ECNL Seattle provided ample talking points for the U15, U16 and U17 teams who used the event as a springboard to the ECNL Finals in Richmond, Virginia from July 13-17. Here’s a look at three teams from each age group that emerged from Seattle as major factors in the race for national titles.
San Diego Surf: Big tournaments like the ECNL Finals are often turned by a national talent, and there aren’t many bigger than Surf forward Catarina Macario. She scored six goals in three games at ECNL Seattle, and Surf cruised to a top-place finish in a U15 group many thought was the toughest of the tournament. Surf has quality all over the field, but it’ll need a hearty response from its big guns to capture the coveted national title.
So Cal Blues: Few teams in Seattle left with this kind of carnage in its wake. So Cal Blues started the week by thrashing Sockers FC 4-1, followed with a 5-0 win over FC Stars of Massachusetts and then dropped a solid FC Virginia side 3-0. The U15 division in Richmond will have a distinct SoCal flavor, and the Blues have just as good as chance as anyone to take home the hardware.
West Coast FC: The best overall record for a U15 team in Seattle belonged to West Coast FC. They weren’t the only side to leave with a perfect 3-0-0 record, but no team scored more than 14 and gave up fewer than one. So it went for WCFC, which thumped its first two opponents before gutting out a critical 2-1 victory over a solid Solar Chelsea team to win the group going away. It’s that last test that should help WCFC withstand more close challenges ahead.
Real Colorado: This team is loaded from the back to the front. Real Colorado features a sturdy back line helmed by the likes of Giselle Sawaged, a midfield that can play keep-away with Alyssa Kaiser and a forward line that can lean on U20 standout Mallory Pugh. If the latter plays in Richmond, Real Colorado is an automatic favorite for the title. Even if she can’t go due to national team duties, this is a scary team for any opponent.
Eclipse Select: Eclipse inflicted an enormous amount of pain on its group in Seattle, including an incredible 8-0 win over Birmingham United. They left Seattle with 15 goals in three games and took the spot in Richmond over hometown Crossfire Premier, which entered as the top-seeded U16 team in the nation. Teams that go through that amount of fire tend to fare well on the other side. Look out for forward Zoe Redei in Richmond. She’s one of the most dangerous in the nation.
Slammers FC: This team brushed aside a difficult group to qualify for Richmond by giving up just two goals in three games. But don’t overlook Julia Bingham, a fierce goal-scorer who could wreak havoc on any group in Richmond. She’s in fine form after scoring five of Slammers’ eight goals in Seattle, and by taking seven of the possible nine points, the team declared its quality.
GSA: The group in which GSA found itself in Seattle was a difficult one. The multi-faceted team had to grind through a 2-1 win over Connecticut FC and a 1-0 win over Colorado Rush, but it ultimately got through with all nine points from three games. While YNT star-in-the-making Jennifer Westendorf didn’t score in Seattle, she has more than enough quality around her - Amanda Vocelka is one to remember - to make GSA a title contender.
Dallas Sting: Dallas Sting got off to a rugged start in Seattle by going down early in their first game, but they recovered and won all three games in smashing form with 11 goals to just two conceded. With the strike partnership of Kaycie Tillman and Mimi Asom humming at full steam and the back line fresh off a shutout of Real Colorado, the nation’s top-seeded U17 team in Seattle could be the most talented in the country.
PDA: The PDA U18 just won its second title in as many years by winning five games in six days in Seattle. Can the PDA U17s add some more hardware to the cabinet? The talent is certainly there. A 1-1 draw against Vardar was the team’s only hiccup in Seattle, and it only qualified on seven points on a tiebreaker via a single goal over that same Vardar team. But once you’re in the show, all that is out the window, and unleashing Taylor Racioppi on this event should be fun to watch.