The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-18s and U-16s earned positive results on Saturday as the 2015-16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season hit the home stretch.
Facing the Dallas Texans at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the U-18s grabbed a 1-0 victory behind Dakota Karns' early strike and a shutout from Steve Tekesky. The U-16s then capped the doubleheader with a 2-2 draw, receiving goals from Abdu Kikhia and Mason Visconti.
With three league games still to play, both teams are positioned to qualify for the USSDA Playoffs next month in Frisco, Texas.
The U-18s (13-7-3, 42 points) went ahead in the 18th minute off a well-orchestrated attack involving Karns, Fernando Borges and Ryan Kellogg. Borges busted forward along the sideline before playing centrally to Kellogg, who slipped Karns through on goal for his first league goal of the season. Paul Whitener nearly doubled the advantage in the 40th minute, but his shot was turned away by the goalkeeper. The U-18s would enjoy the lion's share of possession in the second half, but Tekesky was forced to make an excellent save in the 87th minute to preserve the lead and ultimately seal three points.
Saturday's triumph consolidates the U-18s' fourth-place position in the Frontier Division standings. The top three teams from each division qualify automatically for the USSDA playoffs, with the top 11 wildcard teams from across the country also receiving a playoff berth. Sporting KC currently sits third in the wildcard pool, which ranks teams based on points per game.
The U-16s (11-8-4, 37 points) sustained early pressure from the Texans as Alex Brown made a pair of impressive saves in the early stages. Sporting KC gained their footing as the half unfolded and drew first blood in the 24th minute. Dontell Gilyard's low cross from the wing found Kikhia, who hammered high into the net at the near post.
An excellent sequence in the 53rd minute saw the U-16s take a two-goal lead. Brown's punch save sprung a counter attack as Collin Innes played long to Kikhia. The forward's shot was saved by the keeper, but Visconti was on hand to poke home the rebound. Dallas would salvage a point with a late comeback as Jorge Barrientos and Tyler Shea scored in the 65th and 76th minutes, respectively.
The draw keeps Sporting KC one point ahead of Texas Rush for third place in the Frontier Division. The U-16s have two games in hand on their Texas counterparts, meaning three points from their final three matches will clinch a spot in the USSDA playoffs.
Both Academy sides return to action Saturday for a doubleheader against FC Dallas at Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma. The U-18s will kick off at noon CT, followed by the U-16s at 2:30 p.m. and the U-14s at 4:30 p.m. The FC Dallas Academy, currently atop the Frontier Division at the U-18 and U-16 levels, has produced 14 Homegrown Players for its senior team since 2009. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates.