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Indiana Fire Juniors, - IFJ U18 Red Team's Journey To The US Youth Soccer National Championships


Indiana Fire Juniors U18 Red team started their journey to USYS National Championships in late May when they began State Cup play winning in their group after defeating Jr Irish and Indy Premier in pool play. They moved on to the semifinals to play against USAi and won 5-1. In the finals of the State Cup, they faced Indy Phoenix and won their first state cup championship 4-0 with goals by Carson Cooke, Spencer Holland, Declan Wheeler, Jacob Schurman, and a clean sheet by Gabe Ingle!  


At the USYS Regionals held in St. Louis, Missouri beginning June 25th, the team was placed in a group with Michigan, Ohio South, and Missouri. In the opening game, IFJ found ourselves in a tough match and were down 1-3 to Michigan Jaguars with 20 minutes remaining and came back to win 4-3 with a last-minute goal by Will Morgan. One of the most epic games of the entire run through the Cup’s journey and just personified the belief, character and determination of the team.


The next day the team played Total Futbol Academy and won 3-0 with a clean sheet by Micah Mattes. Going into the third game against Scott Gallagher IFJ knew they had to win to advance as they were down in goal differential. "It was a very tight match but we broke through late in the second half with a goal from Carson Cooke after a crafty run into the box by Spencer Holland and he was taken down for a penalty." stated coach Shane Mcintyre. Declan Wheeler sealed the game about 10 minutes later with a brilliant goal on top of the box after Brayden Doll played a fantastic diagonal pass in transition.


In the semifinals, the team played Ohio Galaxies FC and won 1-0 with another stellar performance from goalkeeper Gabe Ingle and a game-winning goal by Carson Cooke.


In the regional championship match, they found themselves down 0-1 late against Javanon FC but broke through with a goal by Kabiru Gafar with 15 minutes to play. Spencer Holland sealed the game-winner with about 2 minutes remaining and captured the 1st ever regional championship for Indiana Fire Juniors going 5-0 on the week! 


At the USYS National Championships in Bradenton, Florida at Lakewood Ranch soccer complex held on July 20th, IFJ found themselves matched up with back-to-back defending national champion Las Vegas Sports Academy in the first match. After a back and forth 1st half and several near misses and great chances the team conceded a goal and gave up a late one on the counter and lost 2-0.


The second match was against Bethesda Blue FC out of Maryland and IFJ won a gritty match 1-0. The only goal of the match came after Baenan McKeown made a great run up the flank creating a 2 versus 1 with Spencer Holland who curled a ball behind the backline to Kabiru Gafar on the back post who finished it off first time.


Going into the third game of group play against SYC Lions Blue from Virginia the team knew they needed a tie or win to advance. After conceding an early goal Brayden Doll stepped up and converted a free-kick to the left corner from the top of the box to get a 1-1 draw and advance the team to the semifinals of the final four teams left in the country.


In the semifinals of the national championships, IFJ played Kingdom FC from Michigan. They scored early in the first 5 minutes of the match but it was erased after an offsides call. About 5 minutes later Kingdom scored off a cross and then just a few minutes later converted a penalty to go up 2-0. After composing themselves and understanding there was a lot of game left Spencer Holland finished a cross-off from Declan Wheeler to get the score to 2-1.


Both teams continued to have good chances throughout the rest of the game but IFJ couldn’t push through and find the equalizing goal eventually falling 2-1 to Kingdom FC and the eventual national champions. Through all the cup’s play together (state, regionals, nationals) the team finished with a 10-2-1 record and wrapped up the entire season with a record of 32-3-6 and finishing in the top 4 in the country of the U18 age group!