PHOENIX, Arizona – Group standings began to take much clearer shape after day two of the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships here Thursday, with at least one participant in the weekend’s championship matches determined in a number of age groups.
Day 3 Results | Day 2 Results | Day 1 Results
The U.S. Youth Soccer format puts all teams in an age group in the same group (4 in U14, 18 and 19 and 6 in U15, 16 and 17). After each team plays three matches the finalists are determined. In the 4-team groups this sometimes leads to the unfortunate incidence of teams already being booked to play in the final, but having to play a now meaningless game on the final day of group play. Fullerton Rangers and Chicago Magic in U14 Boys play is this year’s example of that format glitch.
But on the fields the players were thinking about winning. Following is a look at some feature match coverage and if you scroll down you can see the full results including goalscorers from Thursday play.
U18 GIRLS: COLORADO RUSH NIKE 2, FC STARS OF MASSACHUSETTS 0
Not a minute passed after the starting whistle before a shot was fired by Rush forward Kaitlyn Bassett. The shot foreshadowed what would be three main themes of the match; the dominance of Bassett herself in the attacking third, the presence of Stars keeper Jessica Wiggins (who truly was a star today), and the fact that Rush would be knocking at the Stars back door all game long.
Rush Head Coach Andrew Kummer said of the game, “I was very pleased with the energy [the team] brought for 90 minutes. They defended in numbers and made it very difficult for the opponent to play, and that created a lot of our chances and attacking opportunities.”
Then the Rush offense got going, and could not seem to be stopped for the rest of the half. On a counterattack only seconds after Vettori’s missed header, a Rush teammate played Kaitlyn Bassett, who determinedly kept her balance after three successive tackles with Stars defenders, maintaining enough control to calmly place the ball low and far post, resulting in a Rush lead 1-0 after only 15 minutes of play.
It was thanks to Stars goalie Jessica Wiggins that the score remained close. In the 26th minute, Bassett laid off a backward pass to teammate Abigail Rolph, whose shot was saved by Wiggins. Again in the 37th minute, after 11 minutes dominated by Rush possession, Bassett fed another dangerous ball, this time to Denali Murnan, resulting in another heroic save by Wiggins. Before the end of the half, Murnan had another opportunity at goal, but was again shut down by the Stars keeper.
Second half, the story remained much the same. Within the first five minutes of kick off, Rush midfielder Haley Stading had a shot that was just nearly tipped wide by Wiggins. Before the 60-minute marker, Rush had two corner kick opportunities offered up on a silver platter, but Rush attackers in the box were denied again, as the ball was cleared off the line both times by Wiggins and fellow defenders. Not even five minutes later, Wiggins came up big with two more saves, this time blocking shots by midfielder Kelsey Loupee and forward Elise Dreiling.
Though it may seem as though the Rush attackers were the focus of the game, the Rush midfield dominated as well. Central midfielders Kelly McGrath and Kelsey Loupee played perfectly together on defense and on offense. While McGrath demonstrated skill in turning defenders and attacking at speed, Loupee created chaos for the defense with her forward runs, dynamic change in speed, and powerful shots from distance. Coach Kummer noted that McGrath and Loupee were stand-out players in the match.
On defense, the Rush back line, led by Samantha Harder in the middle, stayed organized, effectively keeping the athletic Stars forwards from sneaking in behind them. Harder remained vocal and consistent throughout the entire game.
But the Stars had no lack of talent. Morgan Andrews, a midfielder-turned-forward, showed passion to play with her attacking play through any seams of the Rush defense. Patrice Vettori also performed well, displaying a combination of footwork and composure, allowing her to keep possession of the ball under pressure.
Finally in the 85th minute, the Stars offense stepped up with an attempt at goal by Stephanie McCaffrey, tipped away by Rush keeper Molly Poletto. Coach Kummer believed that Poletto was key in the victory, coming up with several game-changing saves, this one included.
One reason that this save was particularly game-changing was partly because a Rush counterattack resulted from the save. Once transition was complete into the attacking third, the ball fell to the feet of Kaitlyn Bassett, who had just stepped on the field during a substitution a few minutes earlier, and with the flick of her toe, she set up Haley Stading perfectly for the shot that pulled Rush ahead 2-0. Shortly after, the whistle blew, indicating a hard-fought Rush victory.
“It was a great team effort. I think a lot of individuals played a very good game today, and it’s hard to have 11 players who each have a good game,” said Coach Kummer of the game performance. “The team effort was absolutely key.”
This victory was Rush’s second of the tournament, sealing their spot in the National Championships match. “It feels wonderful [to be headed to the Championship match],” stated Kummer. “We have been working hard for this for a long time and to see it become a reality is great. We are proud of trying to hold up the tradition of the club.”
U15 BOYS: SDFC GAUCHOS (NJ) 3, SAN DIEGO SURF (CA-S) 2
The beginning of the match foreshadowed good luck for the Gauchos that seemed to carry on throughout the entire game. In the seventh minute, Gauchos midfielder Zach Beckerman streaked up the right flank, beating a defender and drilling the ball to the near post, where a Surf defender happened to be standing. The ball deflected off the defender and headed straight for the back of the net, putting the Gauchos ahead early 1-0.
Right before the clock hit the 20th minute, the Gauchos’ substitute forward Troy Carrington made a great run, signaling for a ball that split the Surf defense. Carrington took advantage of the opportunity, pulling the Gauchos ahead 2-0.
Gauchos Head Coach Jorden Scott said that early goals have caused the team problems all tournament long.
“Yesterday, we went up 1-0 after three minutes and probably scored too early,” he said. “We panicked and thought, ‘We need to hold on here for another 75 minutes.’ We lost our rhythm and by the time we picked it back up, it was too late.”
That was not the end of the challenges Holt or Iloski would pose to the Gauchos, either. Both Holt and other Surf central defender Marcos Ramirez were very confident going forward and joining the attack. They also communicated well with each other and the rest of their teammates. Iloski caused trouble toward the end of the first half after he was fouled by Gauchos defenders just outside the 18-yard box.
Iloski took the free kick, driving the ball low and hard to the feet of teammate Carter Spyrka, who got over the ball and finished a beautiful goal to the far post. After this attempt, Surf seemed to have complete control of the game. Outside defender and midfielder Justin Fiddes performed well, displaying tricky footwork and versatility across the entire field. Central midfielders Luis Jimenez and Tyler Adamos showed passion in their play, tackling hard and feeding great balls in the seams. Gauchos Coach Scott himself even said, “[Surf] is ranked number one in the country… they truly are phenomenal.” But it just was not enough.
After several good saves by Gauchos goalkeeper Brian Harnett at the start of the second half, the Gauchos knew they were still in the game, but not by much. With less than 10 minutes left in the game, Gauchos midfielder Harrison Steadman carried the team on his shoulders as he sprinted down the left flank. With complete control of the ball and his defender, Steadman used his technical ability to find open space in the middle of the field from which he could make an attempt at goal. With the composure Steadman had demonstrated since the start of the game, he slotted the ball past the Surf keeper to put the Gauchos up 3-2. Now they just had to hold on.
Coach Scott said that the night after the first loss, the team came together and agreed that in the game against Surf, “they were going to come out like warriors.” In the last minutes of the game especially, the Gauchos played their hearts out to finish the game with a final winning result of 3-2.
The Gauchos’ success was no accident. Scott said that after a rough game yesterday, the back line showed up today, specifically keeper Brian Harnett and central defender Justin Gonsalves, who Scott called “unbelievable.”
“We are stubborn. We’re a stubborn Jersey team, and we fight ‘til the end. That is just the character of this team,” Scott said. “There are days when they turn up and it all just happens for them.”
As for making it to the National Championship, Scott said, “I wouldn’t be surprised. Anything can happen with this team.”
U17 GIRLS: NASA ELITE (GA) 1, NSA PREMIER FURY (IL) 1
From the start of the evening game, the windy weather played an important role in the flow of the game. The wind blew across the field in favor of Fury’s offense in the first half.
But the conditions by no means stopped NASA from playing. In the first 10 minutes of the game, NASA forward Bria Washington made her presence known with both a cross and a shot. In the 17th minute, Washington dribbled down the right flank at pace, earning a corner kick. The resulting attempt at goal was just barely saved by Fury defenders who cleared the ball off the line.
In the 29th minute, Washington found NASA forward Kelsey Nix, who ripped a shot that just missed wide. Washington, Nix, and forward Sara Coleman all acted as impact players, not limiting themselves to any certain positions on the field. The interchanging runs and crossover mobility confused Fury defense and created holes that the three exploited through combination play.
In the second half, the burden of the wind shifted to Fury. It hit them hard in the first five minutes of the second half, and NASA was sure to give them no time to adjust. Again Washington delivered, crossing the ball in from the right flank to the head of Emily Sonnett, who put NASA up 1-0. Then the wind began to die down, shifting the game momentum back into the hands (or should I say the feet) of Fury.
In the first 20 minutes of the second half, Fury earned several corner kicks and set pieces. It took a couple tries before, in the 71st minute, Fury midfielder served up a great ball off a direct kick that was finished by midfielder Christina Ordonez, resulting in a 1-1 tie game. Ordonez continued to wreak havoc among the NASA defense for the remainder of the game, displaying a combination of dynamic runs and brilliant ball control.
Fury central defender Jennifer Korn made an impact on the game, leading her back line to keep the NASA offense to one goal. Korn made an impact in midfield as well, fearlessly stepping forward to win free balls and finding her team mates’ feet once in possession.
On the attacking side, Ordonez made an impact for Fury in transition and scored her team’s only goal. She caused problems for NASA wide backs and serving dangerous crosses into the box. Also effective for Fury was forward Corinne Harris, who utilized both her speed moving forward and her ability to pull defenders out of position.
But even though Fury kept pushing forward, NASA defenders made it very difficult for Fury to find a rhythm by utilizing their size advantage and engaging in physical play. Outside back Brittney Reed got involved in the game early offensively and defensively, never letting a Fury attacker by without a fight. Central defender Elizabeth Johnson was constantly organizing and advising her players.
In the 86th minute, Fury keeper Jordan Ginther made her mark on the game as well. As NASA’s Nix was played into the box by teammate Sonnett, Ginther was strong off her line, keeping her team in the game and allowing them to hold on for the 1-1 tie.
Fury Head Coach Rade Martinovic explained that the game was a rough one, as the team was short five starters due to injury. He said, “We only had two subs, and we were not able to keep fresh legs on the field… We need to rest and get healthy so we can get our injured players back on the field.”
Martinovic believed his team has much more to offer than what they did today, but he has faith in their abilities, as he has seen them compete on a national level this year time and time again. The Chicago-area team qualified for the National Championships by winning the US Youth Soccer National League, a true declaration of the team’s ability on a national stage.
“The game still put us in a good position. We still control our own destiny; if we get the good result tomorrow then we’ll be in,” said Fury’s Assistant Coach. “We’re sitting in a good spot, but we need to play a lot better than we did today.”
Thursday Results (courtesy U.S. Youth Soccer)
Eclipse Select (IL) 1, Sting 97 (TX-N) 1
Select: OG (72:00)
Sting: Mimi Asom (10:00)
Arsenal (CA-S) 1, Match Fit Chelsea Colchesters (NJ) 1
Arsenal: Mckenzie Taylor (18:00)
Fit: Kayla Jennings (12:00)
Sting 96 (TX-N) 0, Eclipse Select 95-96 (IL) 0
Match Fit Chelsea Beat NJ 1, Slammers FC 95 (CA-S) 1
Beat: OG (33:00)
Slammers: Sammie Solaru (24:00)
PDA Slammers (NJ) 1, SAC United Premier (MD) 0
PDA: Alexandra Weyrauch (58:00)
Mustang Blast (CA-N) 0, Michigan Hawks 95 (MI) 2
Hawks: Michelle Manning (11:00), Summer Green (73:00)
Hurricane FC 95 Shubert (OK) 5, Scorpions Elite (MA) 3
Hurricane: Elizabeth Keester (31:00) (50:00) (59:00), Katie Sprouse (57:00), Kristen Killion (72:00)
Scorpions: Mc Kenzie Meehan (17:00) (27:00) (68:00)
Sting 95 (TX-N) 1, Dallas Texans 95 Red (TX-N) 0
Sting: Madelyn Crabtree (58:00)
Team Boca (FL) 0, FC Milwaukee (WI) 1
FC: Cara Walls (76:00)
FC Stars of Massachusetts (MA) 0, CO Rush Nike (CO) 2
Rush: Kaitlyn Bassett (15:00), Haley Stading (88:00)
Woodbury Inferno (MN) 0, Real Colorado National 91/92 (CO) 2
Real: Jess Stewart (68:00)
Dallas Texans 92 Red Dallas (TX-N) 3, PDA Tsunami (NJ) 1
Texans: Shelby Redman (34:00) (40:00), OG (50:00)
PDA: Kristine Battle (85:00)
Fullerton Rangers 96 White (CA-S) 4, Dallas Texans 97 Red Dallas (TX-N) 0
Rangers: Andres Lemus (39:00), Ricardo Ruiz (52:00) (62:00), Dylan Smith (65:00)
Smithtown Arsenal (NY-E) 1, Chicago Magic (IL) 4
Arsenal: Christopher Hettler (28:00)
Magic: Bishop Calum (11:00), Adrian Roman (17:00), Jorge Torrescano (48:00), Renato Albuquerque (55:00)
SDFC Gauchos (NJ) 3, San Diego Surf (CA-S) 2
SDFC: Harrison Steadman (8:00) (69:00), Troy Carrington Jr. (20:00)
Surf: Erik Holt (27:00), Bryce Flores (40:00)
Michigan Jaguars (MI) 0, Solar Chelsea 96 (TX-N) 3
Solar: Alan Winn (6:00) (66:00), Toryima Asom (57:00)
Chicago Fire Juniors (IL) 0, FC Dallas Premier(TX-N) 0
MN Thunder Academy 95 (MN) 1, Eastside FC 94 Red (WA) 0
Thunder: Getenet Worku (32:00)
Concorde Fire Elite (GA) 2, Beadling SC (PA-W) 0
Fire: Shaban Abousaud (39:00), Cameron Moseley (73:00)
CESA 94 Premier (SC) 0, Albion White (CA-S) 2
Albion: Ariel Lassiter (9:00), Dominic Chavez (81:00)
Penn Fusion Celtic (PA-E) 2, TSC 94 Black (OK) 0
Fusion: Stefan Dasbach (44:00), Chad Craig (83:00)
Rush Nike 94 (NM) 0, Florida Rush Nike (FL) 3
Florida: Andrew Spragg (54:00), Felipe Oliveira (59:00), Adam Tran (81:00)
Dallas Texans Red Dallas (TX-N) 1, Grand Rapids Crew Juniors (MI) 4
Texans: Adam Kemp (56:00)
Crew: Greg Timmer (21:00), OG (69:00), Sean Conerty (89:00) (90:00)
Alpharetta Ambush 93 Red (GA) 1, KCFC Rangers 92/93 (KS) 1
Ambush: Darion Copeland (68:00)
KCFC: Douglas Stevenson (54:00)
Palo Alto 93 Blue (CA-N) 1, YMS Thunder (PA-E) 1
Alto: Jose Mendoza (81:00)
YMS: Michael Loughery (20:00)
Sereno 92 White (AZ) 1, Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD) 4
Sereno: Carter Owen (77:00)
Bays: Moses Makinde (2:00), Peter Caringi (35:00), Milovan Kapor (41:00), Travis Dennis (90:00)
Chicago Fire Juniors. (IL) 3, Dallas Texans 92 Dallas (TX-N) 2
Fire: Joey Tennyson (10:00), Jesse Ortiz (50:00), Wojtek Wojcik (68:00)
Texans: Blake Wise (72:00), Michael Brody (89:00