Chicago Fire Academy Captures USSDA U-17/18 National Championship

Chicago Fire Academy Championship

A run for the ages is complete!

The Chicago Fire Academy U-17/18 team carved out their place in club history Saturday night, capturing the 2014-15 U.S. Soccer Development Academy national championship with a 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake-Arizona at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center in Carson, Calif.

The national title is the second USSDA championship in Chicago Fire Academy history, following up on the program’s U-15/16 national championship for the 2009-10 campaign. Under the direction of Academy Director Larry Sunderland, this year’s championship-winning side posted a final record of 19-4-10, claiming the trophy despite entering the USSDA playoffs seeded 15th in the 32-team tournament.

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Keeping with the trend of their tremendous playoff run, the Fire got off on the front foot in Saturday night’s final, netting the game’s opening goal in the 13th minute. A Fire shot from distance eluded goalkeeper Luis Barraza and ricocheted off the right post, popping up to be easily headed in by Chicago’s Michael Jimenez for a 1-0 lead.

Jimenez then nearly doubled the lead minutes later, firing a one-time shot from the right side of the 18 that forced Barraza to reach back in midair and parry the shot over the bar in remarkable fashion.

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RSL-AZ began pressing the issue in front of the Fire goal as the first half wore on, but it was the Fire who made the next move before intermission. Preventing an RSL clearance near the top of the 18, Andrew Gutman took the ball off the foot of his opponent and found space in the box, slipping his shot under the on-rushing Barraza just as the game entered the 45th minute.

Gutman nearly made it 3-0 shortly after halftime, finding himself alone on a 1v1 with Barraza only to have his effort saved. Minutes later, RSL-AZ scored on a blast from beyond 25 yards to cut the Fire’s lead in half.

But the Fire remained poised under pressure and eventually restored a two-goal advantage when Gutman again wreaked havoc on the opposition, tearing past his defender and playing a sharp left-footed cross into the box. An RSL-AZ defender made a sliding attempt on the ball and inadvertently sent it into his own net, putting the Fire on the fast track to a championship celebration.

Click here to view the Chicago Fire Academy U-17/18 roster and coaching staff. 

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2014-15 USSDA Playoff Results --
Chicago Fire U-17/18

Group Play:
Chicago Fire 2:0 Sporting KC
Chicago Fire 1:0 BW Gottschee Academy
Chicago Fire 2:2 New York Red Bulls

Chicago Fire 4:3 Houston Dynamo
Chicago Fire 4:2 Montreal Impact (ET)
Chicago Fire 3:1 Real Salt Lake-AZ