SAN DIEGO, California - The ECNL National Event in San Diego kicked off on Friday at the San Diego Polo Fields. With over 150 teams at the event, there were a number of quality games on display from the opening day.
Below is a recap of the games that TopDrawerSoccer took in on the first day.
Slammers U14 3-2 Colorado Rush U14
Colorado Rush started with a buzz from the opening whistle and tried to push the tempo to make the Southern California side uncomfortable. Rush zipped around the attacking third, but the Slammers defense did well to withstand the entry passes and limit the looks on goal to long range bombs that went wide of the target.
Slammers slowly gained control of the game after 10 minutes of play. Slammers striker Sara-Jayne Affleck opened the scoring after 16 minutes when she beat a trio of defenders before riffling a shot into the back of the net from a tight angle along the left side of the 18-yard box.
Two minutes later, Slammers doubled the lead when right back Emily Johnson hit a cracker from distance that eluded the keeper and snuck into the bottom corner of the goal.
Slammers took that two-goal lead into half and looked well on their way to an opening day win after Rush struggled to break down the final line of the So Cal squad’s defense in the first half.
The second half’s debut moments had a similar plot play out with Slammers’ demonstrating a defensive dominance and then poking and prying at the Rush when in possession. The Slammers also stepped up their line of confrontation in the second half. Rush, to the players and coach’s credit, continued to build from the back at every turn despite the pressure.
It was Slammers though that plugged in another goal. Slammers had a good spell of possession that eventually funneled to the left back on an overlapping run. Maria Walencewicz played in an entry pass to Destinee Manzo who turned and lofted her shot over the goalkeeper from 20 yards out.
Slammers started to take their feet off the gas late in the second half and Rush finally found a break through. With two minutes left, Rush forward Audrey Weiss beat a couple of defenders to a ball and put it into the back of the net.
In the final minute of play, Rush Tessa Barton smashed home her shot from close range to bring Colorado within one in the final seconds of the game.
There was not enough time left for Colorado to find an equalizer, as the referee brought the game to a close shortly after the fifth goal of the game.
Richmond United U15 2-0 San Diego Surf U15
Tennessee commit Paige Franks scored her 21st goal of the season on Friday and added an assist for good measure. The dynamic winger helped get Richmond United on the board in the fifth minute when she broke free of a stout Surf defense.
The play started when fellow Tennessee commit McKinley Burkett played a direct pass down the line in the path of Franks’ run. Franks raced to the end line and then cut back before laying it off to Natalie Maurer who placed her shot into the far corner of the net.
With a commitment from the front line, Richmond United made life difficult on Surf throughout the game and hounded the local side into coughing up possession at every turn. Surf had trouble holding onto the ball for extended times with the constant pressure from the Virginia side.
There were moments when Surf broke the lines and got into good spots to find a goal on Friday. The first chance came in the 22nd minute when Ruby Hellstrom ripped a shot from the right side of the 18-yard box, but goalkeeper Maisy Fling made a nice diving save.
Richmond answered with a chance of its own eight minutes later when Burkett held off two defenders before hitting a shot from the top of the box. Burkett’s effort went off the under side of the bar, but it did not completely cross the line.
Surf came right back with Maisie Whitest, who hit a shot off the post after a quick linking play down the left side of the field. Surf were a bit unlucky to go into the break without scoring a goal.
Richmond put the game to bed 10 minutes into the second half when Franks got in behind the Surf defense and then went around the keeper before finishing into the open net. Franks worked her tail off all game on both sides of the ball and was rewarded for her efforts when her teammates constantly tried to pick her out and play her in behind the defense.
Richmond continued to execute a well-designed system of high pressure in the second half and saw out the second half without much of note from the home team.
De Anza Force U16 2-0 San Diego Surf U16
The always popular De Anza Force U16 side was the class of the day in terms of instituting and committing to a beautiful, possession-based style of play. Force came out of the gates with the intention of dominating the fixture by keeping hold of the ball.
A talented Surf side held on and tried to go toe-to-toe against the Northern California rival, but Force eventually broke through. It was an extended passing sequence that eventually led to a combination between center back Emily Smith and Kayla Fong at the top of the 18-yard box. Smith placed her shot into the left side of the goal for the opening tally.
After the goal, Force tried to take the air out of the ball for the rest of the first half and kept the lead into the break. In the second half, winger Mia Root broke free of her mark and played in a cross for Sarah Tatley, but the assistant referee ruled that Tatley had moved ahead of the ball and was in an offside position.
Root was a thorn in the side of the Surf defense all afternoon. Her outing was highlighted midway through the second half when she megged her defender with a delightful bit of skill before racing down the touchline and whipping in a cross that could not find it’s intended target.
Surf nearly found the equalizer though. Julie Doyle pushed past a defender with six minutes left in the game and found herself one on one with the goalkeeper. The Force keeper made the save and then jumpstarted the attack headed the other way. Pepperdine commit Alex Augulis cut in from the left flank onto her right foot and zipped a shot past the goalkeeper for the final tally of the game.