RICHMOND, Va. — It’s one of the biggest events on the youth soccer calendar, marking the unofficial start of the spring season, and it’s finally here.
Welcome to Soccerwire.com’s live coverage of the 2013 Jefferson Cup in Richmond, Va. We’re live on site here in the River City for the second stage of the tournament, Girls Weekends, starting with today’s packed schedule of Under-16, -17 and -18 showcase games.
If you cannot be in Richmond, we’ll be bringing you scores, stories and plenty of exclusive Jeff Cup content. Follow along here all weekend as we post updates during all three days of game action at this event, hosted by the Richmond Strikers. We’ll track championship matchups for younger ages, and we’ll track the top flight showcase action and college coaches’ buzz for the older groups.
Through it all, this page will have the most recent blog posts and short updates, which will link to stories, videos and other resources as we produce them.
We want to hear from you! Please leave comments below, telling us what you think about the tournament, our coverage and anything else related to this fantastic weekend.
But, if you are on the run, there are ways to keep track. For a central location of news, follow the @JeffersonCup Twitter feed, where you will find links to all the stories we post on our home page here.
To follow our Soccer Wire reporters as they send in their reports, follow us on Twitter @TheSoccerWire.
6 p.m. – This isn’t the end of our coverage tonight. Expect plenty of quality stories from our writers that can be found on the front page late on today and tomorrow.
5:30 p.m. – Another exciting Jefferson Cup has wrapped up at Striker Park, where a few Charlotte Soccer Academy 99 Predator U13 Championship bracket champions were picking up tournament t-shirts to bring home with them and wear with pride, Jimmy LaRoue said.
The top-ranked U13 team in North Carolina and finalists here last year in the U-12 Elite bracket, CSA stepped up this year and had four shutouts in four games this weekend.
In the final, CSA got a pair of goals from Blake Sutherland and a 2-0 win over high-powered World Class FC 99, who had outscored their previous three opponents 16-1 to reach the final.
CSA, however, had a more modest run to the final, outscoring their three opponents 7-0 and clamping down on WCFC to win its third consecutive tournament.
4:30 p.m. – Some comedy at the Jefferson Cup, says Michael Willis:
Some hilarious referee banter over at River City.
“I wish someone would go start my car up. I’d like to thaw out these little piggies before I hit the road so I can hit the gas pedal with accuracy.”
“I’ll tell you, that one coach has a mouth of the South on him. I should card him for that alone.”
“I wish I had a sauna.”
All of this was being spoken with a thick Carolina accent.
4 p.m. – The New Jersey squad didn’t want to go to PKs, says Jimmy LaRoue:
The New Jersey Stallions Dynamite made sure that penalties would not be necessary.
The Stallions used a first half goal and a stalwart defensive effort to defeat Tampa Bay United Premier Girls 97 1-0.
Before Stallions coach Shaun Cryer got on the bus with his team for the seven hour drive home, he talked about the challenges of coaching not to win, but to develop individual players for college and beyond. He said he is already preparing them for the recruiting process, which will only intensify going forward.
He said the Jefferson Cup has been exceptional in providing top competition and facilities, and fully expects to bring his team back in future years to showcase his players.
3:45 p.m. – Over at River City, Sunday has been arguably the most exciting day so far at the Jefferson Cup. Two games ended in PKs already, and quite a few games have been high-scoring affairs.
Fact is, everyone here loves to come out on top even when final standings during the showcase aren’t dressed as being the be-all end-all. Sure it’s important for the girls to play well, but all of them are competitors. The girls are showing a big will to win today. Even with the prospect of a heated environment awaiting them.
3 p.m. – You have to hand it to the Jefferson Cup, writer Michael Willis says:
Of all the parents, players and coaches I’ve had the chance to speak with, all have praised the cup.
The general consensus is that the people behind the scenes organizing the Jefferson Cup merit aces across the board. From the field management, to the competition, to the helpfulness of the staff, everything has gone accordingly.
Many parents marveled about the quality of the turf and grass fields at both West Creek and River City. Only with proper maintenance can facilities accomplish that when it starts to rain as it did Saturday evening through Sunday morning.
If anything, the only gripe mentioned was the one thing no one can control: the weather.
Such a large event requires meticulous planning and coordination between lots of individuals, but the team running the cup appears to have things down to a science by now.
The best words to describe the fields at West Creek Park where the U16 and U17 showcase games are being is played are “sopping wet”. Soggy as the fields may be, play continues and, from a spectator’s perspective, the girls don’t even seem phased. They slip, they slide and within seconds they are back up and running again like it never happened. A true mark of their dedication and drive to perform for themselves, their team, and the coaches watching on the sidelines. At least the fields don’t look like the picture. It’s a true minefield of slippery patches of mud and puddles to get from the parking lot down to the game fields. If the game doesn’t leave it’s mark, the walk back to the car does.
2:45 p.m. – The U15 Championship final between NJ Stallions Dynamite and Tampa Bay Premier Girls 97, along with the U12 Championship 8v8 final, are underway with a light rain returning after about a 45-minute let-up.
Most other finals here at Striker Park will be taking place in the next hour to hour-and-15 minutes, including the U10 Championship 8v8 final (SYA Cardinals Red 02 vs DC Stoddert Metros Blue), U11 Championship 8v8 final ) teams TBD), U13 Championship final (World Class FC 99 vs TBD) and U14 Championship final (YMS Xplosion 98 vs Tulsa Blitz-Thunder United 99 Girls White).
2:30 p.m. – Michael Willis is back with a take on a ‘family’ affair:
Here at the Jefferson Cup there are plenty of teams that feature girls who are as close as family members. In a sense, their team is an extension of their family.
The U15 Richmond Kickers provided a heartwarming example of how truly close and supportive these girls are. After the game, one of their girl’s was in tears at the training tent after receiving a bad kick to the thigh. Alone with just her father, standing in the rain, things must have seemed awfully despondent at that time.
That’s until about eight of her teammates and family members of other girls on the roster came and huddled around her under the training tent.
Even with the rain starting to come down harder, the girls stood by sans umbrellas trying to cheer her up. The parents wished her well with concerned faces and stood by to await a prognosis from the trainer, even when they could have been heading home to warmer weather. Only when she was carted away did any of the girls leave their spots.
Truly a great showing by a cohesive unit on and off the pitch
2:15 p.m. – The intensity of the final day at the Jefferson Cup isn’t just reserved for the teams playing for trophies and medals, or for those seeking the top spot in their bracket, or even for those hoping to impress the college coaches.
It’s also evident in a third match in the U11 Championship 8v8 bracket between teams yet to win a game.
In the match between World Class FC 01 Strikers and Cleveland FC Royal on the mud-caked field at Striker Park, there was a golazo off a corner, a goal that just trickled in, a PK, and a disallowed goal that five minutes later led to a coach’s ejection (Cleveland FC) for arguing about it, a yellow card, and a World Class FC goalkeeper who literally had mud in her eye, and a black goalkeeper’s uniform that turned almost completely brown with the mud which covered it as she dove all over her goal mouth to make sure her team would win its first game of the weekend.
And in the end, the post saved the last best shot by Cleveland FC to tie.
Or did the four-leaf clover on the World Class FC uniforms have something to do with it?
On this St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll never know.
1:15 p.m. – Charles Boehm is back with another interesting tidbit:
The young girl, probably U-14 age or so, sleeps soundly, curled up in a ball on an easy chair in the corner of the coffee shop. One seat over, her mother quietly sips a hot beverage and reads.
After a while, Mom leans over and gently wakes her daughter, reminding her that it’s nearly time to leave for the River City Sportsplex fields nearby. The girl’s bright teal soccer boots sit on the floor underneath her, dry and clean.
She’s spent, and by all appearances, she hasn’t even played yet today.
Sundays are often the most rewarding days of a tournament like the Jefferson Cup — they’re championship days, when finals are contested and trophies or medals are won. But the final day of the event also asks difficult questions of players: Who’s fittest? Who’s strongest, both physically and mentally? Who went to bed early the last two nights, instead of chasing teammates down the hotel hallways and various other mischief? Who has the most energy left in their bodies, hearts and minds on a day when that little bit of extra effort and focus can make a big difference?
As Jeff Cup hydration partner Gatorade might say: Is it in you?
Sundays — especially chilly, rainy ones like today — pose challenges. Over the next few hours we’ll find out who answers them best.
1:10 p.m. – Michael Willis is back with another take on U18 Superior Omega SC Black:
U18 Superior Omega SC Black finished off their tournament with a bang before they depart for over fifteen different locations. The team, notable for having barely anyone on their roster from the same location, scored a 90th-minute goal over the Shattuck Saint Mary’s Sabres keeper to win 1-0 and secure a great weekend.
The trainers here at River City have their hands full with these slick fields causing injury. In the Omega game alone, three girls went out with ankle injuries. Another two had to be carted off from an adjacent game with knee sprains. It’s looking like today is most certainly going to be a painful one.
1 p.m. – Here is a final preview from Jennifer Taylor:
This afternoon’s U-15 Championship Division final game will feature a highly anticipated battle between two of the nation’s top teams. Separated by more than a thousand miles, the NJ Stallions Dynamites (ranked #2 in U.S.) and Tampa Bay United (ranked #5 in U.S.) kickoff at 1 p.m. in another rousing Jefferson Cup final.
The Dynamites feature two IMG Academy Top 150 players – forward Samantha Rosette and midfielder Sophia Gulati, who create a lethal offensive threat for New Jersey. On the defensive end, goalkeeper Kelly Lamorte has recorded two clean sheets for the Dynamites and allowed just one goal in three games of group play.
But a troublesome playoff history could pose problems for the Dynamites. The girls have reached the Jefferson Cup championship game for the past three years, but have lost each final in heartbreaking fashion on penalty kick shootouts. If the match this afternoon is tied at the end of regulation, a high possibility since the teams are considered evenly matched, Tampa Bay will likely have the psychological advantage in PKs.
Yet, if Tampa Bay United comes hungry to the championship game, penalty kicks may not be needed. United has displayed masterful ball control and footwork throughout the Jefferson Cup. Forward Samantha Betters and midfielder Taylor Hubbard showed strong field vision yesterday against Super Nova FC and East Meadow ECNL. The team’s composure, however, can at times be too calming and United let a dominating performance slip away in a 1-0 loss last night against East Meadow. This afternoon, Tampa Bay will need to pressure the Dynamites for the entire match if they hope to bring home a Jefferson Cup title.
But with the top-notch skill of both teams, old-fashioned luck could very well determine the winner of this St. Patrick’s Day showdown.
12:30 p.m. – In case anyone might be wondering, today’s weather has not affected any Jefferson Cup schedules, and there are no plans to make any changes at this point. Soccerwire.com has just received official confirmation of this from the Strikers:“No changes to the schedule. Games will go on as planned.”
11:45 a.m. – It sounds like the rain is really coming down out there. Here’s a cheery update from Jimmy LaRoue: One of the great benefits of playing at Striker Park in inclement weather is the covered shelter between fields two and four. Teams and parents are taking refuge, plotting out their remaining schedules while checking the electronic screens with the latest schedules and standings for all the brackets. A bonus is that two of the screens are on the Sunderland-Norwich City EPL match on Fox Soccer. And while many of the players are wearing long sleeved gear under their uniforms and gloves on their hands, most are not. But even with that, it feels more like a cold, rainy January than an early spring in March.
11:30 a.m. – Michael Willis is back with another update on the weather’s impact:
Thank goodness for these turf fields at River City. Outside of being rather chilly and pouring down rain, it’s still a very cheery atmosphere. Every team here realizes that final records don’t factor in weather conditions, and as such are expected to play their hardest regardless.
It’s also a funny sight to see every parent’s eyes on the field for once. With the rain completely negating everyone’s ability to use their smart phones and iPads, their full attention is on the soccer fields. And it’s no coincidence that the decibel level on the sidelines has drastically increased along with the weather-related ban on electronics. Just goes to show you how reliant we are on technology nowadays.
11:15 a.m. – An update from Charles Boehm: St. Patrick’s Day in Richmond dawned with the type of wet, gray weather only an Irishman — or perhaps a Seattleite — could love. Rain is intermittently spitting down through cold air hovering around the 40 degree mark as clouds hang down over every inch of sky. The best thing that can be said for these conditions is that they arrived on the tournament’s final day, because they would’ve been very worrisome for organizers had they been present on Thursday or Friday. It’s another reminder that March weather is inherently unstable throughout most of the Mid-Atlantic region, and the Richmond Strikers as well as their thousands of Jeff Cup guests from across the country will be giving thanks for the weather’s timing, not to mention the presence of ample synthetic-turf fields at River City Sportsplex and elsewhere in the area as a fallback should the precipitation dramatically increase in the next few hours.
10:45 a.m. – A early, cold update from Jimmy LaRoue: It’s about 30 degrees cooler than it was yesterday (39 degrees versus 69) and the rains this morning continue to come down steadily. “It’d be nice if they had heaters out here,” one parent remarked, before adding, “I don’t know how they’re playing in this.” Another said that the conditions have to make it difficult for goalkeepers. But they’re playing as if it’s dry and warm, and displaying the skill that makes them elite players. The passes are weighted well, the keepers are handling balls cleanly, and the grass fields at Striker Park are in great shape.
10:15 a.m. – We have two fresh stories from Michael Willis that just went live. Be sure to check them out: Louisville’s assistant coach talks Jefferson Cup Indiana player attracts interest, including from the University of Virginia
9:15 a.m. – Good morning everyone, and happy St. Patrick’s Day to all. This is it….The final day of the Jefferson Cup for this year has started, and who will leave Richmond as champion? We will see by day’s end. Stick with us today for coverage on all things Jefferson Cup. Our group of talented reporters are out and about waiting to bring you the latest.