LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. — After five days and scores of games, the Development Academy Showcase is over.
The U18s finished up on Saturday, leaving the final day of action here for the U16s. That allowed the younger age group to take center stage and wow the gathered throngs of onlookers over the final day of play. Whether or not they left enough of an impact will be up to posterity to decide.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the biggest results from a balmy final day in Florida.
New York Red Bulls U16s 4-1 U.S. U15 BNT
The U15s played up in the U16 age group all week with mixed results. Physically, the U15s were often behind their competitors given that the entire team is made up of 1999s and their opponents all week were often 1997s. And despite the three-goal loss to wrap up play on Sunday, U15 coach Hugo Perez saw plenty he liked.
“I think everybody saw it that was here at the showcase,” Perez said. “We play out of the back, and we’re not panicking. Our players are not throwing the ball just to throw it. We try to play from the back, and that’s a hard thing in our country to establish with our kids because sometimes they’re not used to that. But we’ve been working with them for more than a year, and it’s there. I don’t have to say it anymore. They know they can do it. Do we take risks and chances? Yes. But it’s OK because they’re still developing. In three or four years, when they get this, they’ll go back to their clubs and play at a higher level.”
On Sunday, the U15s focused almost neurotically on building attacks from the back, and as a result they controlled the majority of stretches in the first 40 minutes with a number of aesthetically pleasing build-ups. That paid off when forward Lucas Del Rosario (CASL) cut into the box, pulled out the keeper and then beat him on the ground before chipping into an empty net.
But the Red Bulls, one of the most talented U16 sides in the academy, exploded in the second half. Striker Ethan Lochner had the most to do with the team’s ascension, as he scored twice and also earned a penalty the Red Bulls didn’t convert.
He put the Red Bulls on the board about 10 minutes into the second half when sub Jerel Blades, who ripped up the right touchline with his blazing speed all afternoon, whipped in a cross that Lochner redirected to tie the game. The Red Bulls took the lead on a Kyle Zajec effort down the center of the box, and the third came from Gideon Metrikin, who converted a penalty earned by Christopher Flores. Lochner added the fourth just before time off a corner kick from Zajec.
“I think now this group has taken an important step up in the way we want to play, in the way we want to as a group play this type of football, the style of football that I think U.S. Soccer wants to implement a lot in the national team,” Perez said. “I’m happy. Obviously the three games were hard, but I think our main concern when we came to this was to prepare, so it’s good.”
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 Players Development Academy
With the three wins from three games, two of which came against fellow MLS academies, the Whitecaps U16s have had quite the week. They opened with a 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire, beat the Colorado Rapids 2-0 and finished Sunday with an impressive win over a PDA side that continually churns out some of the best prospects in the academy.
The Whitecaps’ midfield dominated play on Sunday, keeping goalkeeper Aidan Aylward’s shirt almost entirely clean. Left-sided midfielder Terran Campbell was a terror, ripping through PDA’s back line and routinely pinching in to create problems for an otherwise effective defense.
After a scoreless first half, the Whitecaps got their first goal about 20 minutes from the final whistle when PDA was called for a handball in the box. Massive striker Aymar Sigue, who goes around 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds as a 1997, blasted home for the lead. Minutes from time, the ‘Caps added a second when Kadin Chung threaded through a perfect ball to Thomas Gardner, who did well to beat the keeper to the near post.
That ended quite the week for the Whitecaps, who outscored their three foes 7-2 and head home with all nine points trundled away in the back pocket.
“We came here with the intention of doing the best we could,” Whitecaps coach Rich Fagan said. “If you look at the three games and the performances the players gave, I would say they’ve done exactly what was asked of them.”
Other notable results:
Shattuck St. Mary’s 2-1 Texans SC Houston
De Anza Force 1-1 Houston Dynamo
Real Salt Lake-AZ 1-0 Philadelphia Union
L.A. Galaxy 5-2 FC Dallas
NJSA 04 4-2 North Carolina Fusion
New England Revolution 4-2 Sporting Kansas City