SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Earthquakes academy teams completed the best regular season in program history last week as the under-14, under-16 and under-18 teams accomplished their primary objectives.
The U16s clinched a playoff spot with a 2-1 win over Juventus on Saturday at San Jose State, and the U18s secured a Northwest Division championship despite a 3-2 loss to Juventus in a hard-fought game on Sunday at Avaya Stadium.
The U14s swept two opponents, taking a 1-0 win over second-place Juventus and a 6-1 win over Merced, to complete a runaway championship in its division.
Overall, the season marked the first time that the U18s and U16s made the playoffs in the same season. The U18s won the program’s first division championship. The U14 team's resounding success showed the vitality of the program which continues to pump out Division I college talent.
It’s heady stuff on all accounts.
“It’s a long season, so that’s our No. 1 goal to make the playoffs,” academy coach Stephen Wondolowski said. “Making the playoffs is big. That’s what the boys want to do. And they’ve put themselves in a great position, the 18s especially through point accumulation. If they get out of the first round of the playoffs, they have the possibility of hosting the Round of 8, which is really cool.”
The Quakes' teams will leave on June 20 for Indianapolis for the playoffs, in which teams will play in four-team groups, with only the group winner advancing.
In the U18 team’s loss to Juventus, the game provided a showcase environment at Avaya Stadium after the Earthquakes’ 0-0 draw with FC Dallas in MLS.
The academy players were even introduced before the MLS match.
Talk about a thrill.
"Oh yeah, the guys were really excited," Wondolowski said. "For their families, a lot of them have extended families that were here for the (high school) graduation, so it worked out really well that some of them got to see them on the field. To really see them on a first-team field and being honored by all the fans at Avaya Stadium, that's a very cool family moment. It's reward, especially for our seniors going off to college, kind of like their little graduation from the academy."
Michael Anderson scored the first goal for the U-18s in the 40th minute on a header off an Alex Valencia corner kick, and Yousef Dijab had the second goal, tying the match 2-2 in the 88th minute.
In the U16s match at San Jose State, Theo Huxham scored the winner in the 56th minute to break a 1-1 tie.
The U14 team's win over Juventus was important because the strong teams had split games previously. Newcomer Jayson Ho from Hawai scored the winner, and backup goalkeeper Ben Ayers stepped in strongly for Jordan Martinez, who suffered a calf injury in the match.
The Quakes (23-5-2, 71 points) created other scoring chances, but solid defense helped them get the victory.
In the 6-1 rout of Merced, the Quakes dominated the match and got a nice goal from young Aaron Edwards, a U12 2002 player. The team’s main objective for the weekend was to prepare for a trip to Indianapolis in two weeks.
Assistant coach Jeff Jenkins said some of the objectives were focusing was on defense, capitalizing on scoring opportunities and refining the style of play.