It only took four seasons for the Austin FC Academy to bring home significant silverware.
Their Under-15 squad captured the 2023 Generation adidas Cup on Sunday, besting the Philadelphia Union on penalties after the two sides drew 1-1. For the second game in a row, Nicolas Aristizabal came up huge in the shootout, stopping the seventh Union penalty of the day, securing the shootout by a 7-6 margin.
It was a close clash featuring two teams that showed extremely well throughout the tournament. The Union’s attack, led by Anisse Saidi, Cavan Sullivan and Nehan Hassan, looked to solve an Austin backline that had conceded just one goal from its first six games.
A slice of fortune for Austin FC opened the scoring. Andrei Chirila played a back pass to Alex Smith, and a bad hop took it past the goalkeeper’s foot and into the back of the net. The lead gave center backs Miles Patton and Gavin Wolff something to protect in front of Aristizabal, and Austin did enough to hold a lead at the break. A header from midfielder Peter Doran was perhaps the Union’s best chance of the half, but he was unable to direct it on target.
It didn’t take long for the Union to tie the game in the second half. Three minutes into the second stanza, Jamir Johnson’s tap-in at the far post capped off a well-worked team move. Left back Jordan Griffin played a pivotal role, reading the Union’s possession play and slowly creeping up the field. When Doran picked out Sullivan close to the touchline, Griffin burst forward into space just outside the box. Sullivan found Griffin who took a couple of touches, cut back onto his right foot, and whizzed a low cross to a wide-open Johnson at the far post.
Chances emerged in the second half for each side, though the game was typically tight, as championship games tend to go. Smith made a big save from a Wolff header to keep things even from a set piece, and Hasan nearly put the Union out in front after forcing a turnover high up the field.
Neither side could solve the other, so extra time was next, with two five-minute periods tacked on. Each side had good chances to win it then. First, it was the Union, as Aristizabal stood tall to deny Gabriel Wesseh from close range. In the 78th minute, Austin midfielder Milo Williams stabbed a shot just wide that could’ve won it late.
Both sides put on a clinic in penalties, until Aristizabal made the trophy-clinching stop in the seventh round.