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ECNL Mar 07, 2022

ECNL Boys National Selection Game in Texas features high-flying offense

Team East and Team West battled it out at the ECNL Boys Texas National Event on Saturday night, with the stars shining bright in an offensive-fueled National Selection Game.

Top players from over 25 clubs were selected to compete in the match, which included standouts from the U16 and U17 age groups.

Right from the opening whistle, both teams made it a point to establish their offense and immediately test the opponents’ back line. The two sides each had early scoring chances, and it was barely 10 minutes into the match before Team West got on the board.

Just seconds after Team East took a shot that went high over the net, Team West raced down the pitch. In the attacking third, Albi Xhafa (Dallas Texans Academy) knocked a shot under the goalkeeper to give the boys in white a 1-0 lead.

Not even two minutes later, Team East evened the score with a goal of their own. Establishing the offense in the final third, Team East got multiple great looks from in close before Jose Ramos (Houston Dynamo Youth) corralled the rebound and slammed it home to tie the game at 1-1.

“That was a really good play by one of our midfielders,” Ramos said. “His shot was blocked, rebound, I took a touch around the keeper and then just finished it off.”

Following the quick spurt of goals for both squads, the teams continued to trade scoring chances, but each defense held strong, limiting the scoring chances to just one shot before earning possession and sending the ball the other way. But slowly and surely, the field started to flip in Team West’s favor and with nearly 15 minutes left, the team regained the lead.

Working the ball down the right side of the pitch, Team West chipped a shot over the goalkeeper. Brentell Handley (FC Wisconsin) crashed the net, jumping into the air and connecting on a header to make it a 2-1 game.

In the dying seconds of the first half, Team West doubled its lead, making it a 3-1 game as Parker DeGroot (La Roca) finished off a stellar run from his teammate, slamming home a cross for the score.

“It was fun to play with a new group of boys and to play against really good competition,” DeGroot said. “It started out of the back, we got the ball up to our forward and he took it all the way down the line and did another kid dirty. He slotted it across and I was there, I just had to tap it in.”

Team West controlled play in the first half and was rewarded for it with a 3-1 lead, but Team East wasn’t ready to hand them the game yet.

Coming out for the second half, Team East started with a majority of the pressure, forcing the Team West goalkeeper to make save after save and waiting for the defense to break. But with each wave of attack, Team West kept the ball out of their net.

After weathering the initial storm, Team West once again flipped the field, building pressure from the defense and keeping the ball on their opponents’ side of the field. Midway through the second half, Team West nearly had its fourth goal of the contest, but the shot bounced off the post and right into the hands of the goalkeeper, thwarting the scoring chance.

As the half wound down, Team East put more numbers forward, looking for a spark to ignite a comeback, but Team West threw water on that plan, using strong defense to build a counterattack, limiting Team East’s scoring chances. At the final whistle, it was a clinical finish from Team West, earning the 3-1 victory.

“This was a really good experience,” Ramos said. “It was really competitive and the players were really good. There’s a lot to take from this game and use in the future.”

To view the complete scores and schedule for ECNL Texas, click here.

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