July 20, 2012
A STEP CLOSER
Red Bulls U-15/16 top Fire 1-0
HOUSTON – The New York Red Bulls U-15/16 squad moved one step closer to clinching a spot in the Academy Finals Week title match.
Led by captain Adam Najem’s second-half goal, the Red Bulls defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Thursday in both teams’ second match of Group 1 play at the Houston Amateur Sports Park.
With the victory, New York moves to 2-0-0 and six points in the group. The Fire and Pateadores, which defeated Charlotte Soccer Academy 3-1 on Thursday, have three points apiece and are still in the hunt. With a draw or a victory against Charlotte Soccer Academy on Saturday, New York would clinch a spot in the championship game on Monday, July 23, at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The contest between two strong offensive sides became a defensive grind. In fact, New York’s lone goal in the 48th minute was the team’s first shot on goal.
After Alex Muyl worked the ball from the right to Amando Moreno, he dished to Najem on the left and fired a shot toward the right side of the frame. The ball hit the right post and crossed the goal line for a 1-0 lead that held up for the remainder of the match.
“I think both teams knew that they were both capable of scoring goals, and that played a lot into the tactics of the game,” Najem said. “I think as soon as that first goal went in, it was open for the rest of the game. It was a battle offensively and defensively.”
The Fire had the shots on goal advantage through the first 40 minutes, placing two shots on frame while New York was held to zero shots on goal in the first half.
Red Bulls goalkeeper Evan Louro came up with two saves in the first half, including a big stop in the sixth minute when the Fire’s Marcus Epps crossed the ball in and Jeff Farina snapped a strong header on net. Louro reacted swiftly to his left for the diving save.
Louro’s other save in the first half was a routine one in the 10th minute as the Fire’s Anthony Jeffries struck the ball from the left side and it went right to New York’s goalkeeper.
“I think collectively we defended well,” Red Bulls head coach Rob Elliott said. “Our forwards’ mentality to chase and defend and make it hard and make services hard, we didn’t give those guys a lot of opportunities when they got them. Our center backs had to make plays – [Matt] Miazga made a ton of big tackles down the stretch to keep a clean sheet for us.”
The tide changed in the second half for New York with an 8-3 shots advantage over Chicago and some potential opportunities to put the match out of reach.
Muyl had a couple of shots that he pushed just wide of the goal, including in the 63rd minute when he received the ball at point-blank range in the box but missed wide left of the frame. Second-half sub Chris Lema came the closest at finding a two-goal cushion, but his shot in second-half stoppage time struck the right post.
The Red Bulls take on Charlotte Soccer Academy at 8 p.m. CT on Saturday, July 21, while the Fire faces Pateadores at 8 p.m. Saturday.