The MLS NEXT Cup finalists at the U-16 and U-15 levels have been decided after another impressive display of youth talent in Frisco, Texas.
St. Louis CITY SC 1, D.C. United 2
The first team earning a spot in Saturday's final at Toyota Stadium was D.C. United. After Luke Peacock came up big in penalty shootouts in the previous two rounds, the goalkeeper kept out a late penalty to preserve a lead provided by Sydney Aggrey's brace.
United drew first blood in the 21st minute. Garry Zhang sent a corner to the far post, Alem saw his header saved but the ball fell kindly for Aggrey to tap in the rebound.
St. Louis should have got on the board shortly after halftime after Braydon Sellers sent a cross to an unmarked Caden Glover at the back post. The 15-year-old just couldn't get enough behind the header from six yards out, allowing Luke Peacock to make the save.
Glover made no mistake in the 56th minute to tie the game. Sellers ran uncontested through the DC midfield, picking out Aaron Herd. Herd did well to thread a ball through for Glover to flick the ball over the onrushing keeper.
The game would only stay level for five minutes, however. Alem made a darting run down the left wing, dodging two challenges. After getting to the byline, Alem squared the ball low for Aggrey to power home his second of the day.
D.C. United's Nicholas Beil went from high to low in seconds after blocking a certain goal, the substitute was deemed to have pushed Sellers in the back in the box with three minutes remaining. Mykhi Joyner was denied by the crossbar shortly before, and Peacock denied Joyner with a full-stretch save on the spot kick.
Strikers FC 4, De Anza Force 1
De Anza Force got off to the hot start, but it was Strikers that would open the scoring in the 18th minute. A short corner was played to Matteo Salcedo, whose cross met the head of Dalton Bulowski around the penalty mark. Their lead would only last four minutes however. A long ball from Griffin Gustafson tempted Strikers' keeper, Dylan Kaye, off his line. Roka Tsunehara fought his way between two defenders towards the ball. Kaye got some of the ball but Tsunehara got clear of the challenge and the latter happily took advantage of the empty net.
Strikers FC took back the lead in the 40th minute. Cristian Flores secured a loose ball in midfield, finding Gavin Rivas down the right channel. Rivas cut neatly across the box for Devin Zachry to shoot, but the shot was well blocked. Flores swung at the rebound and tucked it beyond the reach of Luca Fitzgerald.
Andrew Bahena extended the lead in the 76th minute from another set piece before Gavin Rivas rounded out the scoring in the 81st minute.
Inter Miami CF 1, LA Galaxy 0
From no representation at the 2021 MLS NEXT Cup playoffs to a final in 2022. A second half finish by Daniel Pinter sends Inter Miami into the U-15 showpiece game on Saturday evening.
Sacramento Republic FC 0, Real Salt Lake 2
Real Salt Lake will aim to win back to back MLS NEXT Cups at the U-15 level after first half goals from Kevin Hernandez and Zavier Gozo set up a meeting with Miami.