GREENSBORO, North Carolina — Sterling Wescott liked the outcome of his St. Louis Scott Gallagher U16 girls soccer team's debut match at the NPL Finals on Thursday.
However, how Scott Gallagher U16 got there left a lot to be desired for Wescott after a 1-0 victory over Connecticut FC in the opening day of pool play at the Bryan Park Soccer Complex.
Playing at the complex's McPherson Stadium, forward Natalie Kesselring scored the match's only goal for Scott Gallagher, which moved atop the Flight A standings (1-0, three points) heading into Friday's match against MFC Fire 98 Girls Premiere.
“The result was good, but the soccer wasn't great,” Wescott said. “The first half, I thought the game went back and forth and was fairly even. The second half, the pace picked up a little bit, they put a little bit more pressure on us. We just started knocking it around and defending well. We were pretty organized, and didn't give them anything.”
After a scoreless first half, Kesselring finally broke the shutout four minutes into the second half, after nearly scoring midway through the first half onto to have her close-in shot bounce off the right post.
MORE NPL Finals Coverage: Thursday's standouts
She broke free down the left side and lofted a shot from just inside the penalty box that got over CFC goalkeeper Cheyenne McDougall's hand and into the upper left corner.
“She's scored a lot of big goals for us,” Wescott said. “The timing of her runs is good, and she likes going after people. She almost had that goal in the first half, and had a great one in the second.”
Connecticut FC (0-1) – which plays N.J. Stallions Dynamite in Friday's first match – had a chance to tie the game midway through the half, but Caly Farina's shot bounced off and over the crossbar.
In other NPL Finals matches played Thursday:
Weston FC 98 2, FC Boulder 98 0
David Corredor Martinez and Maximo Cardenas Grisanti both scored goals, and Santiago Hermida came up with the shutout in goal for Weston FC 98 (1-0, three points), which is tied for the lead in the Flight C standings.
Martinez put Weston FC in the lead midway through the first half, with his shot just outside the penalty box finding the lower right corner of FC Boulder 98's goal.
Grisanti added an insurance score late in the second half, taking a corner kick and punching it past FC Boulder keeper Alexander Ray with less than a minute remaining in stoppage time.
Weston FC 98 next plays MFC Fire 98 Boys Premiere (0-1), while FC Boulder 98 (0-1) takes on BW Gottschee Celtic 98 (1-0, three points).
FC Golden State Premiere 1, Brooklyn Italians 1
FC Golden State and Brooklyn battled to a 1-1 tie in their opening-round Flight B round-robin match, which was marred by a pair of ejections late in the match.
Joseph Barone, called up from the Italians' U15 program, put Brooklyn (0-0-1) in the lead when his free kick found the upper left corner of the Premiere goal seven minutes into the first half.
However, FC Golden State (0-0-1) managed to tie the score with less than a minute remaining in first-half stoppage time. Left back Alexander Martinez was attempting a crossing shot less than two yards from the end line on the left side of the field, but his shot tailed into the upper right corner of the Italians' goal.
Late in the second half, both teams had players given red cards for unsportsmanlike conduct – Dillon Rudberg for FC Golden State, and Fernando Zeron for Brooklyn – and will have to sit out Friday's games.
The Italians will face SLSG Illinois 16 NPL (1-0, three points) on Friday, while the Premier will take on FC Spokane B-97 Black (0-0-1).
PDA 97 1, L.A. Premiere FC 0
Taylor Ryan's goal with less than a minute remaining in stoppage time lifted PDA 97 (1-0, three points) to a win and the early lead in the Flight B standings.
Ryan scored when she punched in teammate Vanessa Kara's crossing shot from point-blank range past L.A Premiere keeper Ashley Kolonsky.
Both teams had their scoring opportunities, no more so than PDA 97's Kara, who missed on a breakaway in the first half, had another close-in shot go over the crossbar early in the second half, and a third was saved by Kolonsky.
Imani Taylor got the shutout in goal for PDA 97, which next takes on Marin FC 97 Girls Blue. L.A. Premiere (0-1) has two matches Friday – against TSF Academy Magpies (0-1) in the morning, and against Eclipse 97G Black (0-1) that afternoon.