Philadelphia Union have been crowned U17 Champions at the 2012 Generation adidas (GA) Cup following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Toronto FC on Thursday.
In a pulsating final in Seattle, the young Union stars held their nerve to edge out their Canadian opponents 4-3 on spot kicks with the game deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes and two additional ten-minute periods of extra time.
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was the hero in the shoot-out, saving the first and fifth Toronto penalties as the Union converted all of their attempts to win the illustrious tournament, which is organized to enable MLS academy teams to test themselves against the best young players in North America.
The Union made an effective start to the game and opened the scoring after 25 minutes when Joey Julius notched his third goal of the competition, the forward benefitting from Zach Pfeffer’s fourth assist across the semifinal and final stages.
That slender lead would not last long, however, as Toronto drew level seven minutes before the break to send the teams in at 1-1. And the Reds took the lead in the 64th minute, coming from behind to leave the Union with a major task on their hands with just over a quarter of the game remaining.
But Philadelphia hit back with an instant response; Max Kroschwitz scoring his second goal in as many games to tie the game at 2-2 just a minute later.
And with neither side able to deliver the final, critical blow through the remainder of the game, it was left to a test of composure from twelve yards; keeper Steffen excelling with two outstanding saves as Connor Maloney, Pfeffer, Julius and Brian White all duly converted to claim the silverware.
The win concludes an excellent week for Jim Curtin’s U17 squad, who began the GA Cup with consecutive clean sheets during respective 1-0 and 2-0 victories over Colorado Rapids and Chivas USA.
They bounced back from defeat to Columbus Crew with a scintillating performance against San Jose on Tuesday, sending the Californian side tumbling out at the semifinal stage with a crushing 5-1 win to set up victory over Toronto.
Elsewhere at the Seattle Sounders’ training facility, Philadelphia Union’s U15 squad followed up their 2-0 consolation victory over FC Dallas on Tuesday with a narrow 1-0 defeat to San Jose.
The U17 Championship team will be recognized on Sunday at PPL Park before the Union’s 7pm match against Chicago Fire. Tickets are still available by clicking here.
The Generation adidas Cup trophy will be on display in the Stadium Club following the match.