FRISCO, Texas - The FC Dallas Academy U-17s opened their 2022 GA Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Columbus Crew U-17s thanks to a last-minute penalty from forward Nighte Pickering at Toyota Soccer Center Sunday afternoon.
Head coach Matías Asorey named a Starting XI that included Aaron Salinas, Nighte Pickering, Malachi Molina, Nolan Norris, Nayrobi Vargas, Kristian Kelley, Mason Grimm, Tate Jones, Jared Aguilar, Anthony Ramirez and Gabriel Brandon.
FC Dallas enjoyed the majority of the game's chances that began with Malachi Molina nearly opening the scoring in the 10th minute but his first-time shot at the back post went just wide. Molina was the danger man again seven minutes later when he collected Nighte Pickering’s pass and cut inside but his left-footed shot was wide of the near post.
Molina continued where he left off and forced a good save from Columbus’ goalkeeper early into the second half. Dallas had another chance when Nolan Norris curled in a cross from the left side and Pickering made good contact with his header but it looped over the crossbar. Columbus had good chance of their own from a free kick but Dallas ‘keeper Aaron Salinas made his first real save of the afternoon to tip it over the crossbar.
The game erupted into life in the dying minutes when Columbus earned a penalty after FCD defender Gabriel Brandon was adjudged to have tripped a Columbus attacker in the box. Goalkeeper Aaron Salinas came to FCD's rescue and made a fingertip save to steer the penalty wide of his right post to keep Dallas in the game.
Following the ensuing corner, Dallas went on the counter attack and won a penalty of their own. Nighte Pickering stepped up and sent the Crew goalkeeper the wrong way to convert the penalty and handed FCD a win in its opening game.
"I was kind of disappointed we were tied near the end because I felt like we had enough chances to win the game sooner," said U-17s head coach Matías Asorey. "We're relieved but we also have to be better in front of goal if want to be in the tournament longer.
"In a tournament, it's kill or be killed so the fact that he could come up with a save there and keep us in it was huge," Asorey said of Salinas' penalty stop. "And ultimately, it might be the difference in our qualification (for the knockout rounds)."
The victory puts FCD level on three points with St. Louis City at the top of Group B. Next up, the U-17s will take on Club Tijuana on Monday, April 11 at 9AM at Toyota Soccer Center.