FRISCO - The FC Dallas Under-18 Academy has cleared plenty of hurdles in their 2013-2014 season and just two more await them as they leave for California to play in the US Soccer Development Academy semi-finals on Thursday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA.
Rising through adversity has the name of the game for the U-18s all season.
When injuries and player availability issues affected FCD throughout the season, every player on the roster stepped up to play a big part in sealing victories. When it looked like a dip in late season form would lose a Frontier Division championship that looked sealed with six weeks left in the season, they found an 89th-minute goal in Colorado to take home the title in the final regular season match. When an injury to Chris Seitz meant that normal goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez would need to join the first team leaving them with few options in goal, U-16 goalkeeper Charlie Furrer stepped up to have two shutouts in three playoff week matches.
"It's very pleasing to know that everything we try to train and improve in training is showing here at the end of the season," said head coach Luchi Gonzalez. "The fact that we're focused and just taking it one game at our time was our motto. Taking it one game at a time and never quitting were our two things."
"We’ve had a lot of people that have had to step up. We’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity which would maybe be the word that describes our season, but that’s why we’re strong right now. I think we’re the team that can suffer the most and we’re good at knowing how to suffer and standing back up again and pushing back on which will help us in the challenge."
So it was only fitting when, after two late penalty kicks in their national quarterfinal match against Colorado Rush saw a 2-0 lead evaporate, FCD found the game-winner in the 94th minute to book Thursday's national semi-final against New Jersey's Players Development Academy. It's what they've been doing all season.
"When someone goes down, the next player steps up," said defender Jordan Cano. "Our team is full of depth and that’s what you need from a team to make it to the end."
FCD is just one step from that end of the line. This week's trip to California is FC Dallas' fourth appearance at USSDA U-18 Finals Week in the last five years, an unmatched number among the dozens of teams nationally. However, PDA presents a challenging match for Luchi Gonzalez's side as the northeast club went 20-3-3 in the regular season before advancing through playoffs week and defeating Shattuck-Saint Mary's in the USSDA quarterfinals.
After the roadblocks they've cleared to this point though, nothing will seem out of reach for FCD as they look for a second national championship this weekend.
"We’ve had a different lineup maybe every game this season and I think it’s a credit to the depth and the mindset of the group," said Gonzalez. "The respect they have for each other, the fact that they care for each other and they want the best for each other. That’s why we’re in this position."