2012-2013 US Youth Soccer National League Boys wrap up opening weekend of play in Wilson, N.C.
After four days of play, the US Youth Soccer National League Under-15, 16, 17 and 18 Boys have solidified their spots in the standings until half the field meets again Dec. 27-29 in Orlando, Fla., where they will continue competing for a league title and a ticket to the 2013 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Overland Park, Kan., July 22-28.
The National League brings together some of the best teams in the country, all of which have had to earn their place in the league through success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competition. None of the defending National Champions or National League title holders made it through the opening weekend unscathed and just three of the 64 teams escaped the first four games with a perfect record; defending Region III Champion and National Finalist U-15 Sunrise Elite 97/98 (FL), U-17 OBGC Rangers (MD) and defending Region II Champion and National Finalist U-18 Raiders FC Premier (IL).
As a club, Concorde Fire (GA) placed a team in every age group in 2012-2013. The U-15’s were on track to complete a perfect 4-0 week before a stoppage time goal from Dix Hills Elite (E-NY) ended the game 1-1.
“I’ll tell you, I’m very pleased with my players. They had a very good weekend and they came a long way and peaked at the right time,” said U-15 Concorde Fire Head Coach Ibrahim Abousaud. “Playing in the National League is a tremendous experience. It builds character and the players learn how to deal with situations; losses, ties, ups and downs. It adds up. It builds their future as far as how they handle situations like that. It’s great experience for them and these are the opportunities that we look for the players to be part of so when they move on to the college level and so on, they are prepared.
“The ultimate goal is obviously to get players into college. In order for us to do that the players have to go through a process and competition is a very, very important part of their development. So we always look to be a part of a competition like the National League where you have the best teams in the country with different styles, and we look forward to that. We use that as a way to develop the players and make sure they know how to handle different situations like we had here today.”
The top two finishers in each age group division (Blue and Red) will earn a ticket to the 2013 US Youth Soccer National Championships, making each match meaningful and valuable to the team’s fate as it could make or break their chance at competing for the National Championship.
Abousaud coached a National League division championship team in 2010-2011 that went on to win the National Championship. He stressed the impact of such an accomplishment as something he wants all of his players to experience.
“I know the big picture, I know that’s the ultimate goal. When we came here our goal was to make it to the National Championships, no question about it, because I know if they make it to Nationals it’s an unbelievable experience that broadens their views. It’s very, very important for us to make it to the National Championships so that is our number one goal.”
Two West Coast FC (CA-S) teams earned spots in this National League season. The Under-18’s won the Under-14 National Championship in 2009 and are looking to find their way back to the big stage after going 3-0-1 this week. The Under-17’s suffered a 3-0 loss to open up the season, but bounced back with three straight victories to sit tied atop the Blue Division.
“We came out Thursday night and it was a tough lesson for us, we made a couple of mistakes and got hammered 3-0,” said West Coast FC U-17 Head Coach Neil Armour. “One thing I know about the competition out here in the National League is when you make mistakes and you don’t bring your game, you lose. It’s as simple as that. But the one thing about our team is they have tons of character. We lost 3-0 and then bounced back the next day and won 5-1. But with the teams here, it’s tough. Every game you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game. There are no easy games and I think the competition has been fantastic for us.”
Under-17 West Coast FC was the Far West (Region IV) Regional League and Cal-South State Cup champions in 2012, but fell short in the Region IV Championship game. The team hopes the experience of National League play can not only raise their level, but propel them to the 2013 National Championships.
“That really, really hurt us a lot (to lose in the Region IV Championship final). But like I said, anytime this team has a setback we pick ourselves up and we dust ourselves off. We said we’re getting into the National League, we’re in the Regional League and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get to the National Championships this year. We’re going to try our best to get there and this is the first step, but we’re not there yet. There’s a long way to go and a lot of soccer to be played.”
National League Boys action continues when half of the field meets Dec. 27-29 in Orlando, Fla. alongside the Disney Soccer Showcase, and the other half March 15-17 in Las Vegas, Nev., alongside the Players College Showcase.
Some highlights from the last day of matches:
Concorde Fire Elite (GA) looked like they would grab their third victory of the opening weekend against Dix Hills Elite (E-NY), but the New Yorkers grabbed an equalizer in stoppage time to preserve a point. Conorde went in front in the 62nd minute after they were awarded a free kick 20 yards from goal and Jairus Romano stepped up and laced a rocket into the upper right corner to make it 1-0. With time winding down, Dix Hills leveled through Joseph Tristano to keep their hopes alive for a top-two finish.
Empire United Revolution (NY-W) got their first goal and win in the final game in Wilson, beating Tennessee SC 16 (TN) 1-0. Wesley Rider scored the lone goal of the game for Empire in the 68th as the defense took home their second shutout of the season.
Region I Champion Manhattan SC Paris Saint-Germain 96 (E-NY) came back to draw 1-1 with Region III finalist GSA Phoenix 97 Red (GA). Ensar Graskovic struck first for GSA in the 21st minute for a 1-0 lead at halftime, but Sean Fitzgerald leveled three minutes after the break to share the points in a clustered U-16 Red Division.
CCV Stars 97 (AZ) began the club’s first ever National League season with a 3-1 record and a share of first place in the division after a 1-0 win over CESA 96 Premier (SC). Musa Morris scored the lone goal of the game in the 22nd as the CCV defense delivered their third shutout of the opening weekend for the victory.
Defending National League champ Scottsdale 96 Blackhawks (AZ) overcame a day one loss by reeling off three straight wins, capping it with a 3-0 victory over Bethesda SC Revolution (MD). Sam Gleadle netted the game winner in the 32nd for Scottsdale and Nicolas Harguindeguy and Lorenzo Belhassen added second half goals to clinch the win and put Scottsdale in a tie atop the division.
Region IV finalist West Coast FC (CA-S) shook off an opening day loss to rebound with three straight victories and end the weekend with a share of the Blue Division lead after defeating West Pines Strikers (FL) 3-0. Christopher Tellez gave West Coast the lead in the 27th minute and Andres Mendoza scored the first of his brace in the 34th for a 2-0 lead at the break. Mendoza hit for his second in the 59th to end the scoring and leave West Coast in good position before they resume play in Las Vegas.
SC del Sol 95 Armstrong (AZ) put in an impressive performance in their first National League season as they defeated Region I Champion Beadling SC 94/95 (PA-W) 1-0 to move to 3-1 on the week. Zoo Htoo struck the game winning goal in the 69th minute in del Sol’s third shutout in four games.
LFC 95 Premier (KY) notched their first National League victory 1-0 over AHFC 95 (S-TX). Ben Rossoll stepped up to lead LFC to the win with a 56th minute goal as the defense recorded the shutout.