After a nasty round of storms rolled through the Midwest region Thursday and into Friday morning, the men’s adidas Blue Chip Showcase Tournament kicked-off Friday morning.
The majority of games were scheduled to take place on grass at the Oxford Community Park; however the weather forced all the matches to relocate to turf locations. We followed the U16 and U17 action out to Riverside Park Soccer Complex in Cincinnati.
One of the first U16 matches of the day featured a showdown between Oklahoma FC ’97 and TNT Dynamite ’97 of Michigan. Both teams struggled early to adjust to the speed and texture of the turf field, which was extremely hard and played very quickly.
One player that was able to be successful on the tricky surface was TNT Dynamite’s Travon Rogers, who showed great technical ability on the ball while also possessing enough speed to beat defenders on the dribble.
Rogers was able to combine with teammate Bryce Dawsey who played dangerous balls through Oklahoma FC’s back line. Oklahoma FC initially struggled to gauge the speed of the turf and played multiple through balls over the end line.
However, in the second half they came out ready to fight and possessed a majority of the scoring opportunities. Parker Noble took most of Oklahoma FC’s free-kick pieces and played multiple dangerous balls into the TNT Dynamite box, with the game ending fairly in a 2-2 tie.
The second U16 game saw Minnesota’s St. Croix Academy Red Bulls take on Pacesetter ’97 Red.
This game featured a physical matchup in the midfield as both sides tried to keep the ball on the ground and play through the middle. Pacesetter Red midfielder Johnathan Cooper displayed the ability to take quick touches and get his head up to look down the field.
Cooper served multiple dangerous balls down the field; unfortunately his teammates were not able to get onto the end of them. St. Croix Academy Red Bull stuck to their game plan of picking apart the Pacesetter defense with passes and controlled possession for most of the game.
In the second half Red Bull forward Connor Stevenson was able to put a volley on frame that originally appeared to be saved by Pacesetter keeper Kyle Rowan. The linesman was in the right position though and called the volley over the line, giving St. Croix Academy Red Bull the 1-0 lead.
Thanks to an impressive defensive effort by Red Bull’s Robbie Waldon, they were able to hang on and get the victory by the same score line.
One of the more entertaining matchups of the day happened in the U17 age group when Jacksonville FC took on Waza FC East.
Thanks to the speed of Spiro Pliakos, Waza FC was able to jump out to an early 1-0 lead when Pliakos accelerated past his defender and buried a one-time strike into the corner of the net. Things seemed to be rolling for Waza FC as their defense held strong and was lead by Cameron Jacques who proved to be a force in the air.
Jacques was also able to get forward and serve some dangerous crosses into the box. Coming out of halftime, Jacksonville FC was faced with a one goal deficit and the wind in their faces. However, they wasted very little time and evened the score at 1-1 just 10 minutes into the second half. Jacksonville FC’s defense held strong as they faced the same grueling attack from Waza FC as they did in the first half.
Jacksonville FC right back Daniel Smith seemed up to the task, using his height and physical ability to clear crosses and corner kicks. Smith was also backed up with a solid performance from his goalkeeper, William Brooks, who showed a solid and technical performance in goal. Jacksonville FC continued to push forward and they seemed to edge closer and closer to the winning goal.
The finish finally came from Nicholas Bruno who finished a rolling ball from the outside of the 18. Jacksonville FC would hang on to beat Waza FC 2-1.
Also in action in the U17 age group was the Empire Revolution from New York matching up against the Chicago Fire Juniors of Mississippi, also known as the Mississippi Fire. Empire Revolution came out and dominated the first half, tallying multiple chances on goal. Midfielder Jacob Montante put on an impressive display, cracking multiple shots from outside of the 18 and nearly scoring on two of these shots.
On the defensive end, Empire Revolution was lead by defender Andy Buell and goalkeeper Steven Casey. Both players displayed the ability to organize the defense and withstand the Mississippi Fire attack. The game finished the first half tied at 0-0.
In the second half Mississippi Fire came out eager to get a jump on Empire Revolution and they did just that in about the tenth minute of play. Casey was unable to get a solid hold on a cross and Mississippi Fire midfielder Lewis Tillman was in the right spot to finish the bobbled ball. Empire Revolution wasn’t ready to give up the fight though and continued to push the ball forward.
They finally broke through in the 75th minute when midfielder Christopher Mayrose hit a brilliant finish from distance that tied the game up. The teams would continue to trade chances but when the final whistle blew the game would end up tied 1-1.
We will continue to provide adidas Blue Chip Showcase coverage in addition to special coverage of the men’s college spring game between Xavier and Notre Dame. The game will take place at 7:30 p.m. local time and all proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati.