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BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – Sunday was all about the qualification.
While some teams at the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championships had already qualified for quarterfinal play after just two matches, many were left waiting on the outcome of their final group stage games here Sunday to see if they could get through. This made for some high drama in some situations at the event.
The tournament is setup with four groups of four in most age groups, with the top two teams in each group advancing after three round robin matches to the quarterfinals, which will be played beginning Monday morning. Semifinals are Tuesday and Finals are played Wednesday, with winners advancing to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships, to be played next month in the Kansas City area.
GSA'a Anna McClung (right) had a hat trick on the day.
One issue that came up a few times is the tiebreaker scenario, which isn’t the same at various events with different governing bodies around youth soccer in the U.S. Here in Region III, the tiebreaker after head-to-head play is goal difference, which is fairly universal, but then goals allowed. The FIFA standard at that step is goals scored, to reward attacking play. Goals allowed on the other hand tends to reward bunkering in an discourages teams getting players forward.
It doesn’t always matter and there wasn’t any mystery for the teams coming in as to the criteria, but it would be a nice step for everyone to get uniform with the FIFA standard. Capping the number of goals that count toward goal difference for the sake of sportsmanship is one thing, but literally rewarding teams for doing less to try to score is another.
U14 Boys Group D: West Pines United (FL) 0, CASL Elite (NC) 0; Carolina Elite SA (SC) 2, Arkansas Comets 1
The suspense in this group went to the final whistle, with a denied late shout for a penalty from the South Carolina side meaning the two teams on the next field over, CASL and West Pines, would advance.
The Florida side looked dangerous early, especially through the running and ball-striking of Romario Bernard. More than once however, his offensive forays met their demise at the position of CASL defender Evan Krause, who showed good coverage and tackling techniques. West Pines’ Bryan Gonzalez also had a chance but CASL goalkeeper Samuel Griffin came off his lne well to snuff it out.
Meanwhile on the next field, CESA was threatening the Arkansas goal, knowing it needed to win and to get some help on goal difference to advance. Ryuta Amona won a corner with a good run down the left, and Ralph Polson hit the upright with his effort.
CESA did score the opener from a set piece, with Tyler Rider flying in a free kick that Austin Rackley met in the area with his head, guiding the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead for the South Carolina State Cup winners. At that point West Pines would have been through on goal difference and CASL and CESA would have been looking at penalty kicks, given that we were even in every category used for tiebreakers.
CASL’s Daniel Davis had a good effort on goal just before halftime, but his shot after running down the left went wide.
Arkansas defender Haden Johnson was playing a good shift for his team, and Rolando Sidon began to get untracked offensively, showing some good offensive moves and ball-striking skill.
That skill was on display when Comets scored the goal that ended up knocking CESA out of regionals. Sidon sent in a free kick and it found Brian Banuelos unmarked at the far post. Banuelos placed his header right and match was tied at 1-1.
With parents and spectators comparing notes on event tiebreaking procedures, CASL seemed more intent on trying to score and removing all the drama from their situation (although that would have put West Pines in peril). Caleb Duvernay fed the very talented Michael Clemmons with a pass and Clemmons demonstrated how to turn your marker before firing a wicked shot that West Pines goalkeeper Joseph Ghitis
had to be alert to save.
CESA got back into position to advance when Tyler Rider broke through the Arkansas back line and finished well to make it 2-1. That set the stage for a frantic ending that saw Arkansas miss a sitter in the 6-yard box and then CESA had a player go down under a challenge in the area but no penalty was awarded and CASL and West Pines advanced based on their scoreless draw.
U15 Girls Group A: Sting SC (NTX) 6, Space Coast United (FL) 0; GSA Phoenix (GA) 5, Lady Lobos (TN) 0
The drama was not as apparent in the U15 Girls division, as strong performances by Tatu’s powerhouse Sting SC team and Campbell Chapman’s GSA Phoenix squad took the suspense out of the proceedings early, advancing both teams to the knockout rounds.
Anna McClung scored a nice hat trick for GSA, including one shot that should have been saved and two others that were quality strikes. McClung also set up Lauren Tanner
for a goal. The opening GSA tally was an own goal off a nice corner serve from Taylor Donahue.
Sting’s tallies came from Meagan McCullough, Kendall McKnight, Tamara Mejia, Morgan Williams, Katie Martin and Lauren Selaiden.
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Quarterfinal Pairings (Courtesy U.S. Youth Soccer)U14 Boys
Lonestar SC vs.Tennessee Rush
Charlotte SA vs.Soccer Academy of the Americas (FL)
Solar SC (NTX) vs. CASL Elite (NC)
FC Dallas vs. West Pines United (FL)U14 Girls
Lonestar SC vs. Dallas Texans
Sting SC (NTX) vs. Birmingham United
Solar SC (NTX) vs. AFC Lightning (GA)
East Lake Arsenal (FL) vs. Twin Cities YSA (NC)U15 Boys
South Florida Elite vs. Brentwood SC (TN)
CASL (NC) vs. GFC Spurs (GA)
Mexicas (STX) vs. CESA Premier (SC)
Concorde Fire (GA) vs. Solar Red (NTX)U15 Girls
Sting SC (NTX) vs. CESA Premier (SC)
Challenge SC (STX) vs. Brandon Flames (FL)
Hurricane FC (OK) vs. Dallas Texans
CASL Spartan Elite (NC) vs. GSA Phoenix (GA)U16 Boys
Central Jackson SO (MS) vs. RSL Florida
Solar SC (NTX) vs. Tulsa SC
Concorde Fire Elite vs. Arkansas Comets
Caroline Elite SA (SC) vs. GSA Phoenix (GA)U16 Girls
ASA Xtreme (GA) vs. Oklahoma FC
Solar SC (NTX) vs. Birmingham United
Dallas Texans vs. NASA Elite (GA)
Sting SC (NTX) vs. Brentwood SC (TN)U17 Boys
Alpharetta Ambush (GA) vs. Tulsa SC
Mississippi Fire vs. Florida Rush
Triangle FC (NC) vs. CASL Elite (NC)
Norman Celtic (OK) vs. GSA Phoenix (GA)U17 Girls
Brentwood SC (TN) vs. GSA Phoenix (GA)
Sting SC (NTX) vs. Lonestar SC
Ponte Vedra Storm (FL) vs. Hurricane FC (OK)
D’Feeters (NTX) vs. Team Boca (FL)U18 Boys
Incomplete at Publication
Challenge SC (STX) vs. Triangle FC Navy (NC)
AFC Lightning (GA) vs. Dallas Texans
Baton Rouge SC vs. Sting SC NTX)
CASL Spartan Elite (NC) vs. RSL Florida EliteU19 Boys (Semifinals Tuesday)
Andromeda SC (NTX) vs. AFC Lightning (GA)
91 Black Rebels (SC) vs. Little Rock FCU19 Girls (Semifinals Tuesday)
Lonestar SC vs. Challenge SC
Dallas Texans vs. Mandeville Lakers (LA)