The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-18's and U-16's are both in Dallas this week for the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy Playoffs. Garrett Cleverly is on-site in Texas with RSL-AZ and will be providing regular updates on the teams through the conclusion of the playoffs on Friday.
FRISCO, Texas - The Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy U-18's dropped its opening game of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs, 2-1, to St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri on Monday night.
Down a goal with five minutes remaining, RSL subbed in Te Wihongi and it paid off moments later, when Wihongi crashed into the box and headed in the equalizing goal from a Isaias "Junior" Juarez cross. The celebration was short-lived, however, as St. Louis stormed back up the field after the restart and scored the game winning goal in stoppage time from a looping shot outside of the 18.
With the loss, RSL is not eliminated in the playoffs but need some help from the other teams in their group to remain alive. If St. Louis win another game, RSL will be eliminated from the playoffs.
St. Louis came out aggressive and strong in the opening minutes of the game. RSL's Corey Nemeth had a goal saving kick save in the 11th minute and 'keeper Cesar Cobos stopped a 1-v-1 in the 20th. RSL settled down a bit, but their opportunities in front of the goal were limited to shots from outside of the 18 and from the wing. RSL's best chance was in the 33rd minute when Andrew Brody countered and played a through ball to Benji Lopez. His turned and fired a shot that tailed just high. Cobos made another 1-v-1 save with minutes remaining to keep the game scoreless going into the half.
RSL made three subs during the halftime break and moved Jon Zabasajja back to CB. This proved to be vital as Zabasajja became a wall in the back, winning almost every header and making a key stop in the 60th minute when a St. Louis attacker broke free after Cobos came out for a tackle. The player took a shot and Zabasajja made a goal line stop to keep the game scoreless.
RSL's luck ran out in the 69th minute when a St. Louis player broke free. RSL defenders moved up for the offside trap but a well-timed run by the St. Louis player put him in behind, rounding Cobos and slotting the ball home to put RSL behind. RSL continued to struggle connecting the ball but found the break when Wihongi scored in the 86th minute.
St. Louis pushed forward after RSL's equalizer, finding the winner in second-half stoppage time. An ill-timed switch by the RSL defense gave a St. Louis player an open look, allowing him to chip the ball over the head of a leaping Cobos. RSL had one final chance but a low cross was easily cleared giving St. Louis the 2-1 victory.
The RSL U-18's next game is on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. MT against the CASL Chelsea FC Academy. The U-16's kickoff their playoff slate at 6:15 p.m. MT against FC DELCO.