December 11, 2017
Barça Academy posted perhaps their most impressive weekend to date, going undefeated across five matches in two days. Following strong performances at the USSDA Winter Showcase in Lakewood Ranch, Florida last weekend, Barça Academy returned home for matches against Albion SC and Arsenal FC on consecutive days.
On Saturday, the U-15s avenged their Albion SC loss that that occurred less than one month ago with a comprehensive 3-1 victory, while the U-17s drew with the San Diego club 1-1. On Sunday, fighting fatigue and inclement weather, the U-17s rallied to defeated Arsenal FC 3-1 in the early match of the day. Later, in simultaneous kickoffs, the U-15s drew with Arsenal FC 1-1, and the U-19s continued their streak of strong performances in a 3-0 victory.
In the first match of the weekend, Barça Academy’s U-15 side took on an Albion SC team that had defeated them by a score of 3-0 in San Diego less than one month ago. In the previous match, coach Ged Quinn thought his team had performed well, but Albion had been dangerous on the counterattack and clinical in front of goal. It was clear from the outset that his team had learned its lesson from the defeat, and put on a strong performance.
Barça Academy was dangerous in the early goings, with Caden Clark and Dylan Akau coming close in the opening exchanges, but the U-15s had to wait until the 19th minute to open the scoring. Jacob Spurgiesz produced a wonderful piece of center-forward play, receiving the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the area, feinting and swiveling to get himself faced up towards goal, and finishing powerfully past the goalkeeper from a stationary position.
The match proceeded comfortably for the next ten minutes, before disaster struck for Barça Academy. Albion SC was playing in their typically direct fashion, and the U-15 backline misjudged a long ball coming out of defense, allowing an Albion SC player a free run at goal from the halfway line. Central defender Fernando Garate attempted to intervene with a last-ditch tackle, but took the man before the ball and was duly sent off by the referee. This left Barça Academy to play with 10 men for the remaining 10 minutes in the first, and the entire 40-minute second half.
To their credit, the U-15s responded well, staying disciplined and even fashioning a chance for Ricardo Benitez before the break.
Two minutes after halftime, Barça Academy doubled their lead through Spurgiesz. He made a powerful run with the ball through the center of the field, and when no one stepped to him as he reached the edge of the area, he lashed a shot into the top corner to give the U-15s a 2-0 lead and a bit of breathing room in the match.
Ten minutes later, in the 52nd minute, Spurgiesz would complete his hattrick and put the match out of reach. The Albion SC defense collapsed around Dylan Akau as he received a bouncing ball, and he showed great improvisation to flick a header over to the defenders and into Spurgiesz’s path. The striker made no mistakes, connecting cleanly with a volley which flew past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Albion SC would get a goal back from the penalty spot with the last kick of the match to ruin goalkeeper Emiliano Andraux’s clean sheet, but it mattered little to the overall result.
“Obviously going a man down just before halftime is always going to be tough, but I thought the guys actually handled that transition quite well,” said Quinn after the match. “We were effective in transition going forward, and Jacob was clinical in front of goal.”
The following match of the day saw the U-17s take on Albion SC. These sides had also played less than a month ago, with Sean McCafferty’s Barça Academy putting on one of their best displays of the year in 0-0 on a day where the shooting boots were missing.
Barça Academy once again set about dominating the ball and dictating the match, but chances were hard to come by in the opening half. Roberto Molina went close in the 7th minute, and Cameron Fisher drew a save from the goalkeeper in the 40th minute, but the game seemed to be deadlocked until the 41st minute when a slick through ball from Fisher split the defense and played in Jake LaCava. The winger spotted the goalkeeper cheating towards the far post and slotted in at the near post to give Barça Academy the lead.
The second half seemed to pass without much incident, with Barça Academy again controlling the tempo of the match. Molina and Fisher again had chances, but neither could add to the U-17s lead.
In the 76th minute, Barça Academy conceded from one of the only chances of the match for Albion. A free kick floated into the box created trouble for the U-17 defense and after several attempts was put past Sam Lee in the Barça Academy goal.
Substitute Matthew Hoppe would work a few chances for himself late on, but nothing came off and the U-17s were again left frustrated with a draw against Albion.
“I thought we dominated the game from start to finish, much like the previous game when we played them,” said McCafferty. “I thought when we got the goal just before halftime, we would go on to win the game comfortably, but we’ve been punished for giving away an unnecessary free kick, and we haven’t been good enough in front of goal.”
Barça Academy’s U-17s faced a quick turnaround, as they took on Arsenal FC less than 24 hours later at Grande Sports World. A heavily rotated side started slowly, as one would expect from a team that was playing its second match in two days, but gradually grew into the game. Along with fatigue, Barça Academy would also have to battle the elements, with extreme wind conditions setting in on Casa Grande.
Matthew Hoppe would create a decent chance for Jake LaCava in the 17th minute, but otherwise, Arsenal FC pressed Barça Academy well in the opening stages of the match. The U-17s were forced to lean on goalkeeper, Luke Pruter, who mad a fantastic save in the 22nd minute when it looked as though Arsenal was bound to open the scoring after good interchange in the box.
The opening goal of the match fell Barça Academy’s way in the 32nd minute. An Arsenal FC defender failed to properly judge a flighted ball aimed at Roberto Molina and his scuffed clearance played the Barça Academy winger clean through on goal. Molina drew the goalkeeper out and made no mistakes slotting it past him to give the U-17s a 1-0 lead.
Barça Academy would have their own struggles with the elements though, and in the 42nd minute, Arsenal FC got an equalizer after the U-17 defense failed to properly deal with a cross manipulated by the wind.
The sides would enter the halftime break tied at 1-1, but the score would not remain that way for long. Starting in the 52nd minute, Matthew Hoppe would grab two goals in two minutes on nearly identical sequences after fantastic wing play from LaCava and Molina.
Hoppe would have a chance to get his hattrick in the 77th minute, but was denied well by the goalkeeper in what would turn out to be the last significant chance of the match.
“I thought we started a little slow today, and probably scored against the run of play, but the goal settled us down and probably should have had a second before they managed to equalize,” said McCafferty. “The second half, we were very good, and when we’re clinical in front of goal, we are very difficult to beat.”
Following the U-17 match, Barça Academy’s U-15s and U-19s kicked off simultaneously against Arsenal FC.
The U-15s started very slowly, showing signs of fatigue following their match the previous day. Though they controlled the play, they lacked the normal incision that comes when the players are fresh. Only one chance was created in the first period of play, with Antonio Calderon whipping in a dangerous cross with the wind at his back, but Andres Zavaleta could get on the end of it with the goal gaping.
In the second half, Caden Clark would have a chance just two minutes in from a free kick, but the goalkeeper did well to scramble across and push the shot away.
The elements would come into play as the U-15s conceded the opening goal in the 64th minute. Goalkeeper Danis Cajic and his central defenders couldn’t get on the same page on a flighted ball manipulated by the wind, which allowed and Arsenal FC forward to nip in for the opening goal.
Barça Academy would respond immediately, and grab an equalizer just two minutes later, though the goal had help in part by the wind. Arsenal’s goalkeeper was unable to judge Charlie Matsumoto’s high shot and took himself completely out of the play as the rebound fell to Dylan Akau, who was left with the simplest of tasks to tap in from two yards out.
Cajic would atone for the defense mix-up with five minutes left in the match by making a fantastic double save on a pair of 1v1 opportunities in quick succession, but Barça Academy was forced to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw.
“I don’t think we were at our best today, but we can’t blame the fact that it was a double-header weekend,” said Quinn. “We struggled to move the ball as efficiently as we need to, I know the conditions are windy but didn’t move the ball from side to side as we needed to, and Arsenal, to be fair came and made it difficult for us.”
Barça Academy’s U-19s capped off the weekend with a resounding 3-0 win over Arsenal FC. The U-19s were the only side of the three Academy teams that only had one match on the weekend, and came out and dominated the early exchanges. Daniel Corona was dangerous in the early goings, creating chances for himself in the 26th and 31st minute, then playing provider for Arturo Ernand in the 44th, but Barça Academy was forced to settle for a 0-0 score-line at halftime.
That would all change in the 52nd minute when Julian Araujo moved forward from his berth in the center of defense and connected sweetly with a volley which flew past the goalkeeper and off the post on its way in.
Barça Academy would seal the win with two goals in quick succession starting in the 67th minute, in which Daniel Corona played a prominent role. First Corona would play provider and giving Emilio Echerivel a tap-in, then two minutes later, he would seal the game, smashing one past the goalkeeper from distance himself to make the score 3-0.
“We struggled a bit in the first half, not only because of the conditions of the field, but also the wind made it difficult to play,” said coach Daniel Antunez. “I think Daniel Corona did a great job today, creating a lot for us in the second half, and once we got the first goal, the game just opened up.”
Barça Academy now enters a period of break for the winter holidays. They next take the field in Los Angeles at the StubHub Center against LA Galaxy Academy on February 3rd.
U-15: Barça Academy 3 vs. Albion SC 1
U-17: Barça Academy 1 vs. Albion SC 1
U-15: Barça Academy 1 vs. Arsenal FC 1
U-17: Barça Academy 3 vs. Arsenal FC 1
U-19: Barça Academy 3 vs. Arsenal FC 0
The U-15, U-17 and U-19 teams will take the field in Los Angeles at the StubHub Center against LA Galaxy Academy on February 3rd.
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