Final Weekend of Academy Action at the National Sports Center


Both the U15s and U17s took on the Houston Dynamo in their final matches of the 2023-24 MLS NEXT regular season, bringing another year of academy action to a close. Both teams performed admirably, and though the results didn’t go their way, the efforts on display showed plenty of growth from the young Loons.


Though they dominated large swaths of the game, the U15s fell to Houston 4-0 on Sunday. Jamie Carroll-Rolfe’s squad demonstrated an ability to create quality chances throughout the match, as well as an impressive level of understanding between the players to work the ball into dangerous areas.

The first half, though ultimately scoreless and less open than the second, saw the Loons taking most of their shots from distance and dealing with Houston’s wide-talent in the back. Captain Griffin Giel was vocal and alert, showing the kind of leadership deserving of the armband, while goalkeeper Keane Perkins made several fantastic saves to keep the scores level. Just before the whistle blew, Yahir Resendiz-Gonzalez’s long-range strike nearly found the top corner, but a diving save from the Houston keeper matched Perkins’ efforts to keep it square.

The second half started much the same, but a rocket from Houston about 15 minutes in changed the pace of the game. Rather than hanging their heads and letting up, the Loons pressed even harder, putting numbers forward and forcing the visitors to deal with even more quality chances. Winger Tim Dennis and fullback Jadan Bernard both showed their skill during the barrage but were ultimately unable to find the net.

Some absolutely fantastic set-piece delivery saw the home side get agonizingly close to converting, but it just wasn’t meant to be. As they put numbers and focus forward, the Loons left space in behind for counterattacks, and the Dynamo cashed in with three more admittedly impressive goals. An overall good performance from MNUFC wasn’t reflected in the final scoreline, and it took some truly special strikes to break the deadlock.


The U17s also fell to Houston on Friday, though the game followed a different cadence. After going up 2-1 courtesy of goals from Anderson Farris and Aidan Martinez, the visiting Dynamo rallied to win 2-3. Goalkeeper Kai Zeruhn came up with several big saves, but the shots kept coming from a Houston side that was fighting for a spot in the postseason.

Justin Ferguson’s side fought until the very end, with Zeruhn’s shot stopping and the team’s chance creation at the other end giving them a chance to earn the draw that they probably deserved. Though they came up short, the U17s should be proud of the effort they put on display.

Both the U15s and U17s missed out on this year’s MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs, meaning that with the conclusion of the regular season, they’re done competing until the 2024-25 season kicks off in August. The U19s, on the other hand, secured a postseason spot by winning their group at MLS NEXT Flex, meaning they’ll be playing in Nashville when the tournament starts on June 15.