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U14s top Chicago Fire 3-1 in showcase match

The Union offense was clicking on all cylinders in a match streamed live on U.S. Soccer's YouTube account Tuesday.

Michael McKeown (left) and Jack de Vries in a game earlier this year against Continental FC Delco
Matt Ralph

Results are never a priority in showcase matches like the one the Union Academy U14 team played in Frisco, Texas, on Tuesday, but in this case the scoreboard did tell a tale of an offense that was clicking on all cylinders for the Union in a 3-1 win over Chicago Fire.

A day after suffering just their second defeat of the year, the U14s made the most of their opportunity to not only show their skills for the scouts and coaches present but also the audience tuning in to the live stream on YouTube.

Midfielder Michael Pellegrino showed early why he was wearing the armband and why he’s played up with the U16s and been called up to the youth national team. In the 10th minute, the Wenonah, N.J. native collected a pass at the top of the box from Nick Blacklock and fired a rocket that squeezed in under the bar for his sixth goal of the season.

Fifteen minutes later, Jason Aoyama sent a searching ball to an on-rushing Michael McKeown, who timed his ruined perfectly, beat his defender and calmly finished to the keeper’s left to make it 2-0. The goal was the 16th of the year for the forward from Laurel Springs, N.J. and one of several dangerous chances he was able to create in a first half that was all Union.

Still, the Union were somewhat fortunate to go into the half with a 2-0 lead after shouts for a penalty on right back Donovan Wu, who collided with Roberto Alonzo in the box. Every other attack for the Fire was almost instantly snuffed out and turned into a dangerous counter. Defensive midfielder Guei Marco Obed Bla was a big reason for that. Making just his seventh start of the season, Bla was one of the most impressive players on the field for the 45 minutes he played.

Alex Monis, who subbed in for the injured Alonzo in the 18th minute, brought the Fire offense to life when he pounced on a ball loose in the box and fire home a rocket of his own to cut the lead in half in the first minute of the second half (U14s play 40-minute halves). As often happens, the goal woke the Fire offense up and chances started coming in bunches.

The defense in front of goalkeeper Kristopher Shakes held strong and Aoyoma started to relieve that pressure with an impressive display of technical skill down the right flank. Substitute Jack de Vries was also in the thick of things with some clinical touches and eventually iced the game with a perfectly timed jump and volley off a long cross from the right flank by Maxwell Owens.

The smallest player on the field, U13 team regular Paxten Aaronson, also showed well as a late substitute, creating a scoring chance for himself moments after subbing on. Defender Daniel Bateman also made some key tackles to preserve the lead after subbing into the game in the 54th minute.

The U14s close out their Frisco trip with a match Thursday against Portland Timbers at 4 p.m. local time.