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Chicago Fire wins on penalties

Chicago Fire Defeat Cal Odyssey in Penalties for U-15/16 National Championship

CARSON, Calif. (July 16) — The Chicago Fire outlasted Cal Odyssey through two overtime periods before finally defeating last year’s runners up by a 5-3 margin in penalties. Luis Medina opened the scoring for the Fire in the 20th minute, but Gregory Antongnoli pulled it even in the 56th. In the shootout, all five Fire players made their shots while goalkeeper Sam Euler stopped the second shot he faced to put Chicago ahead.

“It feels great,” said Fire head coach Larry Sunderland. “It’s a great experience for the kids. I’m really happy for them and I’m happy for the Fire organization and the ownership, who have put so much time into this.”

Both teams had been waiting four days for this matchup, with each of them clinching first place in their group after only the second day of games. For Cal Odyssey, tonight’s matchup was a return to the final and they looked to avenge their loss to the Derby County Wolves a year ago. The Chicago Fire entered the title game for the first time after appearing in the inaugural Finals Week in 2008.

Odyssey returned five players from last year’s final, and their experience showed in the opening minutes as they wasted no time in getting on the attack. In just the third minute, midfielder Daniel Flores sent a ball into the right side of the box that Villyan Bijev ran onto, splitting between the left and center backs of Chicago. Turning left, Bijev fired hard and low but Euler laid out and blocked it with his legs.

Next to breach the Chicago defense was Jon-Paul Medina in the 10th minute, but the midfielder took a touch too many and his shot was blocked by a sliding defender along the right side of the box.

With the initial danger behind them, Chicago got into the game with quick passing in the middle between Victor Pineda and Luis Medina. In the 16th minute, a spell of possession in the attacking third resulted in a pass to Luis Barajas at the top right corner of the 18 yard box. Pausing to stop the ball, Barajas fired hard towards the upper right corner but struck the corner itself, the shot clanging off the iron juncture.

With the pressure on, the Fire continued to threaten, finally scoring on their second of two successive corner kicks in the 20th minute. While the first attempt was taken short and cleared out, the second was sent by Pineda from the right side all to the outside of the box. Running onto it from the left side, Luis Medina struck a solid volley into the top left corner. The top class strike was his second of Finals Week and gave his team a 1-0 lead.

The experience of Cal Odyssey began to show through again however, as last year’s title game veterans implored their team to stay positive despite the setback. Eleven minutes later, they almost had cause for celebration, but saw their own effort hit off the crossbar after Flores slipped in behind with a pass from Bijev and fired hard at goal. With a fantastic reaction save, Euler pushed the ball onto the crossbar and the rebound was cleared.

With the California sun setting and cooler air stealing in from the Pacific, halftime found both teams considering missed opportunities but well aware there was plenty left to play. Neither team made any substitutions at halftime, with both sides having great success moving the ball on the attack.

The second half began with few great chances despite promising buildups as through balls for Odyssey and attempts to dribble in by Chicago were all cleared with confident defense. But when the Fire midfield failed to pass on target, Cal seized the chance to get back in the game.

With an interception at midfield, Vicente Rodarte passed it just over the midfield line to Bijev. Seeing space down the middle, Bijev dribbled towards goal, eventually drawing more than one defender as he approached the box. Just before they closed, Bijev laid the ball off to the left, splitting the center backs to reach Antongnoli streaking in behind from the right side. With no one to beat but the goalkeeper, the striker slotted his shot into the left side of the goal from eight yards out to knot the score at 1-1.

The goal inspired Cal Odyssey, and in the next ten minutes they proceeded to earn two corners and a free kick, all ably cleared by the Chicago backline. In the 65th minute however, Flores almost provided the set up for a second goal, splitting the defense from midfield with a wonderfully weighted through ball that Bijev ran onto from the left sideline. Reaching it just inside the box and with a defender closing, the captain struck it first time but Euler got a hand down low to the left to stop the strong effort.

Eight minutes later, Chicago again hit the crossbar, this effort coming from Luis Medina again off a corner kick. But with tired legs beginning to intercede, neither team could finish and the final headed into overtime for the first time in Academy history.

Despite the extra time looming, neither coach chose to use their bench, with the Fire making only one sub before the second overtime period and Cal Odyssey making none. As the first 15-minute period entered the books however, neither team threatened to take the lead.

Upon switching sides and with the knowledge of penalties ahead, both teams tried to finish off the match. Chicago had the first good chance, with Medina getting free in the box on the right side after an errant pass was intercepted. Cutting towards goal, Medina fired but a sprawling Matt Dishno to block the shot and keep the match tied in the 96th minute.

In the 102nd, Cal Odyssey earned their one shot to take the win as Daniel Flores was given space outside the box along the left side and chose to fire—his dipping effort heading straight for under the crossbar but for the quick fingertips of Euler who tipped the shot over.

With little stoppage time, the match ended shortly after the 110th minute and the captains met with referee Ismail Elfath to decide shooting end and order.

The Fire shot first and sent Victor Pineda to the spot. Despite Dishno going to the correct side, Pineda’s sharp hit into the right side netting set the tone for the rest of his team. Goal scorer Antongnoli stepped up for the first Odyssey shot, and his effort to the right was initially blocked by Euler—but the forceful shot had just too much on it and the ball spun off the palms of the goalkeeper and across his body, eventually settling in the left hand side of the goal.

Substitute Henrik Egly, brought on in the 108th minute for this exact reason, displayed the skill that put him out there with an accurate shot into the right back post that Dishno would have had little chance on even if he had guessed right. Jon-Paul Medina then walked up for Odyssey, and it was here that Euler gave his team the advantage, diving to the left and palming away Medina’s shot.

After both Luis Medina and Eduardo Cuautle for the Fire and Flores and Bijev for Odyssey traded goals, midfielder Andrew Connor stepped up for Chicago’s fifth kick. With the pressure on, Connor expertly slotted home his shot into the bottom left hand corner, much too fast for Dishno to reach despite guessing correctly.

As his teammates raced up to celebrate, Connor sprinted up the sideline. At midfield, Cal Odyssey was left to revisit the taste of second place yet again in Finals Week.

“It was a very intense match when you get down to the finals like this. Cal Odyssey is a very dynamic team – more so than what I saw on video,” said Sunderland.

“They really get at you with a lot of pace up top. They’re hard and they battle. I thought our guys had a tough time dealing with it in segments of the game. When we found the ball and we’re good on it, our qualities came through, but Cal Odyssey are a very good side.”

The win is the first for an MLS academy in any age group in the three year history of the Development Academy. The match was also the first time a title game has come down to penalties. Earlier in the day, Baltimore Bays Chelsea took third place with a 3-1 victory against De Anza Force. Tomorrow, the U-17/18s conclude their season with four placement matches throughout the day, culminating with a 7 p.m. championship match between Vardar and Crossfire Premier. 

                                         Development Academy Finals Week Match Report

Match: Cal Odyssey U-15/16 vs. Chicago Fire U-15/16
Date: July 16, 2010
Competition: Development Academy Finals Week
Venue: The Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. local time

Scoring Summary:     1     2     OT1     OT2     F     PKs
Cal Odyssey                 0     1        0         0        1       3
Chicago Fire                 1     0        0         0        1       5

FIRE – Luis Medina (Victor Pineda)                     20th minute
CAL – Gregory Antongnoli II (Villyan Bijev)         56

Penalty Summary:
CAL: Antongnoli (goal), Jon-Paul Medina (saved), Flores (goal), Bijev (goal)
CHI: Pineda (goal), Egly (goal), L. Medina (goal), Cuautle (goal), Connor (goal)

CAL: 1-Matt Dishno; 17-Cesar Gutierrez, 8-Joshua Alvarez, 20-Erik Posada, 16-Nicholas Watson; 12-Daniel Flores, 6-Vicente Rodarte, 4-Jon-Paul Medina, 7-Tren Biswell (21-Eduardo Rueda, 109); 9-Villyan Bijev (capt.), 10-Gregory Antongnoli II
Subs not used: 0-Cesar Hernandez Saenz, 2-Ross Kreighoff, 3-Jordan Patterson, 5-Edward Fernandes, 11-Elijah Martin, 13-Eric Velarde, 14-Angel Parra, 15-Ricky Coppo, 18-Timothy Vue, 19-Oswel Mariles,
Head Coach: Scott Alcorn

FIRE: 1-Robert Euler; 60-Keaton Albert, 46-Anthony Torres (66-Eduardo Cuautle, 108), 58-Peter Beasley, 53-David Caban; 59-Luis Barajas, 55-Victor Pineda, 49-Luis Medina, 52-Andrew Connor; 88-Jesus Medina (56-Elliott Borge, 67, 44-Henrik Egly, 108) , 43-Manuel Rios
Subs not used: 00-Zak Allen, 41-Joel Salmeron, 42-Francisco Sajuan, 45-Patryk Ruta, 47-Horacio Sanchez, 48-Giovanni Sanchez, 51-Eduardo Cuautle, 54-Mitch Reavis, 57-Johnny Contreras, 62-Henok Russell,
Head Coach: Larry Sunderland

Stats Summary: CAL / FIRE
Shots: 12 / 15
Shots on Goal: 8 / 5
Saves: 4 / 7
Corner Kicks: 9 / 5
Fouls: 10 / 6
Offside: 0 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
FIRE – Keaton Albert                     (caution)         62nd minute
FIRE – Anthony Torres                  (caution)         103

Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referee 1: Kevin Klinger
Assistant Referee 2: Baboucarr Jallow
Fourth Official: Cedric Nelson