Grande Sports Academy – Casa Grande, AZ – The Real Salt Lake-AZ Academy teams traveled to Sarasota, Florida from November 30 – December 4 to compete in a major college showcase and one of the biggest soccer events in the country – the 2012 United States Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase. All 80 academies gathered at the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch to play against teams from different divisions and conferences that they are not scheduled to play in the regular season.
This soccer packed, five day event had everything to offer: high quality games, hundreds of college coaches catching every minute of soccer action and evaluating the talent, two high quality Showcase Select games as well as the 2012 Nike International Friendlies Tournament.
The RSL-AZ U18 & U16 teams played six highly competitive, high quality games against Montreal Impact FC, Crew Soccer Academy Wolves and Sporting Kansas City and had plenty of success. The RSL-AZ teams wrapped up their busy, soccer packed five days at the Winter Showcase with four great wins, a tie and a single loss, winning 13 out of the total 18 points that were up for grabs. The Real Salt Lake-AZ U18s won two and tied one (7 points) and closed the gap on the LA Galaxy at the top, while the U16s won two and lost their first game of the season (6 points) and extended their lead in their respective Southwest Division.
The RSL-AZ U18s kicked off their Winter Showcase campaign first playing Montreal Impact on Friday, November 30th and it was a fantastic start. The RSL-AZ Academy U18 boys won 4-1 with goals from Benji Lopez (2), Trevor Hyman and a piece of magic by Jose “Messi” Hernandez. For a detailed recap of the game follow this link.
Day two of the Winter Showcase, Saturday, December 1st was an extremely successful day all around for both RSL-AZ Academy teams. The RSL-AZ U18s managed to pull out another hard fought, 1-0 victory in the early morning game against another MLS academy team, the Crew Soccer Academy Wolves. The scorer of the lone goal was Kostas Kostelas, who finished routinely after another great run and assist by Jose Hernandez, who had a phenomenal tournament.
In their first game in the showcase, the RSL-AZ U16s won 5-3 against the Montreal Impact after an exciting goal-fest in the second half and two last minute winning goals. Follow this link for the detailed summary of the games. In the evening, four RSL-AZ players – U18s’ Tony Murillo (Benji Lopez and Jordan Allen didn’t play because of injuries) and U16s’ Sebastian Saucedo, Justen Glad and Brooks Lennon – played in the Showcase Select matches.
On Sunday, the RSL-AZ U18s had their day off and the younger team from the Grande Sports Academy was scheduled to face the Crew Soccer Academy Wolves. The Wolves won 2-0 and handed the RSL-AZ U16s their first defeat of the USSDA 2012/2013 season. Later on Sunday afternoon, the Grande Sports Academy owners invited all the RSL-AZ players and their families for a delicious barbecue at the beautiful Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.
The RSL-AZ U18s were back in action again on Monday, December 3rd, this time facing a solid Sporting Kansas City team. RSL-AZ fell behind midway through the first half after a lovely build up and finish by the SKC players. In the second half, the RSL-AZ players woke up and completely dominated the game, however despite creating more than a dozen scoring opportunities, the RSL-AZ team was only able to find the back of the net once as the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
On Tuesday, the last day of the 2012 USSDA Winter Showcase, the RSL-AZ U16s wrapped up a successful trip to Florida with a fantastic performance and a more than convincing 3-1 (goals by Sebastian Saucedo, Fito Ovalle and Jason Eng) win over Sporting Kansas City. This is was without a doubt one of the best performances so far this season for the RSL-AZ U16 team who dominated all 80 minutes. They created chance after chance, scored three beautiful goals and at the final whistle the score could have been even higher if the RSL-AZ players were able to capitalize on a few of those clear cut scoring opportunities. Read more about the exciting game here.
After a great experience for all the players and their families as well who were able to enjoy six exciting games in five days, teams are now already back training at Grande Sports World. The teams are preparing for their last games of 2012 – a double header on December 15th & 16th away at De Anza Force and Santa Cruz Breakers. After a successful first half of the season, with only two losses in 24 games, all players will head home for a well deserved 2-week Christmas holidays break.