Fate lies in the hands of the Houston Dynamo Academy U-16s, presented by Statoil, at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week.
Following a narrow 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake - Arizona, the Dynamo sit at the top of Group 1 with four points with one match to go in group play. A win over Albertson SC on Thursday (6 p.m. CT at Houston Amateur Sports Park) would secure the Dynamo's spot in the championship match for the U-15/16 age bracket at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday. A draw against Albertson would require Real Salt Lake AZ to draw or lose to Texans SC Houston. A Dynamo loss would eliminate them from the tournament.
The Dynamo got off to a dream start against RSL-AZ, tallying the game's only goal in the second minute. Dynamo midfielder Christian Lucatero drew a foul 25 yards out from goal right at the one-minute mark. He stood over the free kick himself, and curled a left-footed shot over the wall and past the stranded RSL 'keeper to give Houston the early lead.
Forward Elo Ozumba nearly doubled the Dynamo's advantage just three minutes later when Lucatero whipped in another free kick. Ozumba got a head on the cross and looked to have the RSL goalkeeper beat, but it fell just outside the post.
Both teams dealt with yet another weather delay in 18th minute, as lightning in the area forced teams to seek shelter for about an hour. This was the third delay in two nights at Finals Week, including another hour-long stoppage on Sunday night.
RSL came out of the break intent on applying pressure to get the equalizing goal, but it was nowhere to be found.
They believed they had it in the 30th minute, when midfielder Jose Hernandez went down in the box and earned RSL a penalty kick. But Moises Rodriguez hit his attempt off the outside of the left post and the Dynamo were able to see out the first half.
The second half was filled with chances for both teams. A back-and-forth opening ten minutes saw two opportunities for both teams. Lucatero continued his impressive display with a couple of long-ranged efforts that went wide of the net. RSL countered with a missed open header and 30 yard shot from Luis Lopez that forced a save from Dynamo goalkeeper Andy Rios.
In the 63rd minute, Lucatero freed forward Josue Palomino with a through ball on the left flank. Palomino sent a teasing cross into the penalty area, but an unmarked Ozumba was unable to time his header to put the ball on frame.
From there it was all RSL in the final 17 minutes, culminating in a free kick from 19 yards out after a Dynamo hand ball in the 77th minute. RSL unleashed a powerful shot that got up and over the wall, but smashed against the crossbar. The Dynamo defense absorbed the pressure from RSL in the final minutes and were able to hold on for their second shutout of Finals Week and the all-important win.
U.S. Soccer Development Academy Scores (Tuesday, July 16, 2013)
Houston Dynamo 1-0 Real Salt Lake AZ
Albertson SC 3-2 Texans SC Houston
De Anza Force 3-2 Crew Soccer Academy Wolves
Solar Chelsea SC 0-0 Colorado Rapids
Albertson SC 5-0 Seattle Sounders
New York Red Bulls 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
De Anza Force 2-1 New England Revolution
Shattuck-St. Mary's Soccer Academy 0-0 St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri