HOUSTON -- To call it destiny may be a bit much, but it definitely feels like there is something larger at play when it comes to the FC Dallas U-18 Academy team's run to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week championship match this week. Needing to defeat hometown rivals Solar Chelsea SC on Friday night in order to advance to the title game, FC Dallas flirted with disaster on more than one occasion before earning a 3-2 win to return to final for the second straight year.
Things looked bad early for FC Dallas and Solar took advantage, as defender Trevor Haberkorn scored on a volley in just the 13th minute following a free kick to give his side the 1-0 lead.
The goal appeared to wake up the FCD offense and the team created three quality scoring chances in the ensuing minutes. After a turnover in the 21st minute, midfielder Flavio Guzman put a shot on goal that was saved by Solar goalkeeper Oshick Shams. That chance was followed up by two shots that just missed the frame, with midfielder Kellyn Acosta shooting one just over the crossbar in the 27th minute followed by midfielder Marco Carrizales putting one just wide in the 29th.
The U-18s' luck turned around in the 31st minute when Acosta delivered a corner kick from the right side that fell to the feet of Homegrown striker Jonathan Top, who volleyed the shot past Shams to tie the match at 1-1.
Four minutes later FC Dallas was building another attack into the Solar zone when captain Mikey Ambrose sent a cross in from the left flank. The cross found right back Nick Rochowski, who tried to repeat his goal-scoring heroics from FCD's Monday night draw with Chivas USA, but the defender's header hit off the woodwork. Once again, Top did well to put himself in the right place at the right time as the rebound fell right to him and the forward struck again to give Dallas the 2-1 lead.
The momentum shifted again early in the second half when Solar tied the match at 2-2 thanks to a goal by Ryan Condotta. With Solar leading FC Dallas by a point in the group standings, FCD could settle for nothing less than a win in this match.
The U-18s nearly got the go-ahead goal in the 62nd minute when Top sent a hopeful cross in from the left side that fellow forward Jose de la Tejera headed on frame only to be denied by Shams. Two minutes later FCD almost faced another deficit if not for a save by Eduardo Cortes on a 30 yard rocket of a shot by Solar that the goalkeeper just managed to push over the crossbar.
The decisive goal came in the 69th minute after Solar defender William Webb committed a handball just outside the area. Ambrose took the ensuing free kick, and the captain hung it in the air just long enough for center back Mark Ashby to get under it and head the ball low to the near post to give FC Dallas a 3-2 lead and make for an incredibly tense remaining 20 minutes.
FC Dallas pushed for the insurance goal in the following minutes, as midfielder Danny Garcia sent the ball just wide of the goal on a counter attack in the 71st.
On another counter in the 74th minute, Acosta sent a ball into the area from the right side that de la Tejera redirected on frame with a nifty backheel shot. The ball looked to be going just under the crossbar before Shams made a fantastic reactionary save to push it over the goal.
In the 89th minute, Solar was awarded a free kick from about 25 yards out and midfielder Zachary Mathers sent the kick curling over the wall and out of the reach of Cortes, but the shot was just inches too far to the left as the ball deflected off the outside of the post.
After five more grueling minutes of stoppage time the final whistle blew to send FC Dallas on to their second straight championship game where they'll face fellow MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Vancouver also won their group with two wins and a draw, defeating North Carolina Fusion and De Anza Force before tying with the Colorado Rapids on Friday night.
FC Dallas faced the Whitecaps once back in December at the Academy Winter Showcase in Sarasota, Fla. where the sides played to a 2-2 draw. Danny Garcia scored both goals for FC Dallas in that match.
Neither team will settle for a draw on Sunday though, when the MLS squads play in the championship match in Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium. That match is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. CT and will be streamed live on ussoccer.com.
SOL - Haberkorn 13'
FCD - Top 31'
FCD - Top 35'
SOL - Condotta 53'
FCD - Ashby 69'
FC Dallas lineup: Cortes, Ambrose, Ashby, Guillen, Rochowski (Ortiz 66'), Acosta, Carrizales (Robledo 56'), Guzman, Garcia, de la Tejera (Edet 83'), Top (Gallegos 79').