The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-16s enjoyed a perfect weekend at the 2016 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase, securing three straight wins between Friday and Monday at Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
Led by head coach Josh Gardner, the U-16s exploded for 14 goals over three matches — defeating Empire United (N.Y.) 3-2, Columbus Crew SC 5-1 and Philadelphia Union 6-3 during a five-day event that included 74 U-16 clubs and 72 U-18 clubs.
The Sporting KC U-18s endured a reversal of fortune, going 0-3 between Thursday and Sunday with losses to Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union and Weston FC (Fla.). The Winter Showcase drew curtains on a successful 2016 campaign which saw the Sporting KC U-16s and U-18s reach the USSDA playoffs.
The 2016 USSDA Winter Showcase was held in conjunction with the Nike International Friendlies, where Sporting KC Academy defender Jaylin Lindsey started in all three victories for the United States en route to the tournament championship.
Dec. 2: Sporting KC U-16s 3, Empire United 2
The U-16s’ first match at the Winter Showcase was a harbinger of things to come: plenty of goals from both teams with Sporting KC emerging on top. Mason Visconti opened the scoring before halftime, controlling a long ball from Massimo McGuire and firing low into the corner. Empire United punched back with a quick pair of goals after the restart, but Jahon Rad equalized in the 55th minute following a delightful cross from Jonathan Munoz. Sporting KC then found the winner on 78 minutes when Sean Karani latched onto Colin Innes’ corner and finished from close range.
Dec. 3: Sporting KC U-16s 5, Columbus Crew SC 1
Sporting KC had less trouble dispatching Columbus the next day, jumping out to a quick lead when Maxi Rugova’s ball to the far post was turned home by Visconti. The end of the half saw goalkeeper Alex Brown make a fantastic diving save before Innes made it 2-0 with a curling effort that caromed off the post and into the net. Sporting KC added three more goals in the second period courtesy of Karani, Kyle Reese and Luke Rafanan, but Brown was unable to keep a clean sheet as Crew SC scored late.
Dec. 5: Sporting KC U-16s 6, Philadelphia Union 3
A great weekend for the U-16s ended in wild fashion as Sporting KC and Philadelphia combined for nine goals on Monday morning. The first strike came within a minute of kickoff as Abdu Kikhia set up Gianluca Busio for a close-range finish. The Union equalized on a 15th-minute counter attack and snared the lead shortly before halftime, setting the stage for a thrilling second half.
Kikhia put his name on the scoresheet in the 46th minute, then Sporting KC retook the lead on an expertly taken penalty kick from Rugova. A red card saw Philadelphia reduced to 10 men, but the Union leveled proceedings on the hour mark despite their numerical disadvantage. The match would turn on its head five minutes later when another red card to Philadelphia opened the floodgates. Ryan Fessler put his team back on top, Kikhia netted a fifth and Visconti rounded out the scoring in a crazy finish to the contest.
With three wins in Florida under their belt, the U-16s improved to 9-3-1 on the season and climbed to second place in the Frontier Division of the Central Conference.
Sporting KC U-18s lose three
The Sporting KC U-18s (8-5-0) dropped to third place in the Frontier Division after suffering three straight defeats at Premier Sports Campus. Thursday’s 4-2 result against Orlando City included goals from Leroy Enzugusi and Chase Bromstedt, Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Union saw Gabe Kash open his scoring account, and Enzugusi was on target again in Sunday’s 4-1 setback to Weston FC.