IMG Academy U18s conquer adversity in impressive Dallas Cup run
The Dallas Cup is the oldest and most prestigious international youth boys soccer tournament in the United States. Since its inaugural year in 1980, the Dallas Cup has hosted teams from 45 states, 100 countries and six continents. This year, youth teams from Manchester United, Juventus, Tigres, Ajax, and others were in attendance. Just to be invited is an honor, and IMG Academy had three teams represented: U14s, U17s and U18s.
“It's a great competition and good tournament,” said U18s right midfielder, Victor Rojas. “All the teams are good.”
IMG Academy’s U18s took full advantage of the opportunity to showcase their skills, but not without adversity. After a disappointing loss in their first game against FC Astoria Waldorf (GER), the odds were against IMG Academy advancing to the knockout rounds.
“No one actually thought we would make the knockout round,” said U18 forward Raul Gonzalez.
The boys came together though and focused on playing like a team in the second game against Club Mana (MEX). That focus paid off with a game-winning goal coming in the dying moments of the match. Despite winning, in order to reach the quarterfinals they needed Club Mana to defeat FC Astoria Waldorf 3-2 and they had to win their game against TCSC Cavalry White by 5 goals. The score was 2-1 to FC Astoria Waldorf with 10 minutes remaining when Club Mana scored the game tying goal and shortly after, the game-winning goal. This gave IMG Academy a fighting chance at securing a quarterfinal birth. Head Coach Scott Dean put together an all-attacking lineup, hoping to score quickly and often. It turned out to be a genius move, with IMG Academy leading 6-0 heading into halftime and a final score of 10-0. Against all odds, IMG Academy was through to the quarterfinals where they would face academy rivals RSL AZ Elite.
As expected, the game was tense, but IMG Academy were lethal in front of goal scoring two in the first half. Going into the second half the defense knew RSL were going to come out flying, but withstood the attack. IMG Academy put the nail in the coffin with a third and final goal from Yussuf Olajde to win 3-0 and reach the semi-finals.
“The RSL game we played very good as a team,” said Olajde. “ On my first goal, Pablo gave the ball to Victor and he shot and the goal keeper saved it and I scored on the rebound. On the second one, I made a good run and Pablo slid the ball through, and I was one-on-one with the goalkeeper, so I did my thing and dribbled the goalkeeper.”
Unfortunately, their magical run came to an end at the hands of Swedish team IF Brommapojkarna. IMG Academy held the Swedes at bay for most of the match, but their possession and quick passes wore down the team. IF Brommapojkarna took the game 2-0, but IMG Academy walked away with their heads held high.