Casa Grande, AZ (September 13, 2021) – With all of the players back after the summer, Barça Residency Academy began their 2021-22 MLS NEXT campaign on Saturday at Grande Sports World – Home of Barça Residency Academy. A four-game clash with Chula Vista FC saw Barça’s U-19s and U-17s collect sizable victories, while the U-16s earned a point and U-15s suffered a narrow defeat.
Barça Residency Academy U-19s 7-0 Chula Vista FC
On Saturday morning, Barça’s U-19s charged out to a 7-0 win over Chula Vista FC. Just minutes into the game, Barça winger Samuel Mendoza drove into the box and drew a foul, giving his side the chance to jump out to an early lead. One minute later, Mendoza slid the penalty into the back of the net, getting Barça on the board in the ninth minute.
Seven minutes later, midfielder Rafael Avalos’ long-range shot snuck its way past Chula Vista’s goalkeeper and doubled Barça’s lead. Fully controlling the game at this point, Barça moved the ball comfortably in possession and continued to find gaps in the opposition’s defensive block. In the 33rd minute, Barça exploited one of those gaps. Avalos won the ball in midfield and passed it over to Mendoza on the right wing, who then fired a cross to Korede winger Osundina. Running towards the back post, Osundina received the ball and thumped a shot into the back of the net, making it 3-0.
With time still to play before the halftime whistle, Mendoza drove down the right wing in the 43rd minute and found right back Joseph Buckley, who scored with a first-touch finish at the near post to give Barça a 4-0 lead at the break.
In the second half, Barça continued their quality attacking play with a number of substitutes getting in on the action. Ulysses Martinez assisted Luca Sowinski for the team’s fifth goal, Phillie Villapudua added on a sixth goal in the 78th minute, and Sowinski scored his second goal to round out the scoring in the 80th minute.
“I think one of the strengths we have with this U-19 group this year is we have so much strength in depth,” U-19 head coach Ged Quinn said after the 7-0 win. “The guys that we were bringing off the bench are then able to go in and raise the level for the guys that have maybe put the work in for the first 45 to 60 minutes. And I think we really saw that in the last 30 minutes.”
Between his team’s depth and their strong on-field performance, Quinn found plenty of things to be excited about from Barça’s season-opener.
“I think getting off to a good start is always important,” Quinn said. “I was really happy in the first half. I thought we moved the ball around well, but probably what I was most happy about was when we lost it, how quickly we were able to recover it and then just dictate the tempo.”
Barça Residency Academy U-17s 3-0 Chula Vista FC
Later on Saturday, Barça’s U-17s also took on Chula Vista FC. Controlling much of the early possession, Barça nearly jumped out to a lead just minutes into the game with a header from striker Yahir Gonzalez, but his shot was saved. After nearly 30 minutes of attacking pressure, winger Bryce Jamison put Barça ahead, getting behind the opposing backline and slotting the ball home to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Though Barça had a number of goalscoring chances towards the end of the first half and in the second half, it took them until second half stoppage time to extend their lead. But once stoppage time hit, Barça didn’t hold back: Jordi Alaya’s shot from the right side in the 93rd minute doubled the lead and Idoh Zeltzer-Zubida’s close range finish extended the advantage to 3-0.
“I think it was a good performance from the boys,” head coach Daniel Antúnez said after the game. “I think we dominated the majority of the game. We failed to be more clinical in the first half, that could’ve made it a bit easier in the second half. They started to build a little more momentum, they changed their system which made it more difficult for us to break and opened up the game a bit, but luckily towards the end, we were able to put another goal away that helped us have a little bit more ease.”
According to Antunez, Barça’s victory in their first game of the season will help build confidence and momentum within the group.
“With the momentum that we’ve been having in the preseason, we’ve been having a series of good results and good performances, so this just solidifies what we’ve been doing in terms of the team, how the team has been working, and our evolution throughout the preseason,” Antunez said. “It gives the boys confidence and reassurance that what we’re doing and what we’ve been working on, that there’s an end product to it.”
Barça Residency Academy U-16s 1-1 Chula Vista FC
Using possession to create chances and smothering opposing counter attacks, Emmanuel Lopez’s first half goal helped Barça’s U-16 earn a point against Chula Vista in a match that saw a scoreless second half.
Barça Residency Academy U-15s 1-2 Chula Vista FC
While the U-15s fell to Chula Vista to start their season, they still showed flashes of creativity and connectivity in the attack. Liam Schumacher put Barça on the scoreboard in this game – a goal that will surely be the first of many for the U-15s this season.
All four of the Barça Residency Academy MLS NEXT teams will face off against SC del Sol in MLS NEXT play on Friday, September 17, 2021 as they seek to continue their strong start to the season.