Sockers FC and New York Red Bulls Play to 1-1 Draw in U-15/16 Playoff Opener

Westfield, Ind. (June 22, 2017) - Sockers FC and New York Red Bulls shared the points with a 1-1 draw in Thursday's U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-15/16 Playoff Group H opener at Grand Park. Joshua Penn scored a first half opener for Sockers FC and Jack Valderrabano pulled the goal back for the Red Bulls after the break.

"We came into the playoffs as one of the low seeds but we told the guys to believe in themselves, and that they are a good team," New York Red Bulls U-15/16 head coach Paul O'Donnell said. "I think today, being the showcase game, they got a chance to show that and I think they showed well, they should be proud of themselves. Maybe we were a little unlucky with a couple of chances we had not to get the three points."

The New York Red Bulls had the majority of the possession in the opening half, earning five corner kicks, but were unable to break through the Sockers FC backline.

Just before the stroke of halftime, Sockers FC opened the scoring against the run of play. Tim Bielic played the ball into the feet of Aidan Liu. Liu flicked a pass into the run of Penn streaking down the left side and Penn whistled a shot into the top corner near post past Red Bulls goalkeeper Matt Frank to give Sockers FC a 1-0 lead at the interval.

The Red Bulls pulled level in the 53rd minute on a goal from Valderrabano. New York's high press created a turnover, Skyler Conway touched the ball on to Kevin Alvarado who slipped a pass toward the six-yard box where Valderrabano lifted a shot over Sockers FC goalkeeper Roman Celentano to even the match, 1-1.

Both teams had chances to find a winning goal in the final 25 minutes of the contest.

Just a minute after equalizing, the Red Bulls created another chance as Scott Taylor and Jared Juleau connected down the left side before Juleau found Valderrabano with a great chance that was saved by Celentano.

The Red Bulls had another chance in the 66th minute as Valderrabano found Conway in the area who flicked the ball to himself to create space and had a look at goal, but Celentano was equal to it.

Six minutes before full-time Sockers FC nearly found a game-winner in spectacular fashion as Liu's overhead kick sailed just high.

"Anytime 15 or 16-year old kids get put into a featured game, it is nothing that has happened in the previous 25 games," said Sockers FC U-15/16 head coach David Richardson. "Is it a little uncomfortable? For some (yes), for others, they have been in different situations, but I think it is the best way to develop all the players through the Academy."

"There has to be something now in these games that is different than the regular season; that is how you see which guys shine when the spotlight is a little bit brighter. The way the environment is setup naturally puts pressure on the players and you see the best guys are able to step forward and produce."

Sockers FC will continue Group H action on Saturday, June 24, when they face Seattle Sounders. New York Red Bulls will meet local rival BW Gottschee in their second Group H matchup on Saturday.