FRISCO - FC Dallas U-16 Academy head coach Luchi Gonzalez described his team’s win of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Championship as unbelievable, however, it’s not hard to believe FCD captured the championship in 4-0 fashion over New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
The U-16s outscored its opponents 20-0 in playoffs and finished 25-3-5 on the 2014-15 season. Thirteen of those 20 playoff goals were scored in the quarterfinals, semis and championship game.
“Peaking is a word I don’t like to use too much because it gives an expectation that, ‘What? Early in the season we’re not peaking? Or midseason we’re not peaking?’“ Gonzalez said. “But if you look at it in retrospect and how you analyze the season, I would say ‘yes [we peaked].’ Our form was fantastic this postseason.”
When FCD landed in California last week for the semifinals, Gonzalez and the U-16s knew they would be disappointed if the team hadn’t won because they weren’t just happy to be there, according to Gonzalez.
“We talked about it the first night that we arrived [in Carson, California] that we’re here to take care of our business,” he said. “We’re not on vacation. Everything off the field that we’re doing in preparation is important. And they executed. They bought into that.”
In the semifinals, FC Dallas kept its shutout streak in tact with a 3-0 win over Eastern Conference foe Philadelphia Union to set up a battle with the New York Red Bulls for the U-16 championship.
“The semi was a good performance, but we still didn’t feel like we were at our best,” Gonzalez said. “We reflected after that game. Yeah, we put our chances away. Yeah, we got the shutout, but we felt we had a lot more to give and show. [The final against] New York was a great opportunity for them to show.”
And FCD did just that.
Although it took an hour delay for the championship to kickoff – a delay Gonzalez said his squad was able to overcome after a delay in their group stage match to LA Galaxy – FC Dallas was able to come out focused and score an early 11th minute goal. The U-16s then held the pressure and attacked toward a 4-0 win.
“I think they just were never satisfied,” Gonzalez said. “They always wanted more, they always wanted to show more or defend better or attack better and self-improve. Not just individually, as a group they always wanted to do better. That mentality showed in the final.”
One of the most impressive stats from FCD’s playoff run is the way the team didn’t concede a goal. Gonzalez congratulated his backline and keeper on “unbelievable performances,” but he also pointed out the total team effort in winning the ball as far away from its own goal as possible. He said his front three and midfielders were eager to win up the field and cause discomfort to the opposing teams’ back.
“I think that was a huge turning point for us to allow to be better defensively, allowing us to win the ball higher up the field, create a counter closer to goal, give us more possession, give us more confidence, create more chances,” Gonzalez said. “I think the work of our front six to put pressure allowed everything else to fall into place.”
Four FCD U-16ers were awarded with Central Conference superlatives before the championship match. Winger Devin Vega won Central Conference Player of the Year while goalkeeper Ben Hale, defender Reginald Cannon and midfielder Weston McKinnie were named to the conference’s Starting XI. Even though it was nice for the players to be honored individually, winning the championship was more important to them, Gonzalez said.
“It’s no disrespect to the awards, but winning the championship is everything to them and they showed it,” he said.
Now most of the U-16s will move up to Francisco Molina’s U-18 side, but Gonzalez said this championship would leave its place in FCD Academy’s legacy.
“They made their own little mark in history in FC Dallas U-16s,” Gonzalez said. “The challenge now is to continue to get better and grow. This is going to be the same group practically in the U-18s competing, and they did something special this season. I challenge them to continue to push forward and do something special again next year because I think this is what it’s all about: moving forward.”