NEW YORK CITY FC TAKES HOME DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY U-18/19 TITLE IN DRAMATIC PENALTY KICK SHOOTUT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 10, 2018) - On a hot evening at the Swope Park Soccer Village, New York City FC and LA Galaxy went the distance. Crowning a national champion at the Academy's U-18/19 level would require the teams to leave everything on the field through a deadlocked 90 minutes of regulation and a hard-fought 30-minute extra time period that ended in a 0-0 draw. As the clock continued to tick and the teams traded chances, the game seemed destined for penalty kicks. In the gauntlet of the shootout, NYCFC rose to the occasion to claim the national title in its first season at the U-18/19 age level.

New York City goalkeeper Johan Peñaranda and defender James Sands proved to be the heroes of the marathon affair. Peñaranda's save on the Galaxy's fourth penalty attempt, from Jake Arteaga, teed-up Sands to sink the game-winner to the top left corner. His goal clinched the Blues' 5-3 shootout victory, and the defender also played a starring role for New York's defense, locking down the back line against several dangerous attempts.

Things got off to a quick start in Kansas City, as NYC employed the press that had wrought it so much success in the Playoffs thus far. While star midfielder Giovanni Reyna missed City's semifinal victory due to injury, he came back to play a critical role in the championship. The forward comfortably returned to his role as a spark in the middle of the field and made his presence known with a free kick that rattled the crossbar in the early going.

Forward Will Sands, twin brother of James, also featured prominently in the NYC attack that held possession for much of the first half. New York's press gave LA trouble, and the Blues were comfortable playing patiently out of the back. The Galaxy defense handled a flurry of early corner kick attempts that served as warning shots from NYC's high-powered offense.

LA's semifinal hero, captain Alex Mendez, found his team's best early chance on a dangerous 21st-minute free kick. After making some cutting runs into NYC territory, Mendez took a booming free kick reminiscent of his game winner from Sunday, but it went wide by mere inches.

As NYC took its time in possession, Kwaku Owusu shone from the back line, making several key passes to tee-up the Blues' attacking talent, while captain Nico Benalcazar also played an active role on the wing.

After New York controlled the ball for the most of the first half, LA was rearing to go after the break. The Galaxy got off to a fast start, spurred by Ulysses Llanez on the left wing. Talented in shaking defenders one-on-one, Llanez found room to run in the second half, and peppered NYC goalkeeper Johan Peñaranda with a number of attempts.

The game looked to have its opening goal in the 58th minute off of a New York corner kick. Reyna launched a service into the middle of the box where Justin Haak rifled a header into the back of the net, but the goal was waved off due to a foul.

LA found a number of threatening free kick opportunities down the stretch and while Llanez continued to threaten the New York defense, James Sands held down the fort. The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup alumnus was rock-solid on the back line and instrumental in preserving the Blues' clean sheet.

As the clock neared the end of regulation, end-to-end action opened up and both teams saw prime opportunities. In the 89th, Owusu served up a nice pass to James Sands at the top of the box. The midfielder made a shifty move to get a step on his defender and sent a hard-hit ball just wide of the net. Stoppage time saw Diedie Traore take a dangerous dribble up the left side and thread himself between two defenders before crossing it to the top of the box. There, Efrain Alvarez booted the ball towards goal, but it sank into the side-netting, just wide.

Both 'keepers were called upon to make remarkable saves in extra time. Peñaranda snuffed out perhaps the Galaxy's most-dangerous chance in the 110th minute. Alvarez won a ball in the air on an attempted clearance and he took an impressive tight turn before slotting it to the near post. Peñaranda dove to block the attempt. Aristotle Zarris pounced on the rebound, but the 'keeper recovered to extinguish the danger. At the other end, a long-distance effort from New York required Eric Lopez to make a leaping save in the 113th minute.

In the penalty kick shootout, both teams were perfect through the first three rounds, but Peñaranda seemed to be dialing in on the Galaxy shooters. He was able to guess right and get a hand on some of LA's early attempts, but not able to keep it from finding the back of the net. That changed on the Galaxy's fourth try from the spot. Arteaga lifted a ball to the left and Peñaranda guessed correctly to dive and make the save. His effort set-up James Sands for a potential game-winning PK. The defender left no doubt, as he nailed the ball to the top left corner and sent the Blues into a frenzy.