Academy Falls to Chicago in MLS NEXT Return


It was an abrupt return to MLS NEXT action for MNUFC’s Academy sides this weekend, as all three squads fell to the visiting Chicago Fire. This slate of games were the first full matches for the boys in almost three months, and though they were able to hang with their opponents in the first half of each contest, tired legs caught up to them against opposition with a bit more fitness under their belts. 

Despite the scorelines, there were positives from the weekend as a whole. Sometimes, a shock to the system is the best way to motivate, and it’s always better to take a hit early on so you’re prepared for what’s to come. 


For the U15s, it was truly a tale of two halves. A 0-0 halftime scoreline saw the young Loons firmly in the contest, only for a 5-goal haul to bury them before the final whistle. Coach Thomas Harris saw positives early on, but a drop-off in the second half left his side out to dry. 

“I felt we were in the match for the first 50 minutes,” Harris said. “We didn't create a lot, but we had a number of positive passages of play where we could see a number of the principles we have been training being applied. Unfortunately, after that 50-minute mark, our attention to detail dropped, and we conceded three goals very quickly. Despite getting one back, the group never mentally recovered enough to stage a full comeback.”

Though the result was disappointing, Max Harwood, Griffin Giel, and Etienne Testa all made their coach proud, putting a positive spin on what was otherwise a rough day on the field.


For Justin Ferguson and the U17s, a similar script played out. Much like their younger counterparts, they were in the match for much of the opening portion, going into the break down a goal at 2-3. However, tired legs in the second half left the side exposed, allowing the Fire to match their first-half tally. The Loons were subsequently unable to get back on the scoresheet, ending the contest at 2-6 in favor of the visitors. 


Though the U19s also lost their match, it was a tighter affair. After an impressive first half, the eldest Academy representatives were up 1-0 and searching for that precious insurance goal. They were unable to find it in the end, as two second-half strikes saw Chicago complete the weekend sweep with the 1-2 victory. U19 Assistant Coach Alex Morawiecki 

“It was great to get a match of this quality right away, early in the spring season,” Morawiecki said. “Chicago is a top opponent, and we’ve already had a couple of really competitive matches this season. The guys competed well from the start—pressing and creating a number of opportunities early in the match—and found a goal as a result. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to 2-0, and it came back to bite us in the end. Overall, we moved forward as a group and will look forward to upcoming matches in Michigan.”

In addition to the Fire, the Academy was scheduled to host Sockers FC on Sunday. However, due to some travel and scheduling conflicts, the matches were canceled, giving the boys a break before the impending double gameweek.

The U15s and U17s are hitting the road on March 2 and 3 to take on Sporting Kansas City and St. Louis CITY SC, while the U19s will take on a pair of Michigan sides (Wolves and Vardar).