HOUSTON -- A team from Dallas will advance to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week championship game at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston on Sunday night. Whether that team will be the FC Dallas U-18 Academy team or Solar Chelsea SC will be determined on Friday night.
FC Dallas must win their match against hometown rival Solar Friday night to advance to the final. A loss or a draw for FCD will send their opponent on to the title game.
"It's like a final, if you lose you are out," said FC Dallas assistant coach Josema Bazan.
On paper, it looks like the match is in the bag for FC Dallas. The U-18s dominated their Texas Division opponents in the regular season, claiming the division crown with a 15-point lead over Solar.
The sides met three times this year. In October, FC Dallas won 4-0 with goals from Jonathan Top, David Robledo and a brace from Danny Garcia. In December, FCD won 4-0 with goals from Flavio Guzman, Alex Frankenfeld, Bobby Edet and Danny Garcia again. And in April FCD won 2-0 with goals from David Robledo and Danny Garcia...again. That's a 10-0 aggregate score in favor of FC Dallas.
But Solar has grown confident from its recent run of good form, and in one match, anything can happen.
"The kids know that Solar has been growing a lot the last three months," said Bazan. "[Solar has] brought in players from the U-16s and they put a very good 11 players together."
Since the last meeting between the two sides, Solar has gone 9-1-1, advancing through last month's Playoffs and currently sitting in first place in Group 2 at Finals Week with a one-point lead over FC Dallas.
That run has given Solar confidence. Their U-19 championship victory at Dr Pepper Dallas Cup XXXIII three month's ago has also given Solar confidence. Head coach Kevin Smith being named the 2011-12 Central Conference Coach of the Year - even more confidence for Solar.
"We can't underestimate them," said FC Dallas goalkeeper Eduardo Cortes. "We've played them a lot throughout the year, they're our hometown rivals. They're on a string of wins and they have a lot of confidence heading into this game. If we play our possession style we should be ok, but it'll be a tough game to win."
But after such a dominant regular season and having four players on this U-18 roster earn End of Year Awards including Central Converence Player of the Year Danny Garcia, how can FC Dallas not be overflowing with confidence heading into this match?
"Throughout these past three years - coming to Finals Week and falling short - we know what it feels like to lose," said Cortes. "We have to take it one step at a time. We have to push ourselves hard to do whatever it takes to make it.
"We can't fall short again."