquee group draw. FC Dallas and the Chicago Fire were somewhat unlucky to be drawn into a playoff group together considering the course of their respective seasons. The Fire were the best team in the Central Conference during the regular season. FC Dallas was No. 2. They both won their divisions, and now only one can advance to the knockout stage. There will be some early fireworks here.

The Fire were one of the last teams to lose a game during the regular season primarily because they can control every facet of the field. Notre Dame-bound striker Jeffrey Farina is a classic hold-up forward with aerial ability and finishing prowess on the ground. He was transcendent in Chicago’s 3-0-0 run in a difficult group at the December showcase, and he’ll be asked to step up again. A lot will be asked of Alex Underwood as the creative engine.

FC Dallas is usually the favorite to advance out of whatever group its in, but things are a bit more muddled this time around. FCD barely held of Colorado Rush as the division winners, and losing players like Coy Craft to occasional national team duty hasn’t helped continuity. Still, you’d have to expect FCD to show well. Patrick Khouri is a versatile threat either sitting in front of the back line or in it. Attacking players like Jose Salas and Aaron Meyer make this team typically talented. The game between FCD and the Fire is among the most intriguing in the entire event.

The Timbers and Charlotte SA will do their best to disrupt the pattern as wild cards. Both teams can score - the Timbers racked up 68 regular season goals, Charlotte 75 - but both defenses had their issues in the regular season. Charlotte midfielder Tomas Hilliard-Arce (19 goals) and Timbers forward Anthony Maccione (16 goals) could have big impacts, but whether or not they can squeeze past the two big dogs here remains to be seen.

Player to Watch: Coy Craft, M, FC Dallas: Craft has bounced around with the U18 MNT of late, so it’s entirely possible he doesn’t make the trip to Indianapolis. But even with that doubt swirling, Craft is worth listing. He’s played as a striker most recently with the U18s, but he’s a natural winger who can take on defenders and cause havoc in opposing penalty areas. He’s such a game-changer that FCD might morph into instant favorites to win the group if he plays. 


Monday, June 23
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — 10 a.m. — Field 2
FC Dallas vs. Charlotte SA — 10 a.m. — Field 1

Tuesday, June 24
Charlotte SA  vs. Chicago Fire — 12:15 p.m. — Field 29
Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas — 12:15 p.m. — Field 30

Thursday, June 26
Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas — 10 a.m. — Field 29
Charlotte SA vs. Portland Timbers — 10 a.m. — Field 30

Group E
New York Red Bulls
Shattuck St. Mary’s
D.C. United
Nomads SC

Group Preview

Poor Nomads. NSC was one of the feel-good stories of the academy this year after completely turning around a dismal two-win 2012-13 to make the playoffs this year out of a comically difficult division featuring RSL and LA Galaxy. Their reward? A group with three automatic qualifiers who finished in the top three of their divisions, one of which may be the best team in the entire academy. Good luck.

The Red Bulls provide the appropriate headlines here, and they’ll be hungry this summer. A decent portion of this team is back after winning the entire thing in 2013. But a not insignificant part of this team was involved in the U16 collapse against the Dynamo on the final day of the 2013 playoffs that forced the most talented team in the academy to shockingly miss Finals Week. They’ve gone about rectifying that with the midfield of Christopher Lema and Arun Basuljevic, and as a result they lost just three games in the regular season.

The real intrigue in this group is that the Red Bulls will face Shattuck St. Mary’s in the group phase, which means one of the finalists from last year’s Finals Week won’t advance this time around. The Red Bulls defeated Shattuck in overtime to win the 2013 title, so the narrative here is easy to parse. Shattuck had the academy’s best U18 defense in the regular season with just 17 goals allowed, and a tough defense will make them likely contenders to advance.

D.C. United is an interesting case. Losers of just four games during the regular season, DCU didn’t score a ton of goals, but an iron-backed defense provided the impetus for the team to finish third in their division. If they can go into games against NYRB and Shattuck late without a goal, there’s a chance the unexpected could happen.

Player to Watch: Ricardo Lopez-Espin, F, Shattuck St. Mary’s: Lopez-Espin is hard to miss. Standing somewhere around 6-foot-5, Lopez-Espin is the avatar of the hold-up striker. He’s adept at running into channels, and he has surprisingly soft feet for his size. Shattuck rely on Lopez-Espin to recycle possession and be a battering ram in the box, and if SSM manages to get its ultimate revenge on the Red Bulls here, Lopez-Espin is a good bet to be involved.


Monday, June 23
New York Red Bulls vs. Nomads SC — 10 a.m. — Field 13
D.C. United vs. Shattuck St. Mary’s — 10 a.m. — Field 14

Tuesday, June 24
D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls — 12:15 p.m. — Field 13
Shattuck St. Mary’s vs. Nomads SC — 12:15 p.m. — Field 14

Thursday, June 26
New York Red Bulls vs. Shattuck St. Mary’s — 10 a.m. — Field 4
D.C. United vs. Nomads SC — 10 a.m. — Field 5

Group F
Vancouver Whitecaps
Solar Chelsea
Georgia United

Group Preview

This should be a fun group. Bethesda-Olney is the only division winner of the bunch, but there’s a lot of fun attacking pieces to go around. Of course that all starts with Bethesda-Olney, which scored an academy-best 92 goals in the regular season. The Whitecaps, though, have a solid group of attacking players, and Solar Chelsea has one of the best forwards in the academy.

Bethesda-Olney’s Matthew Ledder and Sam Schmidt were one of the best one-two combos in the regular season after they struck for a combined 38 goals. And that’s not even roping in Jeremy Ebobisse-Ebolo, arguably the best forward in the academy. But they were only able to be that effective with a solid defense buttressing the attack, which is where players like Chase Gasper and midfielder Nolan Axenfeld came into play. It’d be a surprise if somebody stopped this team from advancing, but crazier things have happened.

The Whitecaps probably pose the biggest threat. They’re fresh off a run to Finals Week last season, and with players with recent first-team experience like Marco Bustos and Kianz Froese, it’d be foolish not to expect this team to ask some questions of the rest of the group. Likewise for Solar Chelsea. Forward Alan Wynn is headed to North Carolina in the fall, and he’s one of the quickest strikers in the U18 ranks. Solar is one of the best counterattacking teams in the academy primarily for that reason.

Player to Watch: Jeremy Ebobisse-Ebolo, F, Bethesda-Olney: This was an enormous year for Bethesda-Olney’s biggest threat. Ebobisse-Ebolo put down a marker as the most productive player in the academy after going for an incredible 29 goals in 21 games. That’s five goals better that second place, which only seems to drive home his purpose and drive atop the midfield. It’s almost inconceivably that Ebobisse-Ebolo doesn’t score in Indianapolis. The question is just how many. 


Monday, June 23
Bethesda-Olney vs. Georgia United — 12:15 p.m. — Field 13
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Solar Chelsea — 12:15 p.m. — Field 14

Tuesday, June 24
Solar Chelsea vs. Bethesda-Olney — 10 a.m. — Field 4
Georgia United vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 10 a.m. — Field 5

Thursday, June 26
Bethesda-Olney vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 10 a.m. — Field 13
Solar Chelsea vs. Georgia United — 10 a.m. — Field 14

Group G
Carolina Rapids
Colorado Rush
Oakwood Soccer Club
Philadelphia Union

Group Preview

It’s not a stretch to say that the Carolina Rapids were the surprise of the Development Academy this season. After a so-so 2012-13 season, the Rapids burst off the blocks and became one of the most prolific scoring teams in the academy’s history. After 91 goals and an academy-best 82 points, the Rapids are streaking into the playoffs as not only a favorite to win the group, but to challenge for a spot in the championship game. The question is if anyone in this group can stop them.

The Rapids’ strike partnership of Tanner Roberts and David Lozano is the most prolific duo in the U18 ranks with 46 goals between them. Midfielders Bayley Cashion and Calvin Saunders have done similarly important work, while keepers Matthew Jegler and Elliot Panicco have only helped. This team may have crested 90 goals, but its 45 allowed might crack open the door for some enterprising attacks.

The Rush are the diametric opposite - buttoned up and tight at the back. Keeper Jonathan Finucane is one of the best in the academy, and the Rush gave up just 27 regular season goals. The Union didn’t have a great season after losing more than they won, but there may be enough here to trouble the Rapids-Rush monopoly. Matthew Greer is a talented forward, while players like Noah Snyder and Neicko Williams have done work this season.

Oakwood was similarly stingy. They surrendered just 27 goals, and while they scored 52, that kind of defensive steel in a group with this much attacking prowess is the only tonic that will get you out alive.

Player to Watch: Tanner Roberts, F, Carolina Rapids: Roberts was the more prolific half of the Rapids’ feared strike partnership. His 24 goals was tied for second in the entire academy, making him one of the premier players of this event. The Rapids have never been a position of such power in the academy before, so it’s anyone’s guess how they respond. But an early Roberts goal or two would go a long way toward settling the nerves.


Monday, June 23
Carolina Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — 10 a.m. — Field 4
Colorado Rush vs. Oakwood SC — 10 a.m. — Field 5

Tuesday, June 24
Oakwood SC vs. Carolina Rapids — 10 a.m. — Field 10
Philadelphia Union vs. Colorado Rush — 10 a.m. — Field 9

Thursday, June 26
Carolina Rapids vs. Colorado Rush — 10 a.m. — Field 27
Oakwood SC vs. Philadelphia Union — 10 a.m. — Field 28 

Group H
Real Salt Lake AZ
Seattle Sounders
Concorde Fire
Indiana Fire

Group Preview

This group may only have one division winner from the regular season, but don’t let that fool you. RSL finished second in arguably the most top-heavy division in the nation, and Concorde Fire was an automatic qualifier behind the Carolina Rapids and Capital Area RailHawks, the two teams with the most points in the regular season. 

So while the Sounders may have a chance to progress, it’s probably RSL with the favorites tag slapped on their backs. Keeper Luis Barraza anchors one of the best defenses in the nation, while Sam Gleadle and Eric Carbajal have quality for days. This is a weaker team without recently signed Justen Glad, but with Corey Baird running the show in the middle there aren’t many better sides in the academy.

The Sounders have quality too. David Olsen is a tricky player who can find space, as his 14 goals can attest, while Satoshi Chaffin (11 goals) and Adeseyi Adekoya (10 goals) can bring some fire. Keep an eye on midfielder Duncan McCormick, a calm player in the midfield who tends to control the flow of the game on a good day. He’ll be key. The two Fire squads should also provide a push, namely Concorde. Forward Cameron Moseley continued his torrid form in recent years with 20 goals this season, and he has help in the midfield. This team lost a lot of games in the regular season, but it has the quality to spring an upset or two.

Player to Watch: Corey Baird, M, Real Salt Lake AZ: Baird is a coach's dream player. Midfielders who can run the show in every facet are increasingly en vogue in world soccer, but the supply isn't particularly high. Baird is the kind of player who can both run the attacking channels and track opposing runs before sticking in a foot to breaking it up. Much of RSL's U18 success this season has been down to Baird's influence, and he'll be a prime time player when RSL's run to the knockouts cranks up in earnest in Indiana. 


Monday, June 24
Real Salt Lake vs. Indiana Fire — 12:15 p.m. — Field 29
Seattle Sounders vs. Concorde Fire — 12:15 p.m. — Field 30

Tuesday, June 25
Concorde Fire vs. Real Salt Lake — 12:15 p.m. — Field 12
Indiana Fire vs. Seattle Sounders — 12:15 p.m. — Field 11

Thursday, June 27
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders — 10 a.m. — Field 6
Concorde Fire vs. Indiana Fire — 10 a.m. — Field 7

Trending Videos
IMG Top 150 Rankings
see full ranking:
Boys Girls

Club Rankings HQ