D.C. United’s U-18 and U-16 squads returned home from Bradenton, Fla., after strong Development Academy Winter Showcase performances from an extended weekend trip, going 2-1-0 and 2-0-1, respectively.
A dominant display against the North Carolina Fusion in the opening match saw the U-18 squad win handily with a 5-1 result. Nigel Robinson (Woodbridge, Va.; Prince William Soccer Inc.) notched a brace, with Ian Harkes (Fairfax, Va.; Herndon Youth Soccer), Kennedy O’Shea (Fairfax, Va.; Herndon Youth Soccer) and David Warburton (Westminster, Md.; FC Frederick) also adding goals. In the team’s second game against top Frontier Division side FC Dallas, United pulled out a 1-0 victory. Despite chances for both teams, the scoreline remained 0-0 at the half. In a substitute appearance, O’Shea headed in the game-winner in the 62nd minute, and the Black-and-Red kept the clean sheet. In a goalfest against Chivas USA in the final match, the U-18s lost to the Goats in a close 4-3 result. Although the Black-and-Red built two leads during the game – the first when Robinson opened the scoring account in the 31st minute and the second when Jorge Calix (Ft. Washington, Md.; Team America Premier) struck net in the 73rd minute to make it 3-2 – Chivas USA rebounded to score two goals in the final 15 minutes to secure the victory. The other United strike came from Kainoa Bailey (Washington, D.C.; Heroes FC), who tied the game at two in the 61st minute.
“Overall, we were pleased with the performances in Bradenton. FC Dallas and Chivas USA are two of the top Academy programs in the country and we nearly got a result in both games,” said Head Coach Nolan Sheldon. “We had strong individual performances in each of the matches, with our best team performance coming in the FC Dallas match. We set out to earn seven points in the three matches, so we fell a bit short of our goal, but there are a number of positives to take out of the showcase that will give the group confidence moving forward.”
The U-16s went undefeated at the Showcase, opening with a 6-1 rout over the North Carolina Fusion. Despite going down 1-0 in the 21st minute, United regrouped and responded with six unanswered strikes. Graydon Hester (Middleburg, Va.; Lee Mt. Vernon) and Gerson Umana (Lorton, Va.; Prince William Soccer Inc.) led the charge with a brace apiece, with goals also coming from Milton Juarez (Woodbridge, Va.; Prince William Soccer Inc.) – who played up by two years in his first game as a U-16 – and Julian Cummings (Fredericksburg, Va.; McLean Development Academy). By comparison, the second match against FC Dallas was a much closer and action-packed affair, with the Black-and-Red eking out a 1-0 victory. In the 31st minute, Hester finished a corner kick from Umana to take the lead. Seven minutes after the interval, Steven Gandy (Gainesville, Va.; Prince William Soccer Inc.) received a red card, but the U-16s were able to preserve the shutout despite playing a man down for the final 30+ minutes. In United’s last match, the squad tied the U16s of Chivas USA 2-2. After going up 1-0 in the 25th minute from a Noah Pilato (Oak Hill, Va.; Chantilly Soccer Club) strike, D.C. fell behind when the Goats scored two unanswered goals to then take the lead in the 70th minute. Five minutes later, a screamer from Mike Monahan (Falls Church, Va.; McLean Soccer Club) equalized the match, and the score held at two apiece.
With the results from the Showcase, the U16s boasts the best points-per-game average (2.69) in the nation, and the side is the only divisional leader that has yet to lose a match. Additionally, Umana’s 11 goals on the season lead all players from all academies.
“Overall, the trip was a complete success,” said Head Coach Tom Torres. “We set out for the boys to travel well and manage three matches in a short period of time, including two games versus quality MLS sides. To come out of the weekend with some real meaningful and exciting matches, in front of U.S. Soccer and a lot of college coaches really enhanced the players’ and staff's development. We were proud that the group was also able to get some good results from the quality they showed. The will now get a much-deserved winter break, and then get back to work in late January.”
In the U.S. Soccer Select games, Steven Gandy (U-16s) played the entire 90 minutes, while defender Suliaman Dainkeh (U-18s; Reston, Va.) put in a 45-minute shift and Kainoa Bailey (U-18s) saw action for the full 90 minutes as a right winger.