The final and most challenging game day for the U-18s was finally here. The players groggily awoke for their final game against top ranked Real Salt Lake AZ. The 11:15 game was upon everyone before they knew it. The sun was out and blistering hot for a team that had just left 20 degree weather and snow a few days ago. The wind helped a bit, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky as United looked to upset the defending Developmental Academy champions.
The game started out at a very fast pace with both teams looking to attack and score. The first twenty minutes were rough for United as they looked to counter and disrupt their opponents rhythm, but Real Salt Lake scored in the 12th minute off a set piece from 30 yards out. United had several scoring opportunities in the first half, including two that went off the post and a no-call in the penalty area. United found themselves one goal down at halftime with 45 minutes to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net. Bashir Hooper was subbed in at halftime and proved to be one of the defining factors in the outcome of the game. Michael Monahan beat two Salt Lake defenders and crossed the ball to Hooper, who slotted the ball home in the 68th minute to tie the score at 1-1. The intensity of the game immediately picked up as Salt Lake pushed forward for the winning goal. Goalkeeper Jimmy Knoebel had two clutch saves in the last five minutes to deny Real Salt Lake their winning goal. The Black-and-Red worked hard as a unit to defend the flurry of attacks. When the final whistle blew, United was able to hold on to a gritty and well-deserved 1-1 tie against the number one Developmental Academy team in the nation.
The U-18s walked off the field to round of applause from the D.C. United U-16s, and high-fived and patted each other on the back. The excited mood was contagious as everyone packed their gear up and headed to the bus. Jimmy Filerman, Christian Kershaw, Jimmy Knoebel and Hiram Munoz-Cantu played all 90 minutes of all three games at the Winter Showcase. Over 30+ college coaches showed up to every single D.C. United U-18 game and asked multiple questions about many of the players. The U-18s ended the Showcase with a 1-1-1 record and will have a few weeks to rest until they begin training again in January.
The U-16s enjoyed their free day by watching the U-18s play and having a cheering match against the Real Salt Lake U-16 team. More beach volleyball, Ping-Pong, corn hole and FIFA were played as the U-16s enjoyed a day in the sun. The entire academy had dinner at Café Amici and walked around St. Armands Circle to end the day. The U-16s will look to end the Showcase with an undefeated record on Sunday, Dec. 15 against the San Jose Earthquakes at 9 a.m.
The team will return to Washington, D.C. on Sunday, Dec. 15 and immediately head back to school, homework and chilly northern weather. Goodbye sunny and warm Florida! See you next year!