The Academy was on the road this weekend, with the U15s and U17s traveling down to the Lone Star State to take on Austin FC while the U19s crossed town to face Shattuck St. Mary’s. All three matches provided valuable learning moments for the Loons, furthering the development of this year’s crop of talented players.
Austin FC 3-1 MNUFC
A resilient U15 side fell short against Austin FC on Saturday. After falling behind early in the game, the Loons grew into what became a competitive match, ending the first half level with one goal apiece. A defensive miscue and a set piece in the second 45 gave Los Verdes the advantage they needed, earning the win and sending the Loons back to Minnesota without any points to show for it. Between the level of play and the conditions, Coach Jamie Carroll-Rolfe saw his players learning throughout this game.
“As the game grew, the heat rose, which made it difficult to maintain the level needed,” Carroll-Rolfe said. “However, I was pleased with the boys’ commitment. Austin punished our mistakes in the second half, but these are moments we have to learn from and not dwell on as we go into next weekend’s testing double header.”
Austin 4-1 MNUFC
The U17 squad was likewise in Texas’ capital this weekend, falling by a score of 1-4. The Loons started the match really strong, with an individual effort from Bryan Espadero earning them an early penalty. Espadero stepped up and converted the PK to give the loons an early lead, but four unanswered goals saw them fall behind the home side by the end of the match. Head Coach Justin Ferguson saw positives in the match, including plenty of moments for his team to learn from.
“We started a young team today. We came out blazing and you could feel the excitement. I felt as the match went on we got a bit tired and our youth showed in our ability to manage the game,” Ferguson said. “These are really important learning moments for us. We sometimes need them to go through some adversity so that we can identify the areas where we need to help them grow.”
The U17s have now come out quick in back to back weekends, scoring first and playing well throughout each match. Strong performances from Kai Zeruhn and Bryan Espadero continued the Loons’ upward trend in the 2023-24 season, promising that the improvement will only continue as the year goes on.
MNUFC 2-1 Shattuck St. Mary’s
The MNUFC U19s battled a tough Shattuck St. Mary’s side this weekend, earning a narrow 2-1 win. A tight first 45 kept the scores level going into the half, but some adjustments during the break would open the game up in the second period. The Loons pounced on Shattuck when play resumed, scoring two quick goals, courtesy of Alisa Randall. The first, a one-touch finish at the end of a beautiful ball played behind the back line by Julian Banks. The second goal saw the same two players combine, with Banks finding the weaving run of Randall to earn the 2-0 lead. Shattuck wasn’t done yet though, scoring a well-worked team goal and pressing hard for the equalizer in the final 10 minutes of the match. MNUFC’s Vice President of Youth Development Amos Magee was pleased with the level of the match, commenting on the importance of the local showdown.
“The intrastate rivalry between Shattuck and MNUFC continues to produce exciting and tough games that provide a different developmental challenge for our young squad,” Magee said.
With week four now firmly behind them, it’s time to take the lessons learned into the challenges that await. All three teams will be at home for this weekend’s double-header, playing host to Michigan Wolves and Vardar on October 7 and 8 respectively. All of the matches are scheduled to kick off at noon, so come on out to the National Sports Center this weekend to cheer on the next generation of Loons as they continue the MLS NEXT season.