July 18, 2012
Fire U-15/16s ignite win over Charlotte
HOUSTON – A goal just 19 seconds into the match and a second eight minutes later proved decisive as the Chicago Fire collected a comprehensive 3-1 victory against Charlotte Soccer Academy in their first match in the U-15/16 division at the 2011-12 Development Academy Finals Week.
The Fire controlled large portions of the match, pouring nine shots on goal while Charlotte could only muster one against a stingy defense.
The result mirrored the 3-1 victory by New York Red Bulls against Pateadores, leaving the teams tied at the top of Group 1 with two games remaining.
“We talked about wanting to get after them,” said Chicago Fire Academy head coach Larry Sunderland. “We got a real quick jump with the two quick goals. I thought we got a little casual and gave one back to them. In the second half we settled in and kept the ball a lot more and knocked it around. Overall it was a pretty good performance.”
Chicago came charging out of the gates and the sound of the referee’s whistle to start the match had barely dissipated before they were on the scoreboard. Marcus Epps controlled the ball in the area and cut inside, ripping a skipping drive that Charlotte goalkeeper James Pyle parried back into play where Jeff Farina had stationed himself in search of a rebound. Farina struck low and hard, giving the Fire a dream start.
Intent to pressure all over the park, the Fire kept their opponents pinned in their own half for most of the opening minutes as they sought another goal. Joy came in the ninth minute when Farina dropped into midfield to receive a pass. Spotting his strike partner on an exquisitely timed run, he played a beautifully weighted ball into the path of Epps. Alone with the goalkeeper, Epps slid the ball underneath Pyle and extended the lead to a pair.
“We were so hyped up for this,” said Epps. “We’ve been training for so long and so hard, and we had to let all that out and it paid off.”
Responding to the wake-up call, Charlotte breathed new life into the match two minutes later. Earning a corner kick from the right side, the delivery found Tomas Hilliard-Arce poised to power home a header from eight yards out.
With the goal, Charlotte shook off the rough start and gained much needed confidence. Possession began to even out as both teams displayed the ability to establish a passing rhythm, but stodgy defending at each end put chances at a premium. The Fire, in particularly, issued several strong and well-timed tackles and the score remained 2-1 heading into the break.
As in the opening stanza, the Fire came out with their foot on the pedal and much of the play took place in Charlotte’s end. Mike Jimenez took the first crack at increasing the lead, hitting a riser that forced a nice touch save from Pyle.
Charlotte showed some spark, and in the 49th minute demonstrated their ability to create danger when Klint Parker made a pacy run down the right flank, whipping in a tantalizing cross that skipped through the box.
Chicago settled matters in the 65th minute by taking advantage of a defensive miscue. A long clearance from the Fire end forced Pyle to come well off his line and with second-half substitute Anthony Smith pressuring, the goalkeeper misplayed the ball and left Smith with the simple task of shooting into the open goal.
The lead could have increased if not for the heroics of Pyle, who pulled out a point-blank save on a snap header from Smith in the 75th minute. He made another great stop in the 83rd minute, denying a breakaway by lunging to push aside a shot destined for the far post.