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2011-12 Development Academy Finals Week in Focus: U-15/16 Chicago Fire

Red Hot Fire in Midst of 10-Game Unbeaten Streak Heading into Team’s Second Finals Week

Red Hot Fire in Midst of 10-Game Unbeaten Streak Heading into Team’s Second Finals Week

The Chicago Fire U-15/16 team has carried over its strong regular-season finish into the postseason, winning all three games during the Academy Playoffs and clinching a trip to Houston for the team’s second Finals Week berth.

How they got to Finals Week: The Fire offense tied for the U-15/16 lead with nine goals scored during the Academy Playoffs and was one of only two U-15/16 teams to post three wins during the week. Led by the scoring punch of Jeff Farina and Marcus Epps in all three games, the Fire posted a 4-2 win against the Clearwater Chargers, a 3-0 shutout victory against Seattle Sounders FC and a 2-1 win against Real Salt Lake AZ in the final day.

Finals Week and Academy Playoffs History: This year marks the second time the Chicago Fire’s U-15/16 team has advanced to Finals Week and third time overall as the 2007-08 U-17/18 team also reached this stage of the postseason. The Fire’s U-15/16 team in 2009-10 went the distance and won the championship against Cal Odyssey on July 16, 2010, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. After playing to a 1-1 draw through regulation and overtime, the Fire connected on all five penalty kicks in the shootout. The Fire’s U-15/16 team has advanced to the Academy Playoffs for four straight seasons.

2011-12 Regular Season: The Chicago Fire squeezed by Crew Soccer Academy by one point for the Great Lakes Division’s No. 1 spot for its fourth straight Academy Playoffs appearance. The Fire had an 11-1-4 division record and 15-3-5 overall mark, conceding only 16 goals in 23 games. Chicago capped off the regular season with a seven-game unbeaten run.

About head coach Larry Sunderland : Sunderland coaches both the U-15/16 and U-17/18 Chicago Fire Academy teams and serves as the organization’s Academy director. Sunderland formerly was a head coach for the men’s and women’s soccer programs at Wisconsin Lutheran College and Kendall College. His playing career began in 1985 with the New York Express of the Major Indoor Soccer League. Sunderland joined the Milwaukee Wave of the National Professional Soccer League in 1986 and he later played for the Chicago Power and won a 1990-91 NPSL championship.

About the Chicago Fire: The Chicago Fire Academy was created in 2007, and nearly 800 graduates from the inaugural Academy class played college soccer the following fall season. Midfielder Victor Pineda, the first homegrown player in Fire history, converted the opening penalty kick during the U-15/16 team’s 2009-10 Academy Finals Week championship victory against Cal Odyssey.

Scoring Leader in Academy Playoffs: Jeff Farina (5)

Scoring Leader During 2011-12 Regular Season: Marcus Epps (9)

Inside the Numbers: All nine Chicago Fire goals during the Academy Playoffs were scored by two players – Jeff Farina (5) and Marcus Epps (4) … Farina more than doubled his season goals total during the Academy Playoffs. He entered the postseason with four regular-season goals and now has nine in total.

Did you know … Marcus Epps comes from the Chicago Fire Juniors-Mississippi program, where homegrown signing Kellen Gulley was developed … The Chicago Fire U-15/16’s Louis Bennett is the son of Marquette University and former Wisconsin-Milwaukee head coach Louis Bennett. He has been unavailable for the postseason, however, after suffering a broken leg about a month ago.

U-15/16 Chicago Fire 2011-12 Finals Week Schedule:
Home team listed first
Tuesday, July 17: Chicago Fire vs. Charlotte Soccer Academy, 8 p.m. CT
Thursday, July 19: Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls, 9 p.m. CT
Saturday, July 21: Pateadores vs. Chicago Fire, 8 p.m. CT
Monday, July 23: TBD