The Chicago Magic U-15/16 team’s 2013-14 Development Academy season was on the brink. Down a goal to Kendall SC in group play at the Academy Playoffs at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana, the Magic rallied with two Luka Prpa penalty kicks to earn a 2-1 victory and win Group E.
Kendall was in the driver’s seat entering the game with six points and needing a draw or a victory to win the group. The Miami-based side also had a first-half goal to its name against Chicago Magic PSG.
But the Magic showcased a string of scoring chances and had a nose for the box to draw two penalties and several other moments in the offensive third.
“We all just stuck together, kept going, and just played as a team, and it worked out great for us,” Prpa said. “In the first half they put us under pressure, and then we brought it together at halftime and we really picked it up a lot in the second half. We wanted this badly, for our coaches, for our parents, for everybody. We all wanted it.”
Stephen Payne and Kendall Stork drew the first and second penalties, respectively, and Prpa was decisive with both penalties. Prpa went to the same side on both occasions to calmly provide the equalizer and then game-winner in the closing minutes of the second half.
“With PKs you have to stay composed, pick your spot and put it there,” Prpa said. “That’s what I did on the first one and it really lifted our spirits up. Taking a second penalty is always hard because you don’t know whether to stay or go to the other side, but I kept my side and put it in the corner.”
“He’s always calm, even off the field,” Chicago Magic PSG U-15/16 head coach Pasco Bedrossian said. “He’s always relaxed and he’s a very good player. Luka’s PKs were amazing.”
Kendall, the top seed in Group E following a second-place finish in the Southeast Division, was in good shape with a 1-0 lead at halftime. Chicago Magic PSG came out in the second half with a possessive attack that led to multiple scoring opportunities beyond the eventual PK moments.
“I believe that they knew that we are pretty good with the ball,” Bedrossian said of Kendall. “During the first half, they pressed us a lot and it was not easy to move the ball from side to side the way that we usually do. In the second half, we knew it would be easier because you cannot press for 80 minutes in this heat. We kept moving the ball with quick two or three touches, from side to side, and we created a lot of chances in the second half to create more space.”
Chicago Magic PSG entered the Academy Playoffs as a bit of a darkhorse because of its seeding following a third-place finish in the Mid-America Division. Many eyes will be on the club after advancing out of the group for the quarterfinal stage, which takes place July 7 or 9.
“I’m proud of the guys because we never gave up, all season long,” Bedrossian said. “We had some ups and downs, but we always believed in ourselves. It’s not only the win – it’s the way that we played. I believe that everyone here this week saw a pretty good team.”