Both Chicago Fire academy and FC Porto academy entered the final game of the Al Kass International Cup with two losses. Neither wanted to go home winless. Sadly, our U16's ended up doing just that, falling 3-2 in a closely-contested game.
The Fire U16's were on the front foot early on and thought that they struck first. In the 19th minute, the boys in red thought they scored when Kevin Timachy volleyed in a goal but the offside flag was up. A minute later, Porto opened the scoring when a corner went over Fire goalie Brandon Kerr's head and a Porto player tucked away the chance. The half ended at 1-0 in favor of Porto.
At half, the Fire made three changes and continued to hold their own against the Portuguese club. Eventually, they got their breakthrough. A nice combination between Niko Stakic and Jake Fernandez led to Kevin Timachy leveling the score.
In the 67th minute, Porto took the lead again when a Porto player drove past two defenders to then find an open teammate to bury the ball into the goal. The Fire players claimed offsides but the referee waived off their protests.
Porto extended their lead in the 88th minute when they were brought down in the box for a penalty and buried it. The Fire didn't give up and set up a dramatic finish when Malik Johnson, who was impressive all game, earned a penalty which he then finished to make the score 3-2. That is how the game ended and our boys will come home winless.
After the game, Larry Sunderland said that, "regardless of where we finished position-wise, it was our first opportunity to participate in a tournament of this quality. And, for sure, to get on the field and see where our players are was a great opportunity for us."
Even though our boys are coming home winless and outscored 10-3, they held their own; this should be a great learning experience for them. They contended in every game and were in every game until the end. The U16's got to play against some of the best youngsters in the world which will only help them going forward. A win would have been nice but the U16's can hold their heads held high and be proud of their effort this week.