As the regular season has gone awry in recent weeks for the Chicago Fire senior team, the academies have quietly proven themselves as some of the best in the country. Whereas the Fire U18s came up one match short from making it to nationals, the U16s won the U15/16 Development Academy National Championship Friday night over the Cal Odyssey in Carson, Ca.
The two teams squared off in a relatively even affair, ending regulation and two periods of overtime tied 1-1, but Chicago managed to pull away 5-3 in penalty kicks.
The Fire pulled ahead in the 20th minute as Luis Medina volleyed in a class strike from 19 yards out after receiving a cross from a corner kick by Victor Pineda.
After a number of solid opportunities, Cal Odyssey, who returned five players from a side that made it to the national final last season, equalized with a goal in the 56th minute. Villyan Bijev split the defense with ball played through to Greg Antongoli, who got the better of a one-on-one with keeper Sam Euler, scoring from eight yards out.
Following the overtime periods, Euler would make the play of the match in penalty kicks. The Odyssey’s Jon-Paul Medina accounted for the only miss, which Euler saved. All Fire players scored their penalties with Andrew Connor squeezing the ball past the diving Matt Dishno for the game-winning score.
In the three-year history of the Development Academy National Championship, the Fire U16s became the first MLS academy to take home the title.