BRADENTON, Fla. – In their best U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase performance in Academy history, Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy went undefeated at the Premier Sports Campus in Florida, combining for five wins and one draw in six games.
FC Dallas 2-3 Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-17/18
Out to show the rest of the country just how good they are, RSL-AZ U-17/18 got the scoring started quickly against FC Dallas. In the fifth minute on a free kick from 19 yards out, Brooks Lennon fired a shot into the top corner of goal for an emphatic opener.
Four minutes later, Dallas were able to capitalize on a mistake in the RSL-AZ defense, with Christian Ramirez winning a ball that should’ve been cleared and scoring right back. In the 13th minute, Amar Sejdic put his name on the score sheet, slamming home a low shot at the near post to hand the lead right back to the Claret-and-Cobalt.
After the opening flurry, the scoring died down until the 53rd minute when Diego “Diablo” Silva crossed to Jose Hernandez at the far post, who cut the ball onto his left foot for another goal to double the RSL-AZ lead.
After dominating the final 30 minutes, RSL-AZ conceded a goal to Philip Ponder on the last touch of the match to a desperate FC Dallas side, but it wasn’t enough to take away the win and three points from the 18s.
Colorado Rapids 0-3 Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-15/16
Not wanting to be outdone by the 18s, RSL-AZ U-15/16 got off to a hot start of their own to begin the second day of the Showcase. In the 32nd minute, Glademir “Pichu” Mendoza found Kris Fourcand, who ripped a shot past the Rapids keeper for a 1-0 lead.
One minute before half time, Erik “Gallo” Virgen crossed in to Fourcand for his second goal of the game, securing a 2-0 RSL-AZ lead heading into the second half.
In the 73rd minute, “Gallo” provided his second assist of the day, finding the head of a diving Efren “Junior” Estrada on a free kick to provide the clinching goal in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 3-0 win.
Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-17/18 5-0 Philadelphia Union
In their second game of the Showcase, RSL-AZ U-17/18 faced off against what would appear to be their toughest competition in the Philadelphia Union. The first half played out without a goal between RSL-AZ and a Union team filled with big and strong players.
The Claret-and-Cobalt didn’t waste any time in the second half, opening the scoring in the 52nd minute on a penalty kick earned and converted by Damian German. Less than ten minutes later, Brooks Lennon doubled the lead on a rebounded shot from in close.
Lennon netted his second goal of the game in the 71st minute, with “Diablo” Silva earning the assist on the play. In the 85th minute, Amar Sejdic played Paul Bin a lobbed pass who then centered the ball to Tate Schmitt for a tap-in goal. One minute before the final whistle, Bin scored a goal of his own for the dominant 5-0 win.
Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-15/16 2-0 Houston Dynamo
Two first half goals from the Claret-and-Cobalt proved all the difference in the 16s second game of the Showcase. In the 19th minute, Max Yanakaev played a through ball to Kris Fourcand for a powerful shot and the opening goal.
Only two minutes later, Yanakaev once again provided the service necessary for a goal, this time crossing in from the right wing to a charging Josh Drack who tapped the ball in for the 2-0 lead.
The RSL-AZ defense held strong over the final hour of the game, limiting the Dynamo attack and securing the 16’s second straight clean sheet at the Winter Showcase.
Academy Select Blue 1-2 Academy Select Red
In addition to the USSDA games taking place at the Winter Showcase, the event also featured a U-17 international tournament and the Development Academy Select game, featuring some of the top U-15/16 players in the country.
Erik Virgen and Aristotle Zarris represented RSL-AZ in the game, with Zarris and Virgen being split up onto the Blue and Red teams, respectively. Zarris featured for Academy Select Blue in a scoreless first half, showcasing his strong technical and tactical play.
“Gallo” Virgen played the entire second half for Academy Select Red, controlling the midfield in the Red team’s eventual 2-1 win, coming on a late goal in the 78th minute.
Capital Area RailHawks Academy 0-1 Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-17/18
Headed into their final game in Florida against the RailHawks, RSL-AZ U-17/18’s confidence was at a season-high following their 5-0 shellacking of the Philadelphia Union.
The RailHawks fought with all they had, however, even outplaying the Claret-and-Cobalt at times throughout the match. Their best chance of the match came on a penalty kick in the 48th minute, which the penalty taker blasted well over the crossbar.
The game’s decisive moment came all the way in the 88th minute when a series of one-touch passes inside the RailHawks 18-yard box opened up a shot for Edgar Duran, who made no mistake of it and scored for a dramatic late winner.
The cheering RSL-AZ 16s rushed to the corner flag after the goal, piling on their older teammates in celebration of the late winner to keep the perfect Showcase record intact.
Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-15/16 1-1 Everton FC Westchester
In RSL-AZ’s final game of the 2014 Winter Showcase, the 16s may have been feeling the pressure knowing that a perfect record was on the line with a potential win against Everton FC Westchester.
Everton opened the scoring in the 21st minute, taking advantage of one of RSL-AZ’s weaknesses on a Kevin Yu header from a corner kick for a 1-0 lead that they’d take into half time.
After countless RSL-AZ attacks that failed to yield goals, Josh Drack was able to level up the game in the 72nd minute, smashing a deflected ball into the back of the Everton net to equalize the game.
RSL-AZ pummeled the Everton FC Westchester defense in the final eight minutes in search of a winner, but the opposition was able to hang on for the 1-1 draw, forcing the Claret-and-Cobalt to settle for an undefeated Winter Showcase in lieu of a perfect one.
After a long five days in Florida, Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy will rest up before heading back out onto the road next weekend in a cross-division matchup with DeAnza Force.