COLUMBUS, Ohio (Via U.S. Soccer) – In the first Boys’ Development Academy live streamed feature game of the 2017-2018 season, Crew SC Academy (Columbus, Ohio) defeated Crew SC Academy Wolves (Wixom, Mich.) 3-1 behind goals from Keegan Hughes, Isaiah Parente and Hwang Eun Seok.
Playing at the M.L.S. club’s training facility, the EAS Training Center at Obetz, the game was positively highlighted by U.S. Soccer’s Concussion Awareness Week. The initiative, which kicked off during last weekend’s launch of the Girls’ Development Academy, encourages players to take an oath to be educated on concussion symptoms, to be honest in their self-evaluation and to be supportive of anyone with a concussion.
Before the game kicked off, team captains Jensen Lukacsko (Crew Academy) and Farai Mutatu (Wolves) recited the ThinkTaylor Pedge in front of the venue crowd of fans, parents and coaches. Former U.S. Men’s National team forward Taylor Twellman founded ThinkTaylor in 2011, shortly after he was forced to retire from Major League Soccer, in 2010, due to the effects of post-concussion syndrome (PCS) that followed a head injury during a game in 2008.
On hand to take in the sights and sounds of the Academy matchup, Twellman was once again positive in what has been accomplished during Concussion Awareness Week.
“I think the most important thing to realize is that this is about the kids,” Twellman said. “It’s about giving them ownership of their body and in particular, their brains. What I have seen in one week with the Academy players is that when the parents, coaches and teachers get out of the way, and it’s about the kids, there is real growth in educating and being aware. If you play hard, but you play smart, you’ll play again. And I think that’s starting to gain some real momentum with this #TTPledge.”
With Crew SC first team staff and head coach Gregg Berhalter watching along from the sidelines, both M.L.S. affiliate teams brought an intensity to the game that was evident throughout.
Crew Academy got on the scoreboard first in the 18th minute, coming off the first corner kick of the game. After a well-served ball into the box by Colin Biros, Hughes, who appeared to run on unmarked by the Wolves’ defense, used his vertical leaping abilities to connect his head on the ball. The Center Back climbed into the air, using his neck muscles to get every bit on the directional header, flicking the attempt into the back post to give the home side an early 1-0 advantage.
Twenty one minutes later, it would be 2016-2017 U-15/16 Central Conference Best XI midfielder Parente to double the Crew Academy lead. After a successful combination of passes to move into Crew SC Wolves territory, Biros used his attacking vision to play a beautiful pass behind the backline of the defense. By placing the ball far enough away from the goalkeeper, Biros earned his second assist when Parente was able to beat the closest defender to the ball and snuck the cross into the back post.
Despite the halftime whistle being a few minutes away, Crew Academy continued to press on and were rewarded for their hustle in the 44th. After an intercepted pass to step into the attacking half, Sean Zawadzki used a combination of touches to draw multiple Wolves defenders before threading the ball forward towards a speeding Biros. After an attempted clearance of the trouble was unsuccessful by the Wolves defense, forward Seok saw the loose ball fall towards him and, while remaining calm and collected, used one touch to settle and get space from defender before slamming the chance into the net.
In the second half, the visiting Wolves came out with more of an attacking grit and pushed their way back into the game in the 55th minute. After feeding a streaking Aidan Nam down the left flank, Farai Mutatu was gifted the ball back, a low cross which he one-timed and pulled back into the far post side-netting to break up the shutout.
The effort would change the pace of the game in favor of the Wolves, but the score line would stand at the final whistle, giving Crew SC Academy its first win of the season.
“I felt like we played a good first half,” Crew Academy head coach Ben Cross said. “We moved the ball well from side to side and we finished our chances. I think in the first half you saw our style of play, but in the second half we lost our rhythm a little bit. But that’s a credit to (Crew SC Academy Wolves). They pushed and made it difficult for us. But this experience has been fantastic. Having the Development Academy staff here, and having our players in the spotlight, so to speak, putting our players in that pressure situation where they have got to try and perform, it’s been a really good experience.”