Two of the best academy teams in Major League Soccer traded haymakers for more than two hours of end-to-end play with a national title on the line Tuesday night, and penalty kicks were required to break a scoreless deadlock in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s Under-18/19 championship final.
In the end, a composed New York City FC squad featuring Gio Reyna, son of Claudio, and HGPs James Sands and Joe Scally edged a talent-laden LA Galaxy side spearheaded by teenage Homegrown Player signing Efrain Alvarez and fellow blue-chippers Alex Mendez and Ulysses Llanez in a dramatic PK shootout.
In a taut, pulsating match played under hot summer conditions at Sporting KC’s Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Missouri, both sides pressed and possessed in similar measure, only to have their finishing touch elude them in front of goal.
NYCFC’s Justin Haak thought he’d scored off a corner kick, only to have the play waved off by a foul call. Then Aristotle Zarris latched on to one of the game's best scoring chances when NYCFC goalkeeper Johan Peñaranda spilled a rebound of an Alvarez shot in the first half of extra time, but Peñaranda threw himself in the way to deny a point-blank finish.
With no goals through 120 minutes of play, the affair was decided by spot kicks. With NYCFC netting all five of their attempts, capped by James Sands' emphatic final PK, Peñaranda's save on Jake Arteaga was the decisive moment, earning the hardware for the blue half of New York.
LA Galaxy: #1 Erick Lopez (GK); #19 Zico Bailey, #5 Ian Lonergan, #44 Leo Sepulveda, #13 Diedie Traore; #21 Alex Mendez, #6 Carlos Anguiano, #40 Efra Alvarez; #11 Jorge Hernandez, #14 Aristotle Zarris, #7 Uly Llanez
New York City FC: #12 Johan Penaranda (GK); #5 Nico Benalcazar, #2 Kwaku Owusu, #16 James Sands, #3 Joe Scally; #30 Andres Jasson, #6 Justin Haak, #18 Will Sands, #38 Dante Polvara; #10 Gio Reyna, #77 Esad Mackic