PHOENIX, ARIZONA – The opening day of play is complete here at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships being played at the Reach 11 Complex.
Teams come into the event knowing they can’t win it on the opening day, but can certainly make it very difficult for themselves to win. Accordingly, the intensity on the field was fever pitch.
Following is some feature match coverage, followed by the full set of results for the day. TopDrawerSoccer.com will be on hand to cover the event through its conclusion on Sunday.
U16 GIRLS: SCORPIONS ELITE (MA) 2, MICHIGAN HAWKS 0
The spectators were on the edges of their seats from the starting whistle, as Scorpions Elite from Massachusetts and Michigan Hawks together earned three corner kicks within the first five minutes. Though these set plays did not yield any goals, they set the tone for the match.
Green, with her crafty footwork and runs off the ball, and Marble, with her hardworking mentality and ability to cover the entire field both offensively and defensively, made chaos for the Scorpion defense and created numerous chances for the Hawks. On the defensive end, Hawks central defender Shannon McCarthy and goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem performed exceptionally well, leading their team to a first-half shut out.
But the Scorpions’ defensive line held strong and stayed organized as well, holding the Hawks offense scoreless for the entire game. Scorpions Head Coach Fred Marks explained, “[The Hawks] are so strong offensively. Our two central backs, Kendal Andrew and Meg James, were the strength of our team today.”
In addition to the two central defenders, the two outside backs had a presence as well. On the left side, Samantha Alves defended well one v. one, connecting passes to feet, and getting forward to make an impact offensively. On the right, Ashley Harwood came in as a substitution in the first half, but she proved herself to be a key to the back line’s success as a vocal leader who both organized and pumped up her team mates so they could seal the win.
But the Scorpions were not lacking offensively. At the beginning of the second half, the Scorpions pulled together, keeping possession and putting the Hawks under high pressure. In the 63rd minute, the Hawks barely hung on to the 0-0 tie, making a double save off the line.
This foreshadowed an upcoming goal, for three minutes later, Madison Meehan delivered a cross from the right flank to runners in the box. After a couple bobbles, Andy O’Brien got a shot off and broke the scoreless streak, putting the Scorpions ahead 1-0.
Despite the late efforts from the Hawks to get forward, the Scorpions held strong defensively and claimed the win with a score of 2-0., avenging a 5-4 loss to the Michigan side from a couple of weeks ago.
Marks commented on the importance of the opening day victory.
“Winning the first one is huge. Last year we won our first game and it gave us some good momentum,” he said. “Psychologically it’s almost everything when you get to this level. From here, the way we succeed is by keeping the ball on the ground and play to feet.”
U14 BOYS: Chicago Magic 2, Dallas Texans 97 Red 1
The Arizona heat started kicking in big time during the 10 a.m. games, but the weather was no match for the players as they too “turned up the heat,” working harder and running faster from start to finish (of course the young, lively muscles and limitless energy of 14-year old boys helps a bit).
Several set plays and shot opportunities arose for each team in the first ten minutes. At about the twenty-minute marker, the Texans had a free kick opportunity from a distance that was laid up perfectly by center midfielder Ivan Alvarado to the head of a team mate in the box; the resulting header missed just wide.
Besides his ability to deliver dangerous balls from set plays anywhere on the field, Alvarado proved to be the rock of the Texans, showing remarkable composure when holding the ball under pressure. He was consistently able to escape the pressure and distribute the ball cleanly and calmly.
In addition to Alvarado in the midfield, Garret Dean performed well in the middle of the field, linking the forwards to the backs and the left flank to the right flank. In the back, Texans central defenders Colton O’Brian and Mason Anderson complimented and covered each other well. While O’Brian demonstrated athleticism, composure, and clean defending, Anderson was noticeably vocal, keeping the team organized and compact.
The excitement did not stop there for the Texans. In the 23rd minute, Texans had a break on goal with the Magic keeper out of position. In an effort to pass the ball into the net, the Texan failed to hit the ball with pace, allowing Magic defenders to recover quickly and clear the ball off the line, directly resulting in a counterattack for Magic.
As the cross sailed into the box from the right wing, Fernando Aguirre stood ready, claiming the upper hand for Magic with a left-footed finish, putting Magic up 1-0.
The goals did not stop here, however, for Magic or for Aguirre himself. After a missed shot on goal by Magic, they kept the offensive pressure high and Aguirre put another in the back of the net, again off a cross from the right flank, and the score stood 2-0.
Magic Head Coach Jorge Valle explained after the game that he was very happy with the goals his team scored. He stated, “The goals came from good combinations and that is what we practice."
Texans responded by gaining possession and keeping it, with several chances on goal followed by numerous saves by the Magic keeper. Toward the end of the second half, the game seemed to be in the hands of Magic, who kept the ball out of their own defensive third and kept the attacking Texans out of dangerous areas on the field.
Central defender Nick Gaines led the Magic defense with his ability to connect to feet and split Texans defenders, even over long distances, and his presence in the air. Center midfielder Daniel Giraldo also had a presence in the air and played a big role in possession, while outside defender Zayne Willis defended exceptionally well, especially down the flanks in one-against-one situations.
But in the 68th minute (in the last two minutes of regulation), Texans were awarded a penalty kick for a Magic hand ball in the box. The penalty was taken by Ivan Alvarado; he slipped the ball into the lower left corner, resulting in a score of 2-1 with less than five minutes remaining.
Despite being given adequate chances to run at Magic defenders, Texans attackers struggled to create scoring opportunities to attempt to come back from a two-goal deficit. Kudos go to the Magic back line for remaining solid and organized for the vast majority of the game. Valle noted however that the team would need to improve, “We had a couple of mistakes in the back; one cost us a goal and one was a clear chance for them, so those things we need to correct.”
With the 2-1 win in hand, Valle added, “Always the first step is very important. Our first game took the pressure away of the excitement of Nationals. We feel good that we had a good result in our first game.
“We just need to keep going step by step. We are facing top teams from all the regions, so at every moment we should be working as hard as we did today," Valle continued, praising Fernando Aguirre and Ruben Sanchez for their play. "We need to keep our feet on the ground and know that we still have a long way to go.”
U17 GIRLS: Sockers FC 1, So Cal Blues 0
Right as the kick off whistle blew, both teams seemed to aim straight for the jugular, as the game that proved to be a rocking seesaw of power and finesse began. The So Cal Blues keeper, Sammy Jo Prudhomme, took no time to transition into game mode, as she was forced to make several saves within the first 15 minutes. She was an impact player for the remainder of the game, making fantastic saves from start to finish.
The Sockers attacking mentality was present from the start. With two set play opportunities and an over-the-crossbar attempt by forward Kelli Hubly, the Sockers players knew that they would not be short on offensive chances; and so did the Blues.
In the 24th minute, Sockers jersey number 24, defender Katie Naughton, made a streaking run forward into space, unpressured by Blues defense. As Sockers forward Crystal Thomas checked in and spun out, Naughton found her feet. And good thing she did. As Thomas turned, she ripped a shot from outside the 18-yard box toward the far post, which sailed high and long into the side netting for a 1-0 lead and what turned out to be the winning goal.
Naughton and Thomas both proved to be key players for Sockers. Even as one of the three Sockers defenders, Naughton continued making threatening forward runs into the midfield and attacking third, challenging the Blues by splitting defenders to find her attackers making forward runs. Thomas was an attacker Naughton and the Sockers midfielders consistently played; one of her strengths was losing defenders by looking for the ball in open spaces.
Other effective Sockers attackers were midfielder Courtney Raetzman and forward Kelli Hubly. Hubly displayed her creativity and confidence, taking players on at speed and showing no fear when using technical skills and footwork. The Sockers offense worked extremely well together in both possession and transition; each player seemed to know where her teammates were, even if her head was down.
But the Blues by no means made it easy for Sockers’ front line. Blues central defenders Micaela Bowden and Janae Cousineau dominated in the air and showed their athleticism for the entire game. Their composure allowed them to play dangerous balls into the midfield and attacking thirds.
The Sockers defense was solid as well, sporting the only three-back system of the tournament. Head Coach Oleg Vatchev commented regarding the choice to play with three defenders, “We always play with three; we want to play more people up front. We always manage to play with three in the back.” In addition to Naughton, central defender Alison Schmalz and outside defender Megan Graf, later replaced by Rhianna Krutz, stayed organized and kept the Blues scoreless for the entire match.
But Blues did have chances. In the last ten minutes of the first half, shots were let off by midfielder Danielle Weatherholt and midfielder Madison Krauser. In the first ten minutes of the second half, Blues outside back Jennifer Stanley ripped a shot from 40 yards out that hit the near post. Great saves were seen by Sockers keeper Kylie Morgan.
Late in the second half, Blues keeper Prudhomme made incredible saves in one-against-one situations. She was very aggressive and comfortable coming off her line. In the 79th minute, Blues defender Cousineau made a goal-saving slide tackle, keeping her team in the game.
Attempts were made by both teams late in the second half to tie up the game, but neither team capitalized on chances, ending the game with a Sockers victory 1-0. Despite this win over a challenging opponent, Coach Vatchev said, “We had a couple good situations. My concern was more in the midfield. We usually pass very well and that is our strength, but we gave up a lot of possession.”
This could be a result of the quality of Blues’ midfield system, as well. Central midfielders Danielle Weatherholt, Jocelyn Blankenship, and Kelsey Nicassio worked very well together in the middle. They were fast, strong, and played with no mercy.
Vatchev also noted that defensive midfielder Ann Marie Lynch, forward Crystal Thomas, midfielder Courtney Raetzman, and the back line performed well in the match. For next game, Vatchev says that the team will hopefully adjust to the fast surface and to improve passing and possession.
Vatchev said of the team’s success, “We’re happy to be here because we look at this tournament as an additional step to developing the players as players. Whether it’s Nationals or it’s Regionals, we don’t really care what the event is. But we are happy that the progress in learning has allowed them to reach that level. But the game is like any other game. Whether it is this name or that name, in the end we have to play soccer. But I know the girls are very excited… all the things they put through the years have started to pay off.”
Sam Parker, author of 212°: The Extra Degree, explains that just as a single degree is the difference between hot and boiling water, the extra degree of effort separates winners from everyone else. The early-morning workout, the social sacrifices made, the added sprint… these seemingly pointless preparations will now define champions. As the Phoenix weather rises to a boil (with an average high of 104° for the tournament), which teams will rise to the occasion, concluding the weekend as national champions, the best of the best? Only time will tell. As for now, don’t forget your sunscreen; things are about to get HOT down here in Phoenix.
Full Wednesday Results (courtesy U.S. Youth Soccer)
Match Fit Chelsea Colchesters (NJ) 1, Sting 97 (TX-N) 2
Sting: Kaycie Tillman (4:00), Nicole Smith (18:00)
Eclipse Select (IL) 2, Arsenal (CA-S) 1
Eclipse: Kayla McCoy (66:00) (69:00)
Arsenal: Angelina Meriwether (35:00)
PDA Slammers (NJ) 0, Sting 96 (TX-N) 0
Eclipse Select 95-96 (IL) 1, Slammers FC 95 (CA-S) 1
Slammers: Sammie Solaru (12:00)
Eclipse: Sydney McGinnis (77:00)
Match Fit Chelsea Beat (NJ) 1, SAC United Premier 4
Chelsea: Alexis DellaPietro (56:00)
SAC: Margaret Purce (17:00) (27:00) (34:00) (76:00)
Sting 95 (TX-N) 3, Mustang Blast (CA-N) 1
Mustang: Stephanie Amack (75:00)
Sting: Morgan Williams (40:00), Katelyn Mountjoy (41:00), Madelyn Crabtree (71:00)
Michigan Hawks 95 (MI) 0, Scorpions Elite (MA) 2
Scorpions: Andrea O'Brien (70:00), Lauren Berman (73:00)
Hurricane FC 95 Shubert (OK) 3, Dallas Texans 95 Red (TX-N) 1
Texans: Sophie Groff (41:00)
Hurricane: Elizabeth Keester (13:00), Katie Sprouse (33:00), Anna Beffer (74:00)
Sockers FC (IL), 1, So Cal Blues 0
Penn Strikers 1, NASA 12 Elite (GA) 1
NSA Premier Fury (IL) 6, St. Louis Scott Gallagher 0
Colorado Rush Nike (CO) 1, FC Milwaukee (WI) 0
Rush: Kelsey Loupee (47:00)
Team Boca (FL) 2, FC Stars of Massachusetts (MA) 4
Stars: Stephanie Mccaffrey (19:00), Victoria Sousa (27:00), Hayley Brock (21:00) (32:00)
Boca: Natalie Punal (15:00), Tatiana Coleman (18:00)
Real Colorado National 1, PDA Tsunami (NJ) 0
Woodbury Inferno (MN) 1, Dallas Texans 0
Chicago Magic (IL) 2, Dallas Texans 97 Red Dallas (TX-N) 1
Magic: Fernando Aguirre (25:00) (40:00)
Texans: Ivan Alvarado (70:00)
Fullerton Rangers 96 White (CA-S) 4, Smithtown Arsenal (NY-E) 0
Fullerton: Andres Lemus (18:00), Dylan Smith (43:00), Amirgy Pineda (61:00), Carlos Troncoso (67:00)
Chicago Fire Juniors (IL) 4, SDFC Gauchos (NJ) 2
Fire: Lloyd Chatfield (12:00) (33:00), Luca Giovine (48:00), Brian Werchek (74:00)
SDFC: Jose Meza (5:00), Troy Carrington Jr. (81:00)
San Diego Surf (CA-S) 1, Solar Chelsea 96 (TX-N) 0
Surf: Andrew Ogilvy (56:00)
Michigan Jaguars (MI) 2, FC Dallas Premier (TX-N) 1
Jaguars: Ken Krolicki (18:00), Travis Hamers (27:00)
Dallas: Grant Norris (41:00)
CESA 94 Premier (SC) 0, MN Thunder Academy 95 (MN) 2
Thunder: Nathaniel Thao (41:00), Matthew Gweh (86:00)
Eastside FC 94 Red (WA) 1, Beadling SC (PA-W) 0
Eastside: James Molyneux-elliot (78:00)
Concorde Fire Elite (GA) 0, Albion White (CA-S) 1
Albion: Raul Martinez (53:00)
Dallas Texans 1, Tulsa SC Black 0
Penn Fusion Celtic 3, Colorado Rush 1
Grand Rapids Crew Juniors 4, Florida Rush 0
YMS Thunder (PA) 2, KCFC Rangers (KS) 1
Alpharetta Ambush (GA) 2, Palo Alto 93 Blue (CA) 1
Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD) 2, Dallas Texans 92 Dallas (TX-N) 2
Bays: Hughart Roberts II (52:00), OG (60:00)
Texans: Ray De Leon III (42:00), Gino De Paoli (87:00)
Chicago Fire Juniors (IL) 1, Sereno 92 White (AZ) 0
Fire: Jesse Ortiz (19:00)