September 23, 2019
Casa Grande, Ariz – Playing at Grande Sports World for the second week in a row, Barça Residency Academy’s U-19s, U-17s, and U15s took on Irvine’s Strikers FC on Sunday morning. Barça’s U-19s and U-15s started the day with a pair of competitive 1-1 draws and the U-17s put together a strong performance to end the day with an impressive 4-1 win.
Barça Residency Academy U-19 vs. Strikers FC
After a wild, end-to-end 5-5 draw with Crossfire Premier last week, the Barça U-19s played to a more reserved, yet still competitive, 1-1 draw with Strikers FC on Sunday. Strikers focused on compressing space with a strong defensive scheme, forcing Barça Residency Academy to work extremely hard to break through in the attack.
“Today we dominated the play for long periods but we weren’t as clean in possession in the attacking half as we needed to be. Strikers did a good job of condensing the middle of the field and we forced the play a little too much resulting in too many transitions for them,” head coach Ged Quinn said after the match.
Though Barça had a couple of chances to get on the scoreboard first – Takumi Ikeda had a shot on goal in the 28th minute that was saved by the opposing goalkeeper and Miles Lyon had a shot in the 55th minute that sailed just wide – Strikers FC jumped into the lead with a goal in the 56th minute.
However, less than a minute after falling behind, Diego Luna leveled the game for Barça Residency Academy. Ikeda carried the ball through midfield and played a well-weighted pass to Luna, who powered through Strikers’ backline and beat the keeper to tie the game at 1-1.
“We showed good character after going a goal down and the response from the guys was a good one to get back on level terms so quickly,” Quinn said.
Luna’s goal energized the team, but despite generating a number of scoring opportunities late in the match, Barça could not find the game-winner. They even had the chance to pull ahead with a penalty kick in the 86th minute, but Bryce Duke’s attempt hit the crossbar instead of the back of the net.
“We pushed on in the last 10-15 minutes to try and get the winner,” Quinn said. “Missing the PK was unfortunate because in my opinion the guys deserve more than two ties from the first two games of the season.”
While Barça was unable to secure a victory over Strikers FC, their ability to fight back from a deficit and continue to threaten in the attack until the final whistle are two things that the team can build on as the DA season continues.
Barça Residency Academy U-15 vs. Strikers FC
Emulating the scoreline of the U-19s’ match, Barça Residency Academy’s U-15s played to a 1-1 draw against Strikers FC as well. Barça had an up-and-down first 40 minutes, but did have a pair of dangerous chances close to halftime.
In the 29th minute, Gabriel Enriquez played a low cross into the box for Miles Mukherjea-Gehrig, who nearly beat the goalkeeper with his shot. Then in the 36th minute, Mukherjea-Gehrig returned the favor, switching the ball over to Enriquez on the left wing. Enriquez dribbled past a defender and took a shot, but missed just wide.
Coming out of halftime, Barça was dominant. They moved the ball well in possession and created a number of scoring opportunities, culminating in David Navarro’s 73rd minute goal. Navarro settled a bouncing ball with a lovely first touch, found a sliver of space, and beat the keeper with a well-placed strike to give Barça Residency Academy a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the home team, the lead was short-lived. Strikers equalized just four minutes after Navarro put Barça in front.
“We had another good performance but a disappointing result,” head coach Daniel Antunez said. “The boys worked well to get the goal ten minutes before the end but a mistake cost us another three points. But overall we were happy with the performance and the work displayed by the team.”
Barça Residency Academy U-17 vs. Strikers FC
Once the U-19s and the U-15s completed their matches, Barça’s U-17s took the field for their clash with Strikers FC. The U-17s rebounded from last week’s tough 2-0 loss to Crossfire Premier with an impressive 4-1 win on Sunday.
“I was very proud of the team for their performance and how they responded to last week’s result,” head coach Chris Harmon said. “We were much improved in the attacking third and we took our chances well.”
It only took four minutes for Barça to get out in front. Center back Moises Mondragon carried the ball forward and passed to Ulysses Martinez, who was fouled after receiving the ball in inside the box. Martinez calmly stepped up to take the penalty and powered it past the goalkeeper.
Six minutes later, Ocean Salari and Ronan Kratt combined to double Barça Residency Academy’s lead. Salari received the ball in the middle of the attacking third, drove to the end line, and found Kratt at the back post for a tap-in.
With the exception of a Strikers FC goal in the 15th minute, Barça controlled the first 45 minutes of play: they moved the ball well in the attacking half and capitalized on a couple of chances. Those themes carried over into the second half.
Salari stole the ball from an opposing defender in the 55th minute and played a forward pass to Dante Williams, who picked up his head and beat the opposing goalkeeper with a strong shot into the bottom left corner of the net to make the scoreline 3-1.
To add a fourth goal to the tally, Samuel Mendoza Ruiz cut in from the left wing in the 75th minute, slalomed through four defenders, and cut the ball back to Salari. Salari took a soft first touch, beat a defender, and finished at the far post.
With Sunday’s 4-1 win, Barça’s U-17s proved that they can score goals, maintain a lead over the course of a match, and put together a complete performance on any given week.
Barça Residency Academy’s three DA teams are off this week, but they will travel to Oak Park, California next weekend for a doubleheader against Real So Cal on October 5th and Strikers FC on October 6th.