ECNL Boys: Crossfire Secure U19 Title

ECNL Boys: Crossfire Secure U19 Title
by Victor Olorunfemi
July 2, 2024
Players featured in this article:
MF | Crossfire Premier SC
MF | Crossfire Premier SC

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Crossfire Premier left no room for doubt with a resounding 4-0 defeat of Florida Kraze to lift the Boys U19 championship in arguably the most dominant playoff run in ECNL history. The Washington state power won all five playoff games by a minimum of three goals and scored 24 while conceding just four.

The final started as most games had at the playoffs, with Crossfire pinning the opposition on the back foot due to their unmatched intensity and direct style of play. Fifty seconds was all it took to take the lead as Kevin Hernandez delivered a world-class moment from outside the 18 by smashing a first-time volley into the bottom corner following a headed clearance. In a sign of things to come, the Washington commit cut his celebration short with sights set on the big picture.

Still reeling from the early goal, Florida Kraze struggled to get out of their defensive third, with the Premier employing an aggressive counter-pressing style that made space a luxury their opponents could not have. That intensity led to several corner kicks and eventually the second goal 12 minutes into the final. Hernandez again had a hand, this time delivering a right-footed in-swinging corner that towering center-back Alex Polyukh would smash into the roof of the net following a defensive scramble.

The goal epitomized the difference between the two teams, as a Premier player enacted quickest to the first, second, and third balls that led to the goal.

If not for several outstanding saves from Cameron Angeles, the score could have been four or five by halftime as Clarens Dollin on the left wing dominated with his 1-v-1 dribbling and agility to create space. On the other end of the pitch, the Kraze failed to register a shot on target as Polyukh dominated his matchup with 6’6” striker Carlos Rojas, who came into the final in fine form, as Hernandez and Edgar Leon controlled the midfield with tenacious tackling, technical brilliance, and intelligent decision-making.

The second half offered a brief hope that the game may flip as the Floridians manufactured a 1-v-1 opportunity that Crossfire goalkeeper Kenneth Pierpoint did well to stop. Minutes later, the score was 3-0. Brecken Bowers served up a left-footed in-swinging corner that found Polyukh’s head, forcing a save that Sean Aoun would pounce home in the 59th minute.

More than anything else, the second half showcased the absurd depth which Crossfire dominated the playoffs with. Archilea Dhima, a replacement for Dollin on the left wing, showcased his dribbling capabilities, cruising past Kraze defenders on multiple occasions, even when facing double teams. Julius Suber was another eye-catching substitute, providing combative play and pinpoint crossing on the right wing.

Those two played a role in the fourth goal, with Dhima beating his defender, delivering a cross that Suber would control and send back into the box for a sensational flicked header from Aaron Leon. It was a deserved goal for a striker who selflessly battled all game to create for the team before enjoying an opportunity of his own.

This trophy marks the perfect ending for a legendary senior class that also won an ECNL Regional League national title in 2022.

Final MOTM: Alex Polyukh, Crossfire Premier

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