ECNL Boys Florida National Event 2021 Day 3 Recap
By Jacob Born | ECNLBoys.com
The ECNL Boys Florida National Event came to an end on Sunday, as over 150 teams wrapped up their first showcase of the new year. See below for a rundown of highlights from Day 3:
Three Is A Magic Number
Tennessee Soccer Club’s U-17 squad started off the tournament strong with a 3-1 victory against La Roca Friday morning, then followed it up with a 1-0 win against Tampa Bay United Saturday setting up Sunday’s match against FC Pride with a perfect weekend on the line.
In the first half, both sides were feeling each other out, trading chances. Both goalkeepers made multiple saves on lone attackers, maintaining their respective clean sheets through the first 40 minutes.
At halftime, both coaches re-iterated game plans and introduced adjustments for the second half.
Tennessee SC’s halftime plan worked, as just minutes into the second half, the team took a 1-0 lead. The Nashville-based squad sent a cross from the right side of the pitch into the box, where the FC Pride netminder attempted to intercept. However, his attempt failed and Hogan Walker capitalized, knocking the loose ball into the open net for the score.
“We were playing well, and I just told them at halftime the goal will come,” said Head Coach Greg Warden. “Credit to the boys, it’s the third day, there’s tired legs. Just told them we needed to be better in the final third and eventually we got that goal.”
From there, the Tennessee SC defense stood tall, including numerous clears from inside the box to thwart any FC Pride attack.
When the final whistle sounded, Tennessee SC earned the perfect weekend, just in time for the team’s final push for National Playoffs.
“This team has come a long way this year,” Warden said. “It’s always been a team that has a lot of potential. The way the season has gone, we’ve really gotten better each weekend, each month. These guys deserved to be 3-0 with the way they played and the amount of effort they brought. We have two games left in conference and if we get three points, we go to nationals. So this is a great springboard to learn how to score goals, win games and the boys have a lot of confidence going into these two games.”
Not only did WNY Flash’s U-17 team win every game they played during the tournament, but they took it a step further; the team didn’t allow a single goal.
In Friday’s contest, WNY Flash defeated Florida Premier 4-0, then earned a 1-0 win against Orlando City Saturday. The team then capped off the weekend with a decisive victory against FC Alliance Sunday morning.
WNY Flash tallied 10 goals on the weekend, the most of any team in the age group, while being just one of three teams that didn’t allow a single goal at ECNL Florida. Combine the two, and it’s an impressive weekend throughout.
“The boys were looking forward to this event and they did themselves and the club proud,” said Head Coach Eric Dade. “It was great to see the team adapt to this environment and thrive in every game. We’re excited for the conference schedule to start in the coming weeks.”
Giving It Everything
What makes national events such as ECNL Florida is not just the fact teams get to play clubs from other conferences, but they’re matched up to have similarly aligned talent levels. Doing so can create some incredible games.
Palm Beach United opened the scoring midway through the first half using some fantastic teamwork. Layshav Nair had the ball in the midfield and started a run before engaging with a give-and-go with a teammate to get around a defender. When he received the ball back inside the box, he ripped a shot into the back of the net for the score.
But Alabama FC responded quickly with a goal from Jackson Earle. He received a ball in the box and with a nifty head flick placed a shot just past the outstretched hand of the goalkeeper to even the score at 1-1.
The two sides headed into the half with the 1-1 tie and then exploded for four combined goals in mere minutes of each other in the latter portion of the second frame.
Alabama FC made it 2-1 off a set piece where Holloway Willsey put a ball into the box from about 30 yards out. After bouncing around, Andrew Thomason headed a shot on goal and Owen Starr was there to finish the job. But Palm Beach United quickly responded, as Nair registered his second of the game. He launched a long-range shot from midfield, roping it past the goalkeeper to knot the game at 2-2.
Not to be outdone, Alabama FC quickly made it a 3-2 contest with a long-range shot of their own. Thomason, standing nearly 35 yards from the net on the left side of the pitch, rocketed a ball into the top-right corner of the net for the score. Undeterred, Palm Beach United continued to push for an equalizer and found it just moments later. #11 received a throughball to spring himself for an open look and he curled a shot around the diving keeper and into the back of the net, drawing even at 3-3.
Both sides continued pushing for the deciding tally, but couldn’t get one more, resulting in a spirited 3-3 draw.
“Each of the boys showed great character,” said Palm Beach United Coach Levo Guler. “We want them to respond, whatever happened, and they responded well. Alabama FC did a great job as well. It was a very enjoyable game overall.”
Around The Pitch
- Other than the WNY Flash U-17s, the two teams with zero goals allowed in ECNL Florida were Miramar United U-16 and Tennessee SC U-18/19.
- A few of the standout clubs with teams in all age groups include Charlotte Independence Pro (7-1-4), Charlotte SA Academy (8-2-2), Pipeline SC (8-3-1) and Wilmington Hammerheads (9-2-1).