The oldest trophy in youth sports is coming to Chicagoland for the first time in its storied history.
FC United’s Under 20 club captured the McGuire Cup last week in Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla., by winning the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship, the country’s most prestigious national youth soccer tournament.
The soccer club’s head coach, Andy Parry, said the team’s performance throughout the tournament was “great,” adding the group’s players “did everything (the coaching staff) asked of them on and off the field.”
“We couldn’t have asked for anything more from them; it really did end in the best possible way,” Parry said.
On the back of one of the nation’s best defensive units, and a roster loaded with experienced players, FC United defeated Strikers Miami FC Elite 2-1 to complete its “fantastic run” and win the coveted championship.
“It’s been very overwhelming; just the support and the following that we got … once we got into the semifinals,” Parry said. “I think the overall accomplishment and achievement, I don’t know if we’ll fully ever understand that.”
Parry said that the team’s resilience throughout the tournament was one of the group’s greatest strengths. Additionally, the club’s coach noted the team’s experience and battle-tested nature helped them pull through the tough moments.
The club’s performance in the national championship game mirrored similar results throughout the tournament.
FC United jumped out to a two-goal lead but Strikers Miami FC scored late to trim their lead to one goal.
Parry said the late tally and momentum shift closely resembled the club’s regional final victory in St. Louis, where their opponent erased a two-goal deficit and forced FC United to rally back.
“Since the beginning of May, when we started going on this journey, lots of experiences contributed to what happened (in the national championship),” Parry said. “Our experience across the way got us through that.”
Ryan Grady, the club’s goalkeeper who’s a native of Deerfield, delivered a series of key performances throughout the tournament, solidifying the team’s already strong defensive prowess.
“He’s great; he’s a big personality, and a good leader within the group,” Parry said. “The boys really followed his lead so to speak.”
Parry said the club’s backline set the tone for the team defensively. He noted Aiden Pape, a native of Evanston, was “very steady” in the middle of the defense.
The club’s play in the midfield was also a key factor in its success, according to Parry.
Jake Krueger, a 2021 graduate of New Trier, was “a huge energy boost for the club” who “worked tirelessly.”
Another member of the Trevians’ 2021 class, Will Franzen, was an effective creator for the group, Parry said.
New Trier rising senior James Paden and Evanston High School graduate Quinn Ackman were the clubs anchors in the midfield who “really did just settle (the club) down and control that area of the field.”
The club, which annually features some of the North Shore and suburban Chicago’s elite talent, boasted this year a roster with a mix of high-school and collegiate players. FC United’s older players mentored many of the club’s younger players throughout its tournament run, Parry said.
Mario Hrvojevic, a 2021 graduate of Loyola Academy, alongside Zach Thompson, a West Aurora alumnus, were two of the club’s younger players who stepped up to earn significant time for the team, Parry noted.
“It ended up being a really good group, a really good mix of players and a group that really represented FC United in the best possible way, regardless of win or lose,” Parry said. “Obviously what they won was huge but the way that they represented the club was just with class the whole time.”
Parry, who’s been with the club for five years, will always remember a special quality about the group.
“The one that I am most pleased about is that we never changed,” he said. “It didn’t matter what the game was, or what was riding on the game, whether it being me or the coaches of the coaches, no one ever changed. We were all talking about keeping the same focuses and playing to our strengths and doing what we want to do all the way through. I think the journey is what I will remember more than anything else.”
LOCAL PLAYERS ON FC UNITED’S U20 CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM
• Oscar Blazer, Loyola Academy, Class of 2021
• Mario Hrvojevic, Loyola Academy, Class of 2021
• James Paden, New Trier, Class of 2022
• Will Franzen, New Trier, Class of 2021
• Jake Krueger, New Trier, Class of 2021
• Dylan Gripman, Loyola Academy, Class of 2021
• Ryan Ball, New Trier, Class of 2020
• Aidan Crowder, New Trier, Class of 2020
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.