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Fire U20s Open With Victory
Figura, Cortez on target in 2-0 win against Knoxville

Super-20 Finals Game Report

Thursday, July 19, 2012

BRADENTON, Fla. – The Chicago Fire U20s got off to a winning start on the opening day of the Super-20 League North American Finals as a pair of first-half goals by Jacob Brindle and Felipe Cortez earned a 2-0 victory against the Knoxville Soccer Academy in Group B at IMG Academy.

“I think it’s a good start, any time you take three points in the first game, regardless of how you played or what the score was, it’s important to get off to a good start,” Fire coach Steve Morris said. “We created a lot of chances, we were a little sloppy in the final third, the final pass was a little bit missing, we missed the target on a few chances that could have really opened the game up.”

The Fire started well, and put Knoxville back on its heels in the opening five minutes. The first big opportunity would come on the counter-attack for the Tennessee side, however, as Andrew Palumbo broke in on the left side, only to fire his shot over the crossbar.

Cortez came close to creating the opening goal for the Fire shortly after, but Chicago would take the lead in the 19th minute as a well-flighted cross from the left was knocked back at the back post, and the cushioned header was met on the volley by Brindle for a fine opening goal.

The teams exchanged chances after the goal, with Cortez going close eight minutes later, volleying wide of the left post from the right side of the penalty area. Knoxville’s Dalton Guzman had a chance in the 31st minute, only to shoot wide of the left post, and three minutes later Chris Prince had a good opportunity denied. Knoxville’s Cade Morgan also went close, but saw his shot saved in the 36th minute after he had been played in one-on-one on the left side.

The missed opportunity turned out to be the best Knoxville would have to tie the game, because a minute later the Fire doubled their advantage through Cortez as he finished off a chance created by Prince. Between Cortez and Luis Medina, the Fire were able to find pockets of space in Knoxville’s final third, turning a number of quick moves into opportunities.

“We set them up on the piece of paper in certain positions, that’s not usually where they play,” Morris said. “They look for space, they look to find spaces during the course of the game and they are very good at getting in-between people and we’ve been effective in finding them, we’ve been able to create some chances off them, [Medina] picked up a little bit of a strain in his quad or his hip flexor, so we’ll have to see how he’s doing, but we’re much better team when those two are playing and on the field.”

The chances lessened, as did the pace in the Florida heat, in the second half. Chicago almost added to its lead in the 67th minute when Jbari Danzy fought past his defender to a through-ball, only for his lob of the advancing goalkeeper to go wide of the left post, and Knoxville’s Jeremy Saad had a pair of good long-range efforts, the first saved and the second going just over the crossbar.

The Fire will face the Ottawa Fury on Friday lunchtime, with a potential showdown for a place in the semifinals coming on Saturday against the VSI Tampa Flames after they defeated the Fury 4-2 in the group’s other game.

VSI TAMPA 4, OTTAWA 2: Luis Marques de Sousa had a pair of goals to lead the VSI Tampa Flames past the Ottawa Fury in Group B, while Ellis Curry and Marcus Starke also found the back of the net. Tampa took a 2-0 lead at the halftime break, and while the Fury tried to rally through goals by Antoine Noel and Abraham Donzo-Kamara, they were never able to get back on level terms.

IRONBOUND 4, LAREDO 3: In a back-and-forth contest, Ironbound took victory to sit on top of Group A after the first round of matches. Lucas Terci, Nicolas Prieto, Deigo Moraes and Michael Barbosa had the goals for the New Jersey side, which held a 1-0 halftime lead, but Laredo hit back early in the second half to tie the game after Esteban Ramos beat the offside trap.

The two teams exchanged quick goals to make the score 2-2 before Ironbound scored twice in quick succession to take the lead for good. A late Heat goal wasn’t enough as their rally came up short in the day’s highest-scoring contest.

IMG 1, FASA 1: Honors ended even as IMG took a first-half lead, only for FASA to tie the game after the break. Alex Zidani put the tournament’s host ahead as he converted a chance created by Marco Ugarte, but the Fredericksburg, Va.-based side hit back to earn a point as Christian Kielty found Phil Smith for the equalizer.

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