Academy U16 2017 3

Playoff season has arrived at the U.S. Soccer Development Academies (USSDA) level, and with it comes a chance for aspiring pros across the country to create a lasting memory for themselves and their clubs.


Beginning Thursday (June 22), 32 of the year’s top development clubs in the U.S. from each age group (U-17/18 and U-15/16) will travel to Westfield, Ind. for group stage competition, each vying for a spot in the national quarterfinals. After three group stage matches, the top-finishing team in each group will advance to the round of eight.


With Chicago Fire Academy represented in both age groups and Indiana Fire Academy qualified at the U-18 level, follow the group stage action below and read up on the mindset for each Chicago Fire Academy squad entering postseason play:


2017 USSDA PLAYOFFS — GROUP STAGE

DATE
CLUB (AGE)
OPPONENT
KICKOFF TIME (CT)
June 22
Chicago Fire (U-16)
Players Development Academy
2:30 p.m.&nbsp;(<a href="http://www.ussoccerda.com/2017-u1516-playoffs-pda-chifire"><b>Video</b></a>)
June 22
Indiana Fire (U-18)
Players Development Academy
5:30 p.m. (<a href="https://www.facebook.com/developmentacademy/"><b>Video</b></a>)
June 22
Chicago Fire (U-18)
Capital Area Railhawks
5:30 p.m. (<a href="http://www.ussoccerda.com/2017-u1718-playoffs-casl-chifire"><b>Video</b></a>)
June 24
Chicago Fire (U-16)
Atlanta United FC
2:30 p.m.
June 24
Chicago Fire (U-18)
Baltimore Armour
5:30 p.m.
June 24
Indiana Fire (U-18)
Pateadores
5:30 p.m.
June 26
Chicago Fire (U-16)
Montreal Impact
2:30 p.m.
June 26
Chicago Fire (U-18)
Colorado Rapids
5:30 p.m.
June 26
Indiana Fire (U-18)
Orlando City SC
5:30 p.m.

Mental strength key for U-15/16s


The U-15/16s spent 2016-17 laying a solid foundation for the club’s future.


With approximately 70 percent of this year’s team born in 2001, this Fire team is both extremely young and extremely open to learning. This also means that a large portion of the team will be back competing in the same age group next year, which could give the team an advantage in their 2017-18 campaign.


After a slow start to the year that saw them drop their first four matches, the U-15/16 Chicago Fire team switched things up to qualify for playoffs in the top wildcard spot. Chicago Fire Academy Technical Director Cedric Cattenoy credits a change in mentality to their recent success.


“We used the [Generation adidas] event to work on the mental aspect, and after that the players understood that they have to play together and be good teammates,” he said. “We are very satisfied because the changes in the state of mind led to qualification.”


For Cattenoy, consistency was another key to their success in the second half of the season. With a different mindset in the second half of the season, the team put together a string of positive results, winning their last six matches to secure a spot in the playoffs.


Drawn into Group A, the U-15/16’s will face Player’s Development Academy (N.J.) in Thursday’s opening match, with a difficult match looming two days later against No. 3-seeded Atlanta United FC. Their final match (Monday, June 26) sees them run into another fellow MLS Academy side, Montreal Impact.


U-17/18s Ready to Prove Themselves


Match results aside, a primary goal of the Chicago Fire Academy is to produce future professional players, as was the case with Homegrown signing Djordje Mihailovic. Signed by Chicago Fire first team on on Jan. 27, 2017, Mihailovc led the current U-17/18 team with nine goals this season but will be a spectator for the upcoming USSDA playoffs.


With Mihailovic out of the mix, Cattenoy believes that playing in the pressure of the playoffs will give players like Victor Bezerra (7 goals), Andrew Akindele (5 goals) and Jose Alfaro (4 goals) the opportunity to display their talent and experience.


“When you play in a professional environment, you must be ready to play in important games,” he said, “so it is a very good experience for the players.”


The U-17/18’s will need that experience to come out of a tough draw in group play. Drawn into Group F, the team on Thursday will face the Capital Area Railhawks, a squad that boasts the USSDA’s leading goal-scorer this season in forward Alex Rose (32 goals, 25 games). From there, the team will face the eighth-seeded Baltimore Armour before concluding their group stage with a matchup against the Colorado Rapids on June 26th.