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Concorde Fire aims to heat up its attack

Preston Gayton has scored a team-best eight goals for the Concorde Fire under-17/18 team. Bryan McDermott

The last time the Concorde Fire under-17/18 squad played consecutive games against South Conference Southeast Division rivals South Carolina United Battery and Georgia United, the Fire gave as good as it received.

But there is only one problem with that.

It meant that the Fire battled its two opponents to draws that ended at 1-1 and 0-0, respectively.

"I just remember having a lot of chances," said top-scorer Preston Gayton, a 17-year-old midfielder who has a scholarship to play at Clemson University next year. "We just weren't really finishing them."

Despite its issues, the Fire occupies first place with a division mark of 4-1-5, and is 7-2-5 overall in U.S. Soccer Development Academy action.

The Fire has to get it together this coming weekend when it plays host to the rematches with Georgia United and South Carolina United on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, at Georgia Soccer Park.

Georgia United (4-2-4, 6-3-5) and South Carolina (3-1-6, 5-1-6) are in second and third place in the division.

"This weekend will sort of define our season because we're kind of right there with Georgia United and South Carolina," said coach Adrian Powell.

"We're really just focused on making sure that everyone is healthy and that we can hopefully put together a good game plan and execute it against two very, very good teams. It's all about fine-tuning at this point."

Gayton leads the Fire with with eight goals, followed by central defender Drew Morgan with three. Forwards Adrian Alabi, Alexander Kowalski and Philippe Vaillant, midfielder Holden Fender and central defender Derek Creviston each have two goals. Midfielders Rett Webb, Marek Moffett and Jordan Duru and forward Andy Anglade have scored once each for the Fire.

"We're playing well, and we're creating a lot of opportunities," Powell said. "But we need to continue to take on all of our chances and play a little better defensively."

The Fire's inconsistency reared its head, yet again, in its past two games when it first defeated then tied fourth-place division nemesis Birmingham United the two previous weekends.

"The first Birmingham game, we were up 2-1 and we had about three or four chances to get it to 3-1," Gayton said. "But instead, they just dumped it on us and we just had to clear and clear and clear, defensively, to win the game."

In the second Birmingham game, Preston knotted the score at 1-1 in the 52nd minute, and put his team ahead, 2-1, in the 71st only to have the defense yield the equalizer.

"Lately, we've had chances to win games, and we just haven't put the ball away," Gayton said. "We just need to focus on finishing our chances, and then, we'll be fine."

In its contest against South Carolina on Oct. 15, the Fire trailed 1-0 after Nester Jaramillo (six goals) converted with three minutes to play. But Creviston's tying goal with a minute remaining salvaged the draw.

The Fire's defense did well to contain South Carolina's other major contributors, Eli Dent and Travis Naylor with six and four goals, respectively.

"Last time we played these two teams, we went with three guys in the midfield, so it was kind of a 4-3-3 formation where we we had two outside attacking midfielders," Gayton said.

"But I think that switching up recently to the 4-4-2 has helped us a lot more. We feel like this is the best way to play. We think that it's a better way to finish our chances and get a bigger lead."

That's what will need to happen this Saturday, when the Fire opens with Georgia United.

"The players on each of the teams know each other very, very well, and that's sort of why the first time it wound up being a game where there were very few chances," Powell said.

"We've got to try to create more opportunities and be more offensive to start the weekend off well. We've tied an awful lot of games, but we hope that we can turn it on and finish off our season by winning these two games at our home."