ECNL Boys National Selection Game in South Carolina comes down to PKs
The elite talent of the ECNL Boys was on display Friday night in the ECNL National Selection Game at MeSA Soccer Complex in Greer, South Carolina. The game featured players from the U17-U18/19 age groups. (Full Rosters)
Throughout the night the game was tightly contested. The East controlled slightly more of the play in the first half than the West did, but even though both teams generated some good chances the first half saw no one able to open up the scoring.
It didn’t take much time for the first goal of the night to be found once the second half started. In the 50th minute, Giacomo Zizza (STA) delivered a great cross from a corner kick and Aidan Morrison (Charlotte Independence Pro) was able to rise up over the defense for a great header that gave the West a 1-0 lead.
“I saw everybody was up, so I just ran onto it, and it just found the back of the net,” Morrison said.
“It’s just great to be able to go out there and showcase my talents in front of everyone,” Zizza said.
A few minutes later the West just missed a chance to double their lead, after winning the ball in the box, they narrowly missed a goal after a shot was rocketed off the crossbar.
The East did not go quietly though. As the second half progressed, they began to generate some chances as the game grew into its later stages.
Finally, in the first minute of stoppage time, the pressure from the East paid off as they earned a penalty after a foul inside the box. With all eyes on him, Julian Moran (UFA) calmly stepped to the spot and converted the penalty to knot things up at 1-1 and send the game to penalty kicks.
Penalty kicks began with each team converting their first two opportunities. In the third round though, the West took control of the shootout as they were able to get a penalty save and then convert one themselves to go up 3-2.
In the final round, Ricardo Louis (Florida West FC) stepped up with a chance to win the game for the West. Louis, who tormented the East defense with his speed regularly throughout the night, coolly stepped up and slotted his penalty home into the bottom left corner to give the win to the West 5-4 on penalties.
After the game, Louis discussed how he was able to relax his nerves before the game winning shot.
“When I first got over the ball, I was nervous, but then when I took a breather I was just relaxed. I already knew what I was going to do and whatever happens, happens,” Louis said. “It was a great feeling, seeing my teammates celebrating that great accomplishment and I’m just so proud.”
Morrison noted how excellent the atmosphere was and how proud he was of his team’s effort and resilience, especially fighting back and remaining focused after conceding such a late penalty.
“It was a great atmosphere out here and the boys really worked hard,” Morrison said. “Especially after getting tied 1-1 and going to penalty kicks, and then being able to win it all, that just felt even better.”
After his game winning penalty, Louis was mobbed by his teammates as well as many who were watching the game. To him, the feeling was almost like if he had won a championship on a global stage.
“It was amazing. It’s almost like winning a Champions League or World Cup. It was a great feeling.”