The Houston Dynamo Academy Under-18s overcame a pair of two-goal deficits before suffering a shattering 4-3 defeat to the Chicago Fire Academy in the quarterfinals of the USSDA Academy Championships in front of over 500 supporters Tuesday night at Houston Sports Park. The loss ends the most successful season in Dynamo Academy history, including a first-place finish in the regular-season and a sweep of the group stage at the Academy Playoffs.
With the game tied 3-3 in second-half stoppage time, a Chicago buildup ended on the left edge of the penalty area, where a soft cross at the near post was deflected into the net, delivering the Fire a 4-3 lead. Moments later, the final whistle sounded.
The Academy U-18s fell behind 2-0 within 39 minutes after two goals from Fire forward Ryan Sierakowski.
Houston entered the second half facing the two-goal deficit and a man disadvantage after Josue Palomino received his second yellow card late in the first half and was sent off.
The Dynamo opened the second half with new energy and gained a way back into the game within six minutes as Fire defender Oscar Gonzalez was sent off for a hand ball in the box and the Dynamo were awarded a penalty.
U.S. U-18 midfielder Christian Lucatero drilled the spot kick into the bottom right corner to pull the Dynamo within a goal.
The deficit returned to two 15 minutes later as Chicago’s Andrew Gutman smashed a low strike inside the far post from outside of the penalty area for a 3-1 lead.
Houston’s Charly Flores answered three minutes later, scoring his 25th goal of the season from the top of the box.
The Dynamo U-18s continued to attack the right flank and service from that side resulted in contact in the box and another Dynamo penalty kick. Lucatero converted his second penalty of the half, this time with a firm strike down the middle, for his team-best 26th goal of the year to make it 3-3.
Flores, the star of the Academy Playoffs in Indiana with seven goals in three games, nearly produced a dramatic winner in the final minutes. He timed his run well to beat two defenders from midfield, collecting a through ball and driving toward goal before curling a shot toward the top corner for a possible game-winner, but the Chicago goalkeeper dove far to his left to tip away and keep the score level.
The loss ended a six-game win streak for the Academy U-18s, who end the season 22-6-3 while outscoring opponents 88-41. The squad won the program’s first Frontier Division championship and won all three of its games two weeks ago at the Academy Playoffs, one of only two U-18 squads (along with Real Salt Lake Arizona) to sweep its group.
It caps a distinguished Dynamo Academy career for a group of players born 1996 or later, which included three straight trips to the Academy Playoffs and national quarterfinal appearances in 2013 and 2015.
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