FC Dallas Team Repeats as Academy Champions
July 16, 2016

Reigning champions FC Dallas U-17/18 team dug out a win tonight against Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the 2015-16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-17/18 Championship Saturday at the National Training Center. FC Dallas used an 81st minute equalizer from Devin Vega and 106th minute winner from overtime substitute Juanito Ramirez to earn a 2-1 comeback to reclaim the championship.

Having seen the club's U-15/16 side defeat LA Galaxy 2-0 in the night's earlier Final, the win made FC Dallas the first club to sweep both age groups at the Development Academy Finals. The win also served a repeat championship of sorts, with 90 percent of the FC Dallas U-17/18 group making up last year's U-15/16 championship team.

"It's a group of boys that never gives up," said FC Dallas U-17/18 head coach Francisco Molina. "They train like that, they practice like that every single minute. They've been showing it to us for four years and I'm very proud of this group. I know the club is very proud - our owners, Oscar, Fernando [Clavijo], everyone is very proud of this group of kids."

The early stage of the game saw the two sides entrenched in a midfield battle as both teams had tentative moments that come in a championship game.

After releasing some nerves, Vancouver earned a 10th minute corner kick that would lead to the game's first goal. David Norman's inswinging corner kick picked out Vana Markarian, whose redirected volley at the near post snuck past FC Dallas goalkeeper Ben Hale.

Whitecaps FC came close to a 2-0 advantage in the 21st minute as midfielder Michael Baldisimo lobbed a beautiful ball into the box for Terran Campbell. The Vancouver forward flicked on his header, which came off the left post and sputtered through the goal mouth before trickling out for a goal kick.

FC Dallas eased back into the game and came close to the equalizer in the 27th minute. A quickly taken free kick saw Paxton Pomykal break free down the left before his cross was turned out by a Vancouver defender. The ball fell for FCD midfielder Adrian Ramos, but his heavy-hit first-time effort streamed over the bar.

FC Dallas had two more close opportunities before halftime. In the 43rd minute, the Texas side won the ball back following a goal kick. Paxton Pomykal picked the ball up and dribbled towards goal before hitting a dangerous, low drive that was desperately deflected out for a corner kick by Norman. On the ensuing take, Devin Vega's outswinging cross from the left picked out Hector Montalvo, but his header edged just over the crossbar.

After a slow start to the second half, FC Dallas continued to look for the equalizing goal. In the 60th minute, a build up down the right led to Adrian Ramos feeding Vega on the left, but he mishit his first-time effort wide left of goal.

A minute later, Vancouver moved quickly back the other way as Daniel Sagno chased down a long clearance and laid off for Glorie Amanda. The Whitecaps FC striker took one touch before driving a heavy blast that was only kept out thanks to a brilliant diving save from Hale at the right post.

Whitecaps FC kept up the search for a second goal in the 69th minute when Norman threaded a perfect through ball for Sagno. The striker got a touch to it, but the attempt was kept out by the onrushing Hale. The pair collided on the play, stopping the game momentarily and eventually forcing Hale to be substituted in the 80th minute.

FC Dallas would grab the dramatic equalizer a minute after the substitution, as the ball fell for Damian Hernandez at the end line and he cut back for Vega, who fired his shot inside the right post in the 81st minute.

Galvanized by the equalizer, FC Dallas would provide two moments of high drama in the final moments of regulation.

In the first minute of stoppage time, a cleared corner fell to Yasuda on the right side of the box. The Dallas attacker swung a cross to the near post, which Montalvo redirected only to see Whitecaps FC defender Marcello Polisi clear his effort off the line.

In the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, Pomykal's lobbed cross from the right was popped up in the box by substitute Gustavo Lopez. Hernandez's desperation header was turned away with a point-blank reaction save from Whitecaps' keeper Aidan Aylward. The stop kept Vancouver alive in the game and forced the encounter to extra time.

Having already experienced an extra time game this year, Vega said his side knew what to expect.

"We played Sporting Kansas City in the Quarterfinal and went to extra time," he said. "It was the same situation, nothing new to us. We knew we had to battle and come out with fire."

The momentum carried for FC Dallas early in extra time when Edwin Munjoma played a clever combination with Pomykal who played the midfielder into the box. There, Munjoma drove a rocket towards goal that Aylward palmed away in the 96th minute.

The pair would combine again in the 105th minute, when Munjoma pushed Pomykal into space in the middle. Pomykal made a knifing run towards goal before letting loose a blast that swerved right of the Vancouver goal.

After knocking on the door multiple times, FC Dallas' go-ahead goal came from an unlikely hero in extra time, substitute Juanito Ramirez in the 106th minute. Still employing high pressure, Adrian Ramos forced a turnover and broke up the left where he played for Pomykal on the edge of the area. The active Dallas attacker slid across the box for Lopez who played a settling touch for Ramirez, leaving the overtime substitute a dramatic finish for his first goal of the season.

"I thought he was going to shoot the ball, but I guess he had a missed touch," Ramirez said of the build-up to his game-winner. "Thank God he did and thank God we scored."

Vancouver frantically tried to pull an equalizer back to force penalty kicks, but couldn't muster a dangerous attempt on goal as FC Dallas closed out the game. As the final whistle blew, the club's U-15/16 championship side stormed the field to celebrate with the newly crowned U-17/18 champs.

Saturday's victories mark the club's third and fourth U.S. Soccer Development Academy championships, having previously won at U-17/18 level in 2011-12 and U-15/16 level in 2014-15.