Capital Fall Classic: Columbus Crew Jrs. make long trip to take part
By Charles Boehm
RICHMOND, VA. — The Richmond Strikers welcome teams and clubs from across the Mid-Atlantic region for their Capital Fall Classic tournament every November, though a few of this year’s participants burned up quite a few more miles to reach the River City for the event.
Several Columbus Crew Juniors teams made the eight-plus-hour drive from central Ohio to take part, drawn by the lure of strong, unfamiliar opponents as well as the automatic qualification for the Jefferson Cup, the Strikers’ flagship event in March, awarded to Premier division winners.
“We heard a lot about Virginia soccer,” said John Barleycorn, coach of the Crew Juniors East Gold Under-14 team. “I know Virginia soccer is a very, very high level, a lot of teams – they have great leagues here, the facilities are great.”
Based in New Albany, just east of the Ohio capital city, Crew Juniors East are members of the Crew’s large and growing youth network, which spans across the Columbus region and also includes satellite branches in Cincinnati and Michigan. Links to the MLS club offer unique advantages and experiences for players.
“We’re getting pretty big. It creates a lot of competition when it comes to tryout time,” said Barleycorn, noting that the partnership with the professional club “helps quite a bit. It really attracts a lot of players we normally wouldn’t attract.
“Also, it helps to bring the kids in and give them experience of what a professional atmosphere is,” he explained. “They get opportunities to go to the first team’s practice, the actual Columbus Crew team’s practice, to watch how they train, watch how professionals go out and mentally prepare for games and training sessions. To have a network like an MLS team, it can’t get any better – especially when the MLS players come and help you out with practices and training sessions.”
He and several of his colleagues were inspired to trek across the Appalachian Mountains to expose their teams to another region.
“One of the main reasons why we came here was because of the facilities and the competition,” said Barleycorn. “We heard a lot of great things about the Capital Fall Classic, also – really looking forward to it.”
His team found what they were looking for. On Saturday Crew Juniors East Gold dropped their first game to Northern Virginia’s Braddock Road Elite 98 Blue by a tight 2-1 scoreline, then edged past Churchland Dawgs G2 by the same margin in their afternoon match.
A thorough 4-1 defeat of FC Richmond Magic ’98 on Sunday morning was not quite enough to overcome Braddock Road’s superior goal differential, handing BRYC Elite ’98 Blue a place in the championship final – which they would go on to win – ahead of Crew Juniors East Gold.
“It was a tough game. We were having issues with scoring. But it was a great team,” said Barleycorn of his team’s tournament-opening loss. “Overall it’s been a great experience.”