SOCKERS FC U-18/19 REBOUND IN RESOUNDING FASHION, TAKE DOWN SEATTLE SOUNDERS 3-1

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (June 20, 2018) - Sockers FC U-18/19 took care of business to stay alive in Group C with a 3-1 win over Seattle Sounders FC. The Chicago-based side suffered an upset loss in its opener against Oakwood Soccer Club, but responded in a must-win situation to maintain its place in the playoff picture. Sockers got after it early and often, finding the better of the attacking opportunities for the full 90. Forward Aidan Liu's 19th-minute header gave the Mid-American champs the lead while late goals from midfielder Ethan Stoneman and Joshua Penn put the game on ice.

As the No. 8 seed in the U-18/19 playoffs, Sockers arrived in San Diego as Group C's top-ranked team. But No. 32 Oakwood, the final team to qualify for the postseason, upset the perennial Chicago powerhouse 3-1 in the teams' opener on Monday. As only group winners advance to the knockout round, Wednesday's clash became a must-win for the Sockers, and the club answered the call.

The Chicago-area side took the better of the attack early at the SoCal Sports Complex, as forwards Joshua Penn and Aidan Liu threatened on some dangerous runs downfield. The team's regular season goalscoring leader, Penn's most dangerous early chance led to the team's first goal. Midfielder Bradley Sample played an integral role as a catalyst for Sockers' attack and a nice combination in the 19th minute with Penn found the forward on the run towards the net. His hard-hit shot was deflected, but earned the Mid-America Division winners their third corner kick in the first 20 minutes.

Penn lined up for the corner, and launched a well-placed ball right to the near post. Defender Colin Lynch took a step in front of his leaping mark to meet the ball and head it to the center of the six-yard-box, where Liu rifled home a header to the far corner to put Sockers up 1-0 in the 19th.

Seattle responded to the goal with a revitalized attack, pushing forward for more opportunities in the Sockers' final third. A dangerous spell of possession deep in Sockers territory brought the Northwest Division side one of its best chances of the day. After some overaggressive defense near the end line, the Sounders earned a free kick just a few yards from the corner flag. Cameron Martin sent the ball into the box and a Seattle attacker directed a well-placed header to the far corner, but U.S. U-17 Men's National Team alum, Sockers goalkeeper Alex Budnik made a diving save to swallow the attempt. He squashed any follow-up attempt to preserve the first half shutout.

While Seattle came out of the break looking for an equalizer, Sockers continued to hold an edge in possession. Budnik answered the call when the Sounders neared the net, and defender Colin Lynch held down the back line. Sample continued to be active in the second half and forward Jared Sparacino provided a spark for the Sockers attack. In the 57th minute, he found himself onside running free past the Seattle back line, but couldn't get his shot past Seattle goalkeeper Sam Fowler. A few minutes later, he took a long ball from Sample on the right wing and lofted a dangerous ball into the box near the penalty spot. Liu rose to meet it, but his header attempt went straight at the 'keeper.

As the half wore on, Seattle continued to press for an equalizer. The Sounders' best chance came in the 73rd minute. After a stretch of possession in the Sockers' final third, Seattle sent a through ball from the top of the box in towards the six-yard box. Azriel Gonzalez was in prime position to knot things up, taking a touch to get around Budnik and as he stepped forward to hammer the slow-rolling ball home, but defender Pierce Ugarte came all the way across the back line to make a heroic, sliding goal-line clearance.

In the late stages, the Sockers attack that had dominated in chances converted two goals off of set pieces to secure three points. In the 83rd minute, Kevin Kucaba launched a free kick into the box from more than 40 yards out that brushed off of a Seattle defender before Stoneman got his chest on the ball. After his initial contact, he took another touch towards the net with his shin before tapping it in at the near post to double the Sockers lead.

On an 88th minute free kick, Sparacino decided to forgo a booming ball into the box for a short rolling pass to Penn near the top of the box. While a Seattle defender got a foot on the rolling ball, Penn controlled it before another Sounder could close and lifted a shot to the near post to put the game out of reach.

Seattle's Jake Morris scored on a long free kick in the third minute of stoppage time, but it was too little, too late for the MLS side.

In Group C's other game, Oakwood took down Weston FC 1-0. With the results, both the Sounders and Weston FC are eliminated from Group C. Sockers will take on Weston and Seattle will face off with Oakwood on Friday at 4:15 p.m., with the top spot in the group and a place in the quarterfinals on the line.