VANCOUVER, BC – In a battle to earn a place among the final four in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) playoffs, Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-16 are set to take on Chicago Magic PSG U-16 on Tuesday, July 8. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. PT at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington.
The winner of Tuesday’s contest will advance to the USSDA semifinals, which will take place on July 17 at the U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center in Carson, California. The USSDA championship match will then be held on July 19.
WHITECAPS FC U-16 RESIDENCY
After missing out on the post-season last year, the young ‘Caps finished as the Northwest Division champions in 2014 thanks to an impressive 15W-5L-7D record. As a result, they advanced to the USSDA Round of 32 and were placed in Group C alongside fellow Major League Soccer academy side Houston Dynamo U-16, Weston FC, and Match Fit Academy.
The first round of the playoffs took place between June 23-27 in Westfield, Indiana, and the Blue and White fought the extreme weather in addition to some very talented opponents en route to a perfect 3W-0L-0D record. In those games, Whitecaps FC U-16 outscored their opponents by a 7-1 margin.
In their first match, which was delayed for over an hour due to a tornado touching down near Westfield, the ‘Caps took down Match Fit Academy U-16 2-0. Striker Dario Zanatta, who led the team with 25 goals in 27 regular appearances this season, potted both goals in the win. The Victoria-born striker also found the back of the net the following game – a 1-0 win over fellow MLS academy Houston Dynamo U-16.
Finally, Vancouver saved their best for last and clinched a berth in the USSDA quarter-finals with a 4-1 win over Weston FC. The ‘Caps were powered by a four-goal second half that saw Zanatta, defender Eric De Graaf, forward Hayden Simmonds-O’Grady, and midfielder Riley Pang find the back of the net.
It was a fantastic week in Westfield now Whitecaps FC U-16 are among the final eight teams in the 78-team USSDA, but head coach Rich Fagan said the team isn’t satisfied just yet.
“The staff are extremely proud of the players’ first round effort and performance,” said Fagan, who spoke glowingly of the team’s defensive play and various offensive contributions, “but we still have everything to play for.”
CHICAGO MAGIC PSG U-16
After posting a 17W-9L-1D record in the Central Conference’s Mid-America Division during the regular season, Chicago fought their way to a 2W-0L-1D record in the first round of the playoffs.
Magic PSG first dispatched of Albertson SC 3-0 on June 24 – 1998-born forward Elijah Rice picked up two of the tallies for Chicago. Luka Prpa, who notched 13 goals in the regular season, had the other.
In their second showdown, Chicago played to a scoreless draw with MLS academy Philadelphia Union U-16. Goalkeeper Konrad Dziedzic was the standout on the day, as he earned a clean sheet to keep Chicago’s chances of advancing alive.
In their third and final match of the group stage, Prpa stole the show again for Magic PSG. The Wisconsin native scored both of Chicago goals en route to a 2-1 win over Kendall SC U-16. Striker Kendall Stork, who led Chicago with 18 goals in the regular season, was held off the scoresheet in the first round of the playoffs.
Fagan said he’s watched extensive footage of Chicago and knows the ‘Caps can’t underestimate them going into Tuesday’s quarter-final.
“Chicago had a strong regular season and they are currently enjoying a positive post-season,” Fagan told whitecapsfc.com. “As a staff, we do everything possible to prepare the players for each opponent, but ultimately the main focus is our own performance.”