Invaluable Experience in Phoenix

The Atlanta Fire Academy teams just recently returned from a 4 day showcase in Phoenix, AZ. This is considered winter showcase and all 76 USSF Academy clubs were in attendance. In conjunction with the showcase the US u-17 national team were also involved with a friendly round robin tournament called the Nike Friendlies. Their opponents this year were Brazil, Portugal, and Holland.AFU kicked off their weekend with games against the MLS franchise club the Columbus Crew. The Crew proved too much for AFU as the u-16’s were soundly beaten 4-0 and the the 18″s humbled 6-1 although Stephen Dunbar was able to net for the Fire late in the game to make it 3-1 but Crew took over from there scoring 3 unanswered in the final few minutes.AFU responded well in their 2nd round of games when the u-16’s battled admirably against a very dangerous De Anza Force team from N. California. With the game poised on a knife’s edge entering the late stages Chris Harrison was able to latch onto an excellent cross from Matt Melton after he had beaten his marker to score. Right before the final whistle Jeremy Rector forced his way through the Force’s defense and was able to chip in from 15 yds to give AFU a 2-0 win.The u-18’s also played much better than the previous day and scored through Brady O’Brien when he powered in a header from a Pete Kurowsly corner. AFU looked liked they would be able to hold on but in the latter stages a defensive error led to a Force striker breaking through and equalizing. So 1-1 tie that was probably the fair scorline as Force had proven the better team in the 2nd half.AFU’s final opponent of the weekend was FC Milwaukee. The u-16’s played a excellent game and even though they went 1-0 down midway through the first half were able to tie it just before the break when Roberto Hinojosa slipped Chris Harrison through and he chipped the onrushing keeper. The game remained a stalemate until the final minute when a free-kick conceded by AFU just 19 yds out was converted by Milwaukee. A very tough loss for AFU as over the 80 minutes they had been the more dangerous of the two teams.The u-18’s played well but could not convert their chances and Milwaukee were that just that little bit sharper in front of goal. Despite Luke Ade converting in the 1st half Milwaukee went on to win the game 3-1.Over and above their very competitive games the players were able to watch some very high level soccer with the national teams going head to head each night after the academy games were done.Other highlights included:AFU’s u-16 captain Roberto Hinojosa playing in the academy select game vs NY Redbulls and scoring the tieing goal in a very exciting 4-4 gameAFU’s u-16 getting hydration tested by Gatorade to see the effects of dehydration on performance.Coaching education opportunities provided by Nike, SPARQ training, and the US soccer federation.The scores of college coaches in attendance at all 6 AFU gamesThe academy showcases are truly the pinnacle of youth soccer in the US and without doubt the best possible opportunity for elite level players to compete and showcase themselves.AFU has a week break before hosting local rivals Concorde Fire on the 19th December at Scott Hudgens Park.

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