The Houston Dynamo Academy Under-18 and Under-16 teams both secured vital wins on Wednesday in the 2015 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana. The U-18s rolled to a 4-1 win over Orlando City SC behind a hat trick from Charly Flores and a goal from Christian Lucatero. The U-16s rallied via a second-half hat trick from Christian Molina for a 3-1 triumph over Everton FC.
Both teams have a rest day on Thursday before playing their final playoff game on Friday morning with both in contention for a place in the Academy Championships. Each team can advance to the Academy Championships, featuring the best eight Academy teams in North America, under the following scenarios:
Win or draw vs. Crossfire Premier (Fri., 8 a.m. CT)
• Tied with Crossfire on points, but hold two goal edge in goal differential
Win by two or more goals vs. Philadelphia Union (Fri., 10:15 a.m. CT)
• Currently trail by two goals in goal differential, one goal in goals scored (next tiebreaker)
• Any win by two goals would tie us on GD and put us one goal ahead goals scored
• Any win by three or more goals would advance us on goal differential
The U-18s made three lineup changes after a 3-2 win over Vardar Academy on Tuesday, with midfielder Christian Lucatero back from suspension and in for Mason Schuster, Jose Duarte in at right back for Juan Martinez and Kevin Rodriguez replacing Juan David Agredo in midfield after recording two assists Tuesday.
“Orlando City was a good side and they worked really hard,” Dynamo Academy U-18 head coach and director of youth development James Clarkson said. “Orlando made it difficult, especially the first 25 minutes. With our first real attack, (Charly) Flores scored a great goal, after a good buildup with combination play he chipped into top corner.”
On the second goal, Duarte won the ball and the Dynamo quickly counterattacked with the move ending as Lucatero dribbled past a few defenders and passed to Flores for his second goal.
Orlando City continued to apply pressure early in the second half , but Flores completed his hat trick to put the game out of reach.
“I still feel we haven’t hit our stride yet, so to score seven goals in two games is a good sign,” Clarkson added. "We went about the game with a good attitude today and controlled it from the start to finish, with more focus today.”
Clarkson welcomed Lucatero back to the lineup after the midfielder was suspended for Tuesday’s opener due to yellow-card accumulation. The Oregon State commit was part of the most recent U.S. U-18 national team camp and finished top 10 nationally in the USSDA in both goals and goals per game, scoring 23 times in 24 contests. Lucatero has spent time training with the Dynamo first team since the end of the school year and added the game's fourth goal.
“Today Lucatero was best player on the field by a mile,” Clarkson said. “After his time with the first team, the maturity of the way he plays is really coming though.”
The 18s will enjoy a day off Thursday and prepare for a winner-take-all showdown against Crossfire (Washington) Premier on Friday morning. A win or a draw will see the U-18s advance to the Academy Championships.
“Crossfire won again today (4-3 over Vardar) – they can score goals, they are organized,” Clarkson said. “It’s all to play for. They are confident they can beat us. It’s a tough game, and I think we can match up physically with anybody, and that’s when I think our technical ability is the difference. I think the rest day is very important for us to recover.”
The Dynamo U-18s will carry harsh lessons learned at the Academy Playoffs in Indiana last year into Friday’s showdown with Crossfire. After opening the 2014 Playoffs with two wins, the U-18s were a virtual lock on advancement to Finals Week, but fell to Chivas USA 4-0 in the final game to end their season in shocking fashion.
Dynamo Academy U-18s vs. Orlando City SC: Andy Rios; Jose Duarte, Quayyum Murana*, Sterling Noriega, David Brown, Josue Palomino, David Koloko, Christian Lucatero, Kevin Rodriguez; Charly Flores, Giovanni Pacheco
The Dynamo Academy U-16s bounced back from a bitter 2-1 defeat on Tuesday with a 3-1 win on Wednesday. After conceding two goals in second-half stoppage time for a heartbreaking defeat against Weston (Florida) FC, the U-16s managed a comfortable 3-1 victory over Everton FC Westchester (New York) to remain in contention entering Friday’s final games.
“The boys started fantastic and played very well the first 25 minutes, but Everton scored the last kick of the first half,” Clarkson said. “The team was disappointed to be trailing at halftime, but the first 10 minutes of second half they defended well to keep it 1-nil. They then took control of game and Molina scored a hat trick.”
Molina, a regular with the U.S. U-14 and U-15 national teams over the last two years, scored 13 goals in 26 games this season.
“Molina was fantastic and he ran them ragged,” Clarkson said. “He had good movement off the ball to create space for himself, and his composure in front of goal on all three goals was excellent.”
Clarkson was pleased with the U-16’s response after Tuesday’s disappointing loss.
“Other than last minute of Tuesday’s game, we should be on six points. The boys’ response today was fantastic, to come out and play like that, and from behind shows a real character and determination.”
To advance to the Academy Championships, the Dynamo U-16s must defeat the Philadelphia Union by two or more goals on Friday morning.
“I think Philly are very good – they are big and athletic – and as you see from our group, all the scores are similar.”
The winners from all eight playoff groups per age group advance to the Academy Championships, with higher seeded teams hosting lower seeds in a knockout match on July 7 (for U-18) and July 8 (U-16). The four winners from each age group then travel to the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California for the final knockout and placement matches on July 16 and 18.