If you follow the the Hot Time In Old Town twitter account, you know that this has been a busy week for the Chicago Fire youth teams. The Chicago Fire PDL, U-19, U-17, and U-15 teams have all been in action and Chicago Fire senior roster player but youth eligible Victor Pineda received some playing time in the international Milk Cup tournament. Chicago even got some buzz over a new potential Home Grown Player signing in Kellen Gulley. Between some insight from Chicago Fire Youth Development Director John Dorn and some good old-fashioned research, follow me after the break for a summary of everything happen across Chicago Fire Country.
Chicago Fire PDL
The top story comes out of Pontiac, Michigan where the Chicago Fire PDL team made the PDL Central Conference Final Four. Their opponent was the Thunder Bay Chill of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The Fire were a bit depleted by some players going back to college like Josey Portillo and leading goal-scorer Chris Estridge. In Estridge's case it is even more complicated because he recently was invited to temporarily train with Sporting Kansas City for a week. The Indianapolis midfielder garnered the eye of SKC when the Fire PDL team played against them in the U.S. Open Cup and the Fire have no rights to Estridge because he never played in the Fire Academy. Meanwhile the Chill are veterans of PDL playoffs having won the North American PDL Championship in 2008 and reached the finals last year in 2010. The Chill brought an older and more experienced team and it showed in the final result as the Fire were defeated 1-0. The Chill go on to play the Bucks in the Central Conference Championship.
The U-19s are competing in the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series along with the Fire U-15 squad. To qualify for the championship game, the Fire played three other teams with the top two teams in the group of four qualifying for the championship game. The U-19s kicked off group play on Wednesday by defeating Sereno 92 White thanks to a goal by Jesse Ortiz. On Thursday the Fire cruised to a 3-0 lead on the backs of Joey Tennyson, Jesse Ortiz again, and Wojtek Wojcik. All looked calm until their opponent, the Dallas Texans, clawed back into the game including a second goal in the 89th minute of play. The Fire held on and clinched a spot in the finals with the win. The Texans are affiliated with Manchester United so take whatever revenge factor you want. The real revenge factor comes to the U-19 team in playing the Baltimore Bays. Both teams are essentially the same group of guys who played for the respective U-18 academy teams last year. Needing a win to advance in the U-18 tournament, the Fire were up 1-0 in the 88th minute against the Bays when the Baltimore squad pulled out a goal. To add insult to injury, the Bays scored again in stoppage time and the Fire lost 2-1. In a somewhat meaningless game for an already advanced Fire U-19 squad, head coach Sole Antonijevic played some non-regulars so the team could rest for the championship game. The Bays struck in the 47th minute to make it 1-0 and all looked over as the game entered stoppage time. Revenge reared its ugly head when Marco Gutierrez scored a goal in the 91st minute to make the game a 1-1 draw. Revenge Part I: The Fire U-19s won their group over the Baltimore Bays. Revenge Part II: Fire U-19s take on the Baltimore Bays for the U-19 National Championship on Sunday, July 31st at 10:30 AM CST. Led by former U-18 and current U-19 captain William McGuiness, the U-19s will be playing for some major Chicago Fire badge pride.
U-17s/Generation adidas Cup
When you are competing in four tournaments and close age ranges, one tournament is going to get the short end of the stick. There's just no way around it. The Generation adidas Cup is more of a showcase tournament where teams can give their players an opportunity to play in a competitive environment but there's not the build up to it there is in the USYSN or PDL Championships. Add into the fact that a couple of Fire players in the oldest age group (born in 1994) were either banged up or out of town and you can see the makeshift roster Chicago had for this Dallas based tournament. One name on the roster that will raise some eyebrows is rumored Chicago Fire Home Grown Player signee Kellen Gulley. This Generation adidas Cup marked Gulley's first competitive matches since suffering an ACL injury several months ago. The Mississippi native was substituted into the second half of Tuesday's game versus the Los Angeles Galaxy and scored within five minutes of taking the field. He scored again last night against Colorado and the Fire have one remaining game against Sporting KC on Sunday, July 31 at 8:30 AM. Academy Director Larry Sunderland really had to pull some magic together playing with a younger roster and calling up some kids from the Chicago Fire Juniors team in Mississippi to play. The team lost to Real Salt Lake 3-1 and to New York Red Bulls 2-1 but it was an upset due to a well-executed and disciplined game plan over Los Angeles 2-1 and the team steamrolled over Colorado 3-1. There is still the SKC game to play and the players on this team already have a very positive experience moving forward.
The U-15s will primarily be the base of the U-16 Academy team next year so it is very positive to see that they also qualified for their championship game and won their group. The conceded the first goal to SDFC Gauchos but then fought back with back-to-back goals from Lloyd Chatfield and single goals by Luca Giovine, and Brian Werchek. The Gauchos would score one last time but the Fire won their first game 4-2. On Thursday, the Fire played in a junior Brimstone Cup battle when they drew with FC Dallas Premier 0-0. Yesterday's game featured a revenge game of their own for the U-15s as they faced Solar Chelsea. In the Disney Tournament this winter, Solar Chelsea laid down the hammer defeating the Fire 3-0. This time around it was all Chicago as the team came away victorious 1-0 thanks to a goal from Christian Hanock-Berhanu. The Fire face a bit of an unknown team in the Michigan Jaguars for the U-15 USYSN Championship tonight at 10:15PM CST.
Victor Pineda/Milk Cup
Last but not least, Victor Pineda played some minutes with the USMNT youth team in the 2011 Milk Cup. A light tournament with teams playing 3 games spread over this past Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Pineda entered as a substitute in the 84th minute on Monday vs. Israel and started on Wednesday vs. Mexico. In stoppage time of the first half against Mexico, Pineda took a corner kick and found D.C. United's Jalen Robinson to help make it 1-1.
The most inspiring thing I took away from this week was that the U-19 kids in Phoenix were watching the Chicago Fire PDL team game yesterday via the live stream on the web. Next year, they wanted that to be them. They wanted to be wearing the Chicago Fire badge at the next level. They want to wear the Chicago Fire badge at the ultimate level. Congratulations to the PDL team who wore it with pride this year. We will tell your story more just yet. Best of luck to the U-15 and U-19 squads this weekend. I've been told there is enough money to purchase the plane tickets for the trophies should you win them. Keep on honoring the cf97 badge by playing your hearts out.