Cold Weather Dominates AFU’s Games in NC
Atlanta Fire’s USSF Academy teams traveled to Charlotte, NC to take on N. Mecklenberg and Charlotte Soccer Academy in division cross-over games. With temperatures well below freezing at kick-off it really was about which team could adjust and settle in quicker.N. Meck were that team. Their u-16 team quickly took control of the game and scored two early goals in the 13th and 16th minutes to put AFU back on their heels. Two more goals followed right before half time and AFU were reeling. They did raise their efforts in the 2nd half and created a few decent efforts on goal but N. Meck were not about to let this victory slip and added a 5th with 15 minutes to go in the contest.The u-18 game proved to be a much closer affair with both teams providing a back and forth encounter. AFU started slow but grew in confidence as the game wore on and created several very good chances including two breakaway’s that they were unable to convert. N. Meck were themselves finding openings in the AFU defense but at the half despite more than a dozen chances between the two teams it was still tied 0-0.The 2nd half began as the first ended with both team pushing hard to find a goal. Some inspired defending by AFU kept N. Meck scoreless and then late in the contest a quick counter attack by AFU allowed Luke Ade to breakaway again but this time he finished convincingly in the bottom corner. N. Meck became desperate and pushed more players forward this opened them up at the back and AFU took advantage with another break. This time a beautiful scoop pass by Stefan Gojic freed Ade up and he flicked the bouncing ball into the net. N. Meck responded almost immediately and scored to make it 2-1. In keeping with the back and forth theme of this game AFU found a 3rd goal when Pete Kurowsky was put through and in similar fashion to Ade flicked the ball up over the N. Meck keeper to make it 3-1. Once again N. Meck got themselves back into the contest when a deep cross was headed home with less than 5minutes to go. AFU had to sustain some serious pressure from the home team but managed to hold on to a very impressive 3-2 win.On Sunday, in more freezing conditions Charlotte Soccer Academy was AFU’s opponent. The u-16’s started much brighter than they had the day before. They were dealing with Charlotte’s attacks very well and creating some openings themselves. At the 25th minute captain Roberto Hinojosa was substituted (a recurrence of an injury he had suffered the day before playing “up” for the u-18’s) and Amin El Shami was brought on in his place. El Shami had an immediate impact playing a through ball for Chris Harrison to chase on to. Harrison forced the defender into an error and calmly rounded the keeper with the ball and scored. So at the half a 1-0 lead for AFU.Charlotte made some personnel changes in the 2nd half and came out with serious intent. They attacked the AFU defense with wave after wave of relentless pressure. It was a case of bend but don’t break for AFU and they seemed to have it figured out when a diagonal ball for once slipped through their rearguard and in a flash a Charlotte forward turned and fired into the net. A crushing blow for AFU who until that point had done fantastically well. It was a blow that AFU could not shake and Charlotte sensed this. Three quickfire goals put paid to AFU’s chances of getting a result. Despite the loss it was a much improved performance by AFU and in particular Chris Harrison who battled away up front by himself and was a constant threat to Charlotte all game long.The u-18 contest did not live up the previous day’s game. It started flat with neither team really taking the initiative. Charlotte seemed to settle first and their direct style and hard running put AFU under a lot of pressure. A free kick halfway through the half was whipped into AFU’s 18yd area and first to react was a Charlotte player who managed to loop the ball over Mitch Kupstas in the AFU goal. Just a few minutes later an errant pass gave Charlotte the ball 20yds from goal and a brilliant curling strike left Kupstas with no chance. It was always going to be tough to get two back and although a valiant effort by AFU in the 2nd half gave them some hope, Charlotte were able to do enough to deny AFU and hold on for the win.Next up for AFU is a trip to Raleigh and Greensboro to take on CASL and Greensboro. Good luck boys!