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ECNL Nov 20, 2021

ECNL Boys National Selection Game features five goals and exciting finish

In front of one of the largest crowds in ECNL Boys history, the league’s first-ever National Selection Game featured five goals, a come-from-behind victory, impressive play on the field and an exciting atmosphere.

Team East and Team West suited up 18 boys each, pulling from some of the best and brightest stars the league has to offer for the inaugural event, and they did not disappoint. Showcasing their talents and skills, the two teams combined for three goals within the first 25 minutes of the half to kick start the match.

Team East opened the scoring, getting on the board thanks to a tally from San Diego Surf’s Anthony Wilson. Streaking through the box with the ball at his feet, Wilson chipped the charging goalkeeper to take a 1-0 lead for Team East.

“I didn’t think Orlando (Erazo) was going to play me,” Wilson said. “When the goalie came out, it was just instinct.”

Team West counterpunched quickly, responding minutes later with a goal from Samir Cuevas, a member of Utah Avalanche. Team East had the ball in the corner, when Cuevas rushed the defender, stole it, and then crashed the net. He quickly flicked a shot on frame, beating the goalkeeper and evening the game at 1-1.

Not even two minutes later, Team East regained the lead when Marco Bottene from Beach FC found paydirt. Bottene knocked down a clearing attempt at the top of the box, wove his way closer to the net and took a shot. It deflected off a defender and past the outstretched hand of the goalkeeper to give Team East the 2-1 lead.

Team East’s 2-1 advantage would hold through halftime and all the way until there was less than 10 minutes remaining in the match, when Team West finally got back on the board. Eric Howard from Crossfire Premier ripped a shot into the back of the net, tying the game at 2-2 and setting up a dramatic finish.

It appeared that with both sides playing well offensively and defensively, the match would be heading to penalty kicks, but Amman Muzaffar (Colorado Rapids) had other ideas. In the dying seconds of the match, Team West sent a ball into the box, where Cuevas chased it down. He sent a cheeky back-heel pass right to Muzaffar, who made no doubt with his shot, giving Team West a 3-2 lead, its first of the game.

“As the play was building up, I saw a gap in the middle,” Muzaffar said. “I screamed for him to lay it back to me. He did, and I just smashed it. To do it in this atmosphere, it was amazing.”

Less than two minutes later, the final whistle sounded, and Team West came ahead as winners.

Following the contest, both teams showed their appreciation to the crowd of more than 1,200 supporters by clapping for them and showing their thanks. It was an atmosphere none of those playing or attending will forget.

“It was a great experience, I really enjoyed it,” Wilson said. “Just being out here, playing on this great field and meeting new players, obviously, I’m happy I got a goal, but I’m just going to remember this whole experience.”

“The quality in the National Selection Game was insane,” Muzaffar added. “There was no ‘worst’ player. Everyone was super high up there. It was just amazing to see all these kids from all around coming together and playing together.”

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