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ECNL May 28, 2023

ECNL Boys National Selection Game in Virginia comes down to the wire

On Saturday night, the stars of the ECNL Boys took the field at River City Sportsplex in the Continental Tire National Selection Game. (View Rosters)

Although both sides had their moments throughout the first half, most of the possession was controlled by the East. As the half progressed, the chances for the East began to add up, with one of their most dangerous opportunities coming on a ball played in the box to Otu Bisong (Virginia Development Academy) in the 35th minute. Bisong took the shot on his first touch, but narrowly missed wide of the post from a difficult angle.

Just five minutes later though, Bisong found himself in a dangerous area inside the box again, and this time was able to convert. On a great cross played into the box, Bisong was able to get on the other end of it and redirect the ball toward the far post in a spot where no one could stop it.

The 40th minute goal opened the scoring and put the East up 1-0.

Right before halftime the East found themselves in another great position in the 45th minute. After earning a free kick just outside the box, Henry Weston (STA) curled a shot over a four man wall that looked headed for the top corner, but was denied by a good save from Efrain Rosales (Eclipse Select SC).

As the second half began, the West saw one of their best chances of the game in the 50th minute. Pablo Linzoain (Pittsburgh Riverhounds) made a good run past the East defense and found himself in front of goal, but was turned away by Alex Curtis (Rockford Raptors).

In the 74th minute, Bisong made his mark on the game yet again. On a throw into the box, Bisong was taken down leading the way for Emerson LaOrden (Florida West FC) to step up to the penalty spot. LaOrden calmly stepped up and confidently put in a Panenka to double the East lead to 2-0.

The West battled their way back into the game in the closing minutes though. A handball in the box in the 87th minute gave Jasper Zulman (Charlotte Independence) the chance to step up to the spot and cut the deficit in half in the closing minutes.

The West fought hard to tie the game up in the final minutes, but ultimately the East were able to hold on for the 2-1 victory.

After the match, Bisong credited the all around play of his team leading up to the goal and how they were able to build out from the back throughout much of the night.

“We were building out the back,” Bisong said. “We were playing really well all around, just building out, and I just found myself in the box, knew I had to go for it and put the ball in the net.”

Two other players that Bisong frequently connected with in the attack throughout the course of the game were Justin Treasure (Supreme FC) and JJ Chadick (Wilmington Hammerheads Youth). Bisong credited the great communication he shared with them and all of his teammates for the reason they were able to build such quick chemistry together for the game.

“It’s just a lot of communication,” Bisong said.

In front of a packed house at River City Sportsplex, that communication and chemistry the East was able to display throughout the night helped lead them to the win.