The Philadelphia Union U15s’ magical run to the Generation adidas Cup final came to a screeching halt in the seventh round of penalties as Austin FC saved the final kick to secure the trophy.
Austin FC took an early lead on an own goal when a back pass took a nasty short-hop on the Union goalkeeper but just after halftime the Union equalized off a cross from Jordan Griffin to Jamir Johnson at the far post.
The two teams traded chances through the rest of the 70 minutes of regulation – Alex Smith came up with a monster save off a corner kick – and went to penalties after two scoreless five-minute periods of extra time.
The final was a first for the Union Academy at the U15 level and the fact that they came up short doesn’t overshadow the exciting run they went on knocking off teams from international academies from big name clubs like Valencia, Arsenal and Real Madrid. Cavan Sullivan was minted as a star of the tournament but head coach Henry Apaloo got contributions from up and down the roster to sustain the run.
Peter Doran, Andrei Chirila, Griffin and Johnson all stood out on the day and the team doesn’t make it to penalties if not for the big save from Smith. Anisse Saidi and Nehan Hasan were also key contributors throughout the tournament to the attack in Bradenton, Florida.
The defense was especially stingy throughout. Chirila and center back partner Nick Greer anchored a back line that included Griffin and Gavin DeHart out left and guest player Lennon Harrington (from New York club BW Gottschee) at right back. Through seven games at the tournament, the Union U15s conceded just twice.
The run was also an advertisement for the academy on a big stage and is invaluable experience for the young prospects. The team will now shift its focus back to MLS Next play heading into the league playoffs and MLS Next Cup in the summer.