Saturday was packed full of action for Barça Academy, with the Academy teams in action against Portland Timbers, and the pre-Academy teams playing friendlies. The U-15s opened with a resounding come-from-behind win by a score of 2-1 to start the day, behind two goals from Andres Zavaleta. Both the U-17s and U-19s suffered heartbreaking losses by one-goal margins. The U-17s started strong but fell behind after a controversial refereeing decision. The U-19s fought back from an early Portland goal to tie the match but conceded again in stoppage time of the second half.
The action started early in the morning with Barça Academy’s U-15s taking on Portland. The youngest Academy side came out ready to play and created a great chance within the first 30 seconds of the match. Fullback Frank Alvarez played in Jacob Spurgiesz in the left channel and the attacker’s shot overpowered the goalkeeper but slammed off the crossbar and rebounded out.
Dante Williams was next to have a go in the fourth minute, showing off lovely skill to deal with a bouncing ball and flick around an onrushing defender. He connected cleanly with a volley, but the Timber’s goalkeeper managed to pull off a great save high to his left.
Spurgiesz would follow up four minutes later with another volley, but could only direct it straight at the goalkeeper, who held on well.
Against the run of play, Portland would open the scoring in the 18th minute. A good passing sequence through the middle of the field left Barça Academy exposed on the flank and the Timbers right winger would exploit the space he was left to drive into the box and finish past U-15 goalkeeper Danis Cajic.
Barça Academy would draw level on the stroke of halftime. Ricardo Benitez showed great skill to beat his man down the touchline and played a great ball across which eliminated the defense and goalkeeper and left Andres Zavaleta with the simplest of tasks to tap in from four yards.
Benitez and Spurgiesz would threaten early in the second half, but Barça Academy would be made to wait until the 51st minute to find the winner. Dante Williams produced a bit of magic to dance around a pair of defenders at the edge of the area, he squared for Zavaleta, who showed great composure to sweep a one-touch finish past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Williams and Benitez would both have chances before the game was up, but neither would convert, the defense held strong as Barça Academy ran out 2-1 winners.
“It wasn’t one of our better performances even though we did start the game very well,” said Coach Ged Quinn. “There were plenty of positives though, and the boys showed great character to fight back.”
In the next match of the day, the U-17s looked to build on a good performance the previous weekend against Albion and started the match on the front foot.
Julian Araujo started the match on fire, driving at Portland’s defense from his berth at right back and looked to be the most dangerous player on the field. In the fourth minute, his run from deep eliminated a pair of defenders and freed up Matthew Hoppe, whose curled effort drew a good save from the Portland goalkeeper.
The opening goal of the match would come four minutes later, and it would again be Araujo as the instigator. He got on the ball, drove past Portland’s defense, and rolled a low cross to Cameron Fisher, who slotted it past the goalkeeper to give Barça Academy the lead.
In the 12th minute, Fisher would turn from scorer to provider to double Barça Academy’s advantage. Fisher showed off incredible skill to draw the defense in, the hen found Christian Ortiz with a backheel flick. Ortiz was left to dribble unimpeded straight to the goal and finished coolly through the legs of the goalkeeper.
Fisher and Robert Molina would also have chances, but the deciding moment of the match would take place in the 35th minute. A collision in the Barça Academy box led the referee to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot, he produced a red card shown to Araujo, despite the protestations of the player and Coach Sean McCafferty. Portland converted from the spot to bring the score to 2-1.
Barça Academy would have chances through Jacob Fitzgerald and Hoppe in the beginning of the second half, but would soon be overwhelmed by playing down a man. Portland would get an equalizer in the 67th minute and add a third and a fourth in the 85th and 88th minute to put the game out of reach.
Barça would fight back and add a third in stoppage time through a header from a corner from Pedro Mondragon, but couldn’t find another to tie the score. The match ended 4-3 in Portland’s favor.
“We started fantastically well. We had set a goal of getting one in the first ten minutes and we ended up with two in twelve,” said McCafferty. “We felt it could have been five or six to null after the opening, but the referee made a decision which changed the game. We should have reacted better.”
The U-19s rounded out the day at Grande Sports World against the Portland Timbers. New player, Daniel Corona started up top for Barça Academy and would get the first chance of the match in the eighth minute. He outjumped his defender to meet a header in the box, his looping effort beat a scrambling goalkeeper but bounced out off the crossbar.
Corona would create the next chance in the 20th minute, pressing the Portland defense in their own half of the field and winning the ball back. Enrique Zamora would have a chance to shoot, but his effort was just wide of the target.
Goalkeeper Dante Perez would make an excellent save in a 1-v-1 situation in the 27th minute, but Barça Academy would remain under pressure. Portland Timbers would open the scoring three minutes later in the 30th minute on a fluky play. Barça Academy was defending well in the box, but a Portland attacker deflected a shot off his own foot, which looped over Perez’s head and into the goal.
Austin Amer would have a chance from a free kick before the half was up, but couldn’t find the target, they entered halftime down 0-1.
Barça Academy came out far livelier for the second period of play. Antonio Pugliese would have a pair of chances in the 50th and 53rd minutes, but the goalkeeper saved both efforts to keep the U-19s off the board.
The breakthrough would come from Barça Academy in the 65th minute. A great interchange between the dangerous Corona and Pugliese set Pugliese free in the box, he kept his composure to finish to the far post and bring Barça Academy level, 1-1.
George Kobel had a chance in the 78th minute, otherwise, the match seemed to be heading towards a draw, with both teams sharing the spoils. Two minutes into stoppage time, however, Barça Academy would concede what would turn out to be the deciding goal in a 2-1 loss.
“I’m really disappointed for the boys because I thought we fought back well,” said Coach Daniel Antunez. “To give up a late goal like that is so disappointing because we definitely deserved more.”
The pre-Academy sides are on winter break from the Arizona State and Premier Leagues but played friendlies at Grande Sports World. The U-16s cruised to a 4-0 win over AZ Legacy, while the U-18s defeated Tanque Verde SC by a score of 2-1.
Barça Academy next travel to Lakewood Ranch, Florida where the U-17s and U19s will take part in the US Soccer Winter Showcase November 30th through December 4th.
U-15: Barça Academy 2 vs. Portland Timbers Academy 1
U-17: Barça Academy 3 vs. Portland Timbers Academy 4
U-19: Barça Academy 1 vs. Portland Timbers Academy 2
U-16: Barça Academy 4 vs. AZ Legacy 0
U-18: Barça Academy 2 vs. Tanque Verde SC 1
November 30 – December 4
The U -17 and U-19 teams will travel to Lakewood Ranch, Florida where they will play in the US Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase November 30th through December 4th, game dates and times TBA.
USSDA play will resume December 9th at Grande Sports World vs. Albion SC (U-15 and U-17)
Want to be a part of Barça Academy? Register for camps at:
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @barcaacademyaz for all your Barça Academy news and updates.