The Sporting KC U-15s defeated Sockers FC 4-2 on Sept. 14
Three Sporting Kansas City Academy teams took the field Saturday for the second matchday of the 2019-20 DA Cup, squaring off against Sockers FC at Canlan Sportsplex in Barrington, Illinois.
The U-15s improved their DA Cup record to 2-0-0 with a 4-2 victory, while the U-17s and U-19s slipped to narrow losses after opening their tournament campaigns with group stage wins on Aug. 31 at Swope Soccer Village.
Saturday marked the continuation the inaugural DA Cup’s Fall Group Stage, which will see the U-17 and U-19 squads playing in regional groups with hopes of advancing to the 32-team Winter Cup. The U-15 age group will only participate in the Fall Group Stage and will not play down to a single champion. Sporting are in the Midwest Group alongside Michigan Wolves, Columbus Crew SC, Sockers FC and Toronto FC. The top three finishers will progress to the Winter Cup.
Sporting landed the first punch after 15 minutes when Matthew Fisher played a lovely through ball to Jacob Bartlett, who chipped the Sockers keeper for his first goal of the season. Gianluca Armellino’s strike rattled the post a few minutes later, but Sporting would double their lead on the half-hour mark as Nati Clarke headed home off a Jack Lucas corner kick.
Gage Akalu, who scored twice in Sporting’s opening-day win over the Michigan Wolves two weeks earlier, found the back of the net once more in the 65th minute before Sockers FC grabbed a goal back. The hosts made it 3-2 in the 73rd minute to set up a tense finale, but Akalu sealed the win with his second straight brace in stoppage time.
"The U-15s had a very positive showing," said Sporting KC U-17/19 head coach Rumba Munthali. "They started the game off well, controlled the match and dictated play. We scored three unanswered goals and had a six-minute spell where they showed their quality and closed out a game."
Sporting fell behind 2-0 within the first 23 minutes but gradually gained a foothold and cut the deficit in half on the brink of halftime. Francisco Lopez’s pinpoint delivery into the box was steered goalward by Edward Mendy, whose first-time shot put the visitors on the scoreboard. Mendy went agonizingly close to leveling terms in the 89th minute, but his shot deflected off a defender and fizzed marginally wide.
"We started slowly and gave up two goals in the first 20 minutes, but we settled down and controlled the game from that point on and scored a goal before halftime," Munthali said. "We played well the whole second half but couldn’t quite find the tying goal."
Sockers FC put Sporting under early pressure as goalkeeper Max Trejo made two excellent saves during the first half hour. The hosts would take a 1-0 lead on 43 minutes, prompting a good response from Sporting early in the second half. U.S. youth international Osvaldo Cisneros almost equalized three minutes after the restart, not long before Jahon Rad tried his luck with a booming strike from distance. The Sockers added a second goal in the 82nd minute and Sporting’s frustration was compounded when Rad’s well-hit free kick was saved impressively.
"We were very unfortunate not to get a result in this one," Munthali said. "After creating numerous chances, we gave up a goal against the run of play just before halftime. The opponents defended well and we weren’t able to find a goal to change the game."
A tripleheader against fellow MLS academy Toronto FC beckons Saturday at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo. (6310 Lewis Rd.). The U-15s will kick things off at 9 a.m. CT, followed by the U-17s at 11 a.m. and the U-19s at 1 p.m. All three matches are free of admission and open to the general public. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates Saturday and throughout the 2019-20 Development Academy season.