FRISCO - A pair of second-half goals by Atlanta United midfielder Andrew Carleton prevented FC Dallas from winning its third-consecutive United States Soccer Development Academy U-15/16 National Championship on Sunday afternoon.
This year's USSDA U-15/16 Final, held in Carson, California, saw Dallas go down 2-0 with 13 minutes remaining, before the defending champions grabbed a late goal and nearly scored a second to force extra time. However, Dallas ultimately lost to Atlanta 2-1, and relinquished the title the club has held since July 2015.
Dressed in a blue-and-white striped kit, Dallas entered the national final on the heels of a 3-0 victory against Real Salt Lake (AZ) in Friday's semifinal, while Atlanta, dressed in red and black stripes, reached the final via a 2-0 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps.
The first half featured few chances for either team, but Dallas was able to have a couple looks at the Atlanta United net. Midfielder Pablo Arias directed a shot on target in the 12th minute, and Homegrown forward Jesus Ferreira blasted a shot over the Atlanta goal just minutes later.
Dallas' best chance came to defender Nathan Toledo, who sent a header over the crossbar after he was left unmarked in the penalty box. Goalkeeper Michael Collodi was a bystander for most of the half, but Homegrown forward Bryan Reynolds was needed in the 38th minute to clear a corner kick off the goal line.
HT: 0-0 at the break in a game which has seen few chances so far. All to play for in the second half. #AcademyChampionships— FC Dallas Youth (@FCDallasYouth) July 16, 2017
Ferreira went close again for Dallas early in the second half, having a shot blocked out of play after dispossessing an Atlanta defender.
The game returned to a back-and-forth battle with neither side able to dominate. Dallas' first substitution came in the 61st minute as midfielder Thomas Roberts made way for midfielder Adrian Munoz, but the first Atlanta goal arrived just two minutes later.
Carleton, who has made one appearance with Atlanta's senior team this season, stepped up to a free kick just outside the Dallas penalty box and struck it with pace and swerve, evading the four-man Dallas wall and beating Collodi to his left-hand side.
The 67th minute saw Carleton strike again with another special goal. With a bouncing ball at his feet and space to operate, Carleton hit a stunning volley from distance, dipping over a helpless Collodi to double Atlanta's lead.
It took until the 80th minute, but Cerrillo made good on his opportunity by scoring and getting Dallas back into the match. A set-piece delivery by Ferreira was met by the forehead of Cerrillo, who beat on-rushing Atlanta goalkeeper Sai Brown by heading the ball into the roof of the net.
Dallas was able to create a final goal-scoring chance in stoppage time through midfielder Alan Velasco. A free kick cleared from the Atlanta penalty box fell to Velasco, who hit a well-placed volley that was tipped over the bar by Brown. Dallas was unable to create a shot from the resulting corner kick, and the final whistle blew shortly afterwards.
The loss prevented Dallas from creating USSDA history by winning a third-straight title in an age group, as Dallas is already the only team to ever win back-to-back age group titles.
FC Dallas remains the only club to appear in three-consecutive national championship games in a USSDA age group.