(Scroll Down for complete results from the event including U16, U17 and U18 championship bracket opening round games).
WAUKEGAN, ILLINOIS – In both the U14 and U15 age groups at the ECNL National Championships, determining the title-winners would come down to a single game played here Wednesday.
When the matches were over, Colorado Rush had won the U15 crown, beating Dallas Sting 1-0, and Arsenal FC had taken honors in the U14 age group with a 2-0 victory over Southern California rivals San Diego Surf.
Wes Hart’s Rush team drew upon its depth to hold off a talented Dallas Sting team in winning Wednesday’s title match.
Sting threatened to score early as forward Mimi Asom is a constant danger due to her explosiveness up the middle. Her shot from the edge of the area in the early going was safely gathered by Rush goalkeeper Sabina Macias, and she also created more such moments during the match.
Rush once again got excellent holding midfield play from Jamie Brunworth, with assistance during the match from Jastin Redman and Madison Giammona. Sting got a tireless effort in closing players down from Julie James, with Rachel Hise providing good technical work on the wing in helping the Texas team keep possession.
Kaycie Tillman created a chance with a good chip behind the Rush defensive line, but Macias charged off her line alertly to end the threat. Tillman then hit a good cross from the left that Asom met skillfully with a volley that went into the outside of the net. A third Sting chance in a short spur came when Hannah Fernandez served an excellent lob to Natalie McDonough who controlled it, turned and volleyed toward goal in one motion, but the effort went over goal.
Rush then turned tables with a goal as Jordan DiBiasi made a strong run up the right and crossed on the ground for Rylie O’Keefe who touched it around a defender and then fired a low shot inside the far post for what would be the winning goal (the 2nd consecutive day these two had combined for a winning goal).
Sting fought back and after Fernandez won a free kick in a dangerous spot, a mad scramble ensued in front of goal before Rush defender Breahna Robertson smartly cleared the danger. Sting’s McDonough nearly tied the game just before the halftime whistle with a good shot from long range, but Macias leapt to tip the ball off the crossbar, then dove on the rebound before a Sting attacker could reach it.
Much of the 2nd half was played in midfield, although Asom continued to be a threat to the Rush defense. Tillman set up McDonough for one low drive for which Macias had to make a huge, diving save. Betsy Brandon, DiBiasi and Aspen Robinson did some good work in killing off the final few minutes of the game in the Sting end, and Wes Hart’s Rush team had their national championship.
U14 Championship Match: Arsenal FC 2, San Diego Surf 0
In this all-Southern California final, Arsenal had to overcome an exceptionally intense Surf side to bring home the championship trophy.
Noah Kooiman’s Surf side has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt here that it can knock the soccer ball around with the best of them. Jose Ocampo and the Surf side undoubtedly knew this already, as both coaches mentioned in their post-match comments about having great respect for one another.
Surf was very effective in the opening half at closing down Arsenal and not giving their players even a moment of free time with the ball. That and a strong morning crosswind off Lake Michigan produced what seemed like a record number of throws in the opening 40 minutes. It seemed hard for teams to be able to string together even three passes in a row. Challenges were hard but fair. Surf’s Madeline Gotta epitomized her team’s commitment, shaking off some kind of injury to repeatedly thwart the Arsenal attack before it could get rolling.
Surf meanwhile had the best scoring chance of the opening stanza, with Brittany Nguyen serving a good corner that Camille Basssett met with a header which was saved by Arsenal goalkeeper Katelyn Carter.
Arsenal managed to break through and score the opening goal on a fine strike by Courtney Gazmarian, and the team went to the half at 1-0.
In the 2nd half, Surf’s Valerie Koerber made a good run with the ball and found Dana Dalton who let go with a powerful shot that went just wide. Arsenal responded with a strong passing move of its own, with Leah Pruitt, Alyssa Carthan and Aleksa Marr combining well before Marr fired wide of the target. Pruitt in particular was beginning to really stamp her impression on the game in midfield, showing no signs of the tiredness players must have felt with this being the 4th match played in consecutive days.
Arsenal’s Marissa Everett put in some good work with the ball on the right and sent a tantalizing cross over that bounced twice in the goalmouth, but no teammate was able to reach it for a score. The reprieve for Surf was only temporary however, as an attempted clearance was blocked by Carthan and the ricochet went straight to Everett who showed a finisher’s touch in beating the goalkeeper 1v1 to make it 2-0 and effectively ice the national title for Arsenal.
Kooiman’s lost voice and gusts of wind make the audio in this video less than perfect, but the Arsenal players made this video interview worth watching.
Arsenal players were more on song during their games this week than in this shout-out for us, but you get the message anyway that the team had just won the big prize.
With the U14s and U15s wrapping up here on Wednesday, our coverage will shift to the knockout rounds in the U16, U17 and U18 championship brackets for the next three days. Results from their opening round and the final day of U14 and U15 play follows:
Full Wednesday Results
U14 Championship Match
Arsenal FC 2, San Diego Surf 0
U14 Consolation Matches
PDA 3, Mustang SC 2 (3rd Place)
Ohio Premier Eagles 2, Crossfire Premier 1 (5th Place)
Eclipse Select 6, Dallas Sting 3 (7th Place)
Real Colorado 3, FC Dallas 0
Charlotte Soccer Academy 2, FC Virginia 0
KCFC 2, Stars of Massachusetts 1
Atlanta Fire 4, Colorado Storm 3
U15 Championship Match
U15 Consolation Matches
Crossfire Premier 3, PDA 2 (3rd Place)
Eclipse Select 3, GSA Phoenix 2 (5th Place)
TSC Hurricane 2, Dallas Texans 1 (7th Place)
Ohio Elite 3, So Cal Blues 2
Michigan Hawks 2, Real So Cal 1
San Diego Surf 2, Stars of Massachusetts 1
Mustang SC 2, West Coast FC 1
U16 Championship Playoffs First Round
Slammers 5, Crossfire Premier 1
Mustang SC 3, Atlanta Fire 0
Eclipse Select 3, West Coast FC 2
KCFC 2, San Diego Surf 1
Michigan Hawks 3, Freestate SA 2
PDA 1, Stars of Massachusetts 0
Ohio Elite 2, Lonestar SC 1
Dallas Sting 1, So Cal Blues 0
U17 Championship Playoffs First Round
Concorde Fire 2, TSC Hurricane 1
Michigan Hawks 3, Eclipse Select 2
Ohio Premier Eagles 1, Colorado Rush 0
Scorpions 4, Bethesda SC 2
Slammers 1, Dallas Texans 0
Mustang SC 2, Real So Cal 1
Dallas Sting 3, FC Virginia 2
CASL Chelsea Ladies 3, San Diego Surf 0
U18 Championship Playoffs First Round
Dallas Texans 2, Crossfire Premier 1
Arsenal 4, Stars of Massachusetts 3
Real Colorado 2, Colorado Rush 1
Slammers 2, Albertson Fury 0
Solar Chelsea 5, SC del Sol 2
Michigan Hawks 3, Carmel United 2
Mustang SC 3, KCFC 1
PDA 2, Eclipse Select 1