Coaches pleased with opportunities, opposition at 2012 Capital Fall Classic
By Jimmy LaRoue
The allure and opportunity to expose teams to the plethora of college coaches that congregate at the Jefferson Cup was not lost on Capital Fall Classic participants over Girls Weekend.
And like Boys Weekend, the girls had near ideal weather, albeit a bit cooler, but for the 153 girls teams competing in the Under-9 through U-18 age groups in the Richmond Strikers’ fall tournament, the action heated up the fields of central Virginia.
In particular, with the Strikers upping the ante through berths in the 2013 Jefferson Cup for Premier Division Capital Fall Classic winners, the competition was that much more intense, meaningful, and of high quality.
“It’s huge,” said Vince MIller, coach of Churchland SL FC Fury, who won the Under-15 Premier division championship in a thrilling game that ended with his team capturing the title in penalties. “We tried to get into Jefferson Cup last year, and we just didn’t have quite the credentials that we needed to get in.”
FC Fury built its resume, he said, through ratcheting up its competition in other competitions and in Virginia Soccer League play, where it went undefeated this fall.
“With this win [in the championship game], we’re going to be in Jefferson Cup, and we’re playing in nothing but college showcases this spring, and with that, that’s going to be a great move up for us,” Miller said.
Other teams, such as the U-18 London Gryphons, located central to Detroit and Buffalo in the Canadian province of Ontario, wanted and got competitive games by making the 12-hour trip south so it could stay sharp now that the weather in Canada no longer allows it to practice outdoors. The Gryphons coach, Aldo Cifaldi, praised the tournament facilities and, for his club, the warmer temperatures for this time of year.
“We heard good things about this tournament, and that it’s a stepping stone for the Jefferson Cup,” Cifaldi said.
The Gryphons, however, narrowly missed out on an automatic Jefferson Cup berth, getting three wins against McLean MPS Power Green 94, FC Richmond Mystx 94 and Smithfield Inferno in the semifinals before falling to Lee-Mount Vernon SC Patriots 1-0 in Sunday’s U-18 Premier final at West Creek.
For the Youngstown, Ohio-based Soccer Vision Academy’s three teams, it was a chance to make their longest journey yet–seven hours–to play in a tournament, knowing the reputation of the Strikers’ tournament and the possibility of an automatic Jefferson Cup berth a nice incentive as well.
While none of the SVA teams automatically qualified for Jefferson Cup berths, they made suitable impressions, and though just the U-11 team of its three teams reached the finals, the U-13 and U-14 SVA teams were competitive in their respective Premier brackets. Each won games over the weekend.
The level of competition provided by the Capital Fall Classic seemed to provide coaches with the strongest incentive to bring their teams to Richmond, making the tournament an important one on the calendar of strong sides, as well as up-and-coming teams looking to be tested in quality matches.
“The most important thing, coming from West Virginia, we know we have to travel to find the level of competition level that we’re looking for,” said Nicolette Bell, coach of the state’s top U-15 team, Huntington-based Chaos 97 Premier, who went 2-0-1 before falling in the final to Loudoun SC 97G Red, a team it tied 1-1 in bracket play earlier in the day.
“Obviously when you’re looking at going to regionals, and that’s the level you want to play at,” Bell said, “you find the competition that’s good. Richmond always provides that.”