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Academy Rivalry Week: Sockers FC, Chicago Fire Converge in Key Central Conference Showdown

Three Chicago Teams Looking for Early Edge in U-17/18 Division with Perfect Starts in Mid-America

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Development Academy

Three Chicago Teams Looking for Early Edge in U-17/18 Division with Perfect Starts in Mid-America

Development Academy Rivalry Week hits full swing this weekend, with top players gearing up for an early challenge in the 2012-13 season. Player development
is the main objective in the Academy, but it is only natural for the players to get caught up in the team rivalries and local derbies that arise during the
rigorous 10-month season.

One noteworthy rivalry fixtures is Sockers FC hosting the Chicago Fire in west suburban Naperville, Ill. The matchup has included its run-ins both in the
regular season and postseason, and this weekend’s tilt carries early importance at the U-17/18 age group as both teams are off to 3-0-0 starts in the
Central Conference’s Mid-America Division.

“Both teams are off to great starts – actually, all three Chicago teams [including Chicago Magic PSG],” said Sockers FC’s Tyler Davis, who is playing in
his third Academy season. “I think at the beginning of the year we were underestimated as a .500 team, so we’re going in as the underdogs. It’s going to be
a really good game. In my time with the Sockers, we have never beaten the Fire so far – we’ve tied a few times.”

The Fire-Sockers matchup

has been featured at the Academy Finals Week

, as well, when the Chicago Fire U-15/16 team topped Sockers FC 2-1 on July 10 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The Fire’s first homegrown
signing, Victor Pineda, had one of the Fire Academy team’s two goals. Damien Sampson scored an equalizer for Sockers FC and Keaton Albert responded for the
Fire just two minutes later. The Fire would go on to win the U-15/16 Academy Finals Week crown.

When matches such as this arise during the Academy season, players are certainly challenged to maintain their focus in treating this game like every other.

“It’s definitely tough at the beginning of the season because the first thing you look for when the schedule comes out is when you play the Fire because
that often is the biggest rivalry,” Davis said. “Being in the same conference, you begin the year looking for this game.”

The close proximity to one another also plays a factor. There is a familiarity between the sides after facing each other for many previous years, and the
intensity of the games also tends to reach another level.

“We’ve been playing each other since we were small, so it’s kids we’ve known for a while,” Davis said. “Cody Witkowski, their center back, we’ve played
against each other and we will probably match up this weekend. These games are intense, and early on just watching the U-17/18 team games, you see how big
of a rivalry it is. It would be huge for us to take down both Chicago teams and be the best team in the city.”

Here are some other notable Academy Rivalry Week matchups this weekend:

  • Albertson SC at New York Red Bulls; Sunday, Oct. 7:
    As recent as this past season, the New York Red Bulls U-15/16 team edged out Albertson SC for an automatic bid for the Academy Playoffs based on goal
    differential. Albertson was within 10 minutes of sweeping the two-game series against the Red Bulls during the 2011-12 regular season, but a Matthew
    Miazga goal in the closing minutes of the second match on June 9 gave the Red Bulls a 1-1 draw. The Red Bulls gained plenty of steam after that match
    as they posted nine straight wins, including a 1-0 Finals Week championship victory against St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri at BBVA Compass Stadium
    in Houston.
  • Concorde Fire at Georgia United;
    Sunday, Oct. 7:
    Both clubs have played two matches at each age level and are tied in their respective standings as the U-15/16 teams are 1-0-1 and the U-17/18 teams
    are 1-1-0. An interesting connection off the pitch between the two clubs – Concorde Fire Director of Coaching Gregg Blasingame and Georgia United
    Executive Director Dave Smith are former teammates at the Atlanta Attack indoor soccer team. Their teammate/coach also was U.S. Futsal National Team
    head coach Keith Tozer, who capped off his playing days with the Attack before embarking on his record-breaking coaching career.
  • Crew Soccer Academy Wolves at Vardar SC Freiburg;
    Saturday, Oct. 6:
    The CSA Wolves U-15/16 team is off to a perfect 3-0-0 start and both Vardar SC Freiburg teams are 2-0-1, so this is an early test for both sides in the
    Mid-America Division. The Michigan-based teams have each earned an Academy championship, with Vardar winning the U-17/18 crown in 2010 and the formerly
    named Derby County Wolves winning the U-15/16 championship in 2009.
  • FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo;
    Saturday, Oct. 6:
    The two Texas-based, MLS-affiliated teams are set for an early-season showdown. The FC Dallas U-17/18 team is returning to some familiar grounds after
    winning the 2011-12 Academy Finals Week championship in Houston. FC Dallas started its Academy season a bit later than the Dynamo. Houston is 1-0-1 at
    both age levels and the two FC Dallas teams are 1-0-0.

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Academy Rivalry Week: Sockers FC, Chicago Fire Converge in Key Central Conference Showdown
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