ECNL Boys Virginia National Event Day 1 Recap
The ECNL Boys Virginia National Event kicked off Saturday in Richmond, Va. with over 125 teams competing across the U15-U17 age groups.
See below for a recap of some of the day’s top performances.
Starting Off With A Bang(er)
Baltimore Celtic jumped out to an early 1-0 lead as Dominique Colon converted on a free-kick at the right corner of the box. Colon’s strike hit the crossbar and went in, freezing the netminder in the process.
FC Wisconsin quickly responded when Denis Krioutchenkov put a ball on net from outside the box, his shot sneaking under the diving goalkeeper to even the score at 1-1.
Late in the first half, Cristian Quinonez gave FC Wisconsin a 2-1 lead when he stole the ball from the Celtic defender and knocked it into the open goal.
Coming out of halftime, FC Wisconsin scored two goals in quick succession, extending its lead to 4-1 in the process. First, Krioutchenkov recorded his second of the contest, once again scoring on a low shot just out of the reach of the keeper. His tally was followed by Owen Marshall just minutes later as he soared through the air for a diving header, launching the ball across the goal line.
Baltimore Celtic started to claw its way back into the contest when Aidan Ellis cut FC Wisconsin’s lead to 4-2. Splitting the defense, Ellis raced in on the goalkeeper while also fighting off a defender. He managed to get a chip off, clearing the goalie’s outstretched right hand for the score.
FC Wisconsin responded to push its lead back to three when Bryan Millan capitalized on a turnover at the top of the box. He stole the ball and immediately turned a shot on net, beating the keeper to make it a 5-2 game.
In the dying minutes of the contest, Baltimore Celtic brought the game to 5-3 when Ethan Glaser found the back of the net, but it was the last of the club’s comeback attempt as the final whistle sounded moments later.
“At halftime, we felt if we changed how we pressed and where we forced them, we would win the ball higher up the field,” said Billy Solberg, FC Wisconsin Head Coach. “It worked and we executed on some good chances. Friday was a great starting point for our club at ECNL Virginia and we’re excited for the rest of the weekend.”
Two first-place clubs in NTH-NASA and Dallas Texans met at ECNL Virginia Saturday afternoon, playing to a stirring back-and-forth affair in the U17 age group in the face of high expectations and driving rain.
Dallas opened the match with a high press, pushing the NTH-NASA defense immediately. Within the first 10 minutes of the match, the Texans had earned multiple corner kicks, but each service ended in the hands of NTH-NASA goalkeeper Diego Chacon.
Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch, as the half wore on, it was Texans goalkeeper Wyatt Applet’s turn to stand on his head. NTH-NASA started building scoring chances quickly, but Applet came up big, making a sliding kick save in the 17th minute and adding another diving stop in the 19th minute, gaining a big response from the crown.
The two sides continued to trade scoring chances but between the stellar goalkeeper and Mother Nature’s wrath, neither could break through and the game entered halftime even at 0-0.
It did not take long for that score to change though, as the Dallas Texans took a 1-0 lead just minutes into the second half. Racing down the left side of the pitch, forward Donovan Hawkins cut into the middle and laced a shot to put his club up 1-0.
“We made some tactical adjustments at halftime and we came out in the second half and were much improved from how we played in the first half,” said Jonathan Palmer, Dallas Texans U17 Head Coach. “They had some good chances in the first half, we had some good chances, but neither one of us could capitalize. So getting the first goal was very, very important.”
NTH-NASA quickly responded, knotting the game at 1-1 just seven minutes later. Standing inside the box, forward Thaddeus Harp drilled a shot past goalkeeper Jordan Ott, who subbed on at the half.
“When they scored that goal, we messed up, gave them that ball and the kid went in and scored a good goal,” said Todd Gispert, NTH-NASA U17 Head Coach. “So for us to come back and score like that pretty quickly, I thought it showed our character.”
As the minutes wound down, both NTH-NASA and Dallas Texans constantly pressed, searching for the go-ahead goal. Dallas Texans continued to earn set pieces, but could not convert, while NTH-NASA searched for a game-winner through the run of play. Going blow for blow, the sides forced saves until the final whistle blew, ending the game in a 1-1 draw.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Gispert said. “I thought their keeper made some huge saves and kept them in the game. Once we got in our rhythm and we realized we could go forward, we started to take off and play a little bit.”
“Overall, I’m pleased with our effort today,” Palmer said. “These are great games, playing first-place teams as all our opponents, and it sets us up for a good idea of what playoffs will look like in July. They were a very well-coached team and we enjoyed the game.”
Playing With Fire
Sporting Delaware and Louisville City Academy’s U16 sides faced off in a highly entertaining contest Saturday, pitting two of ECNL’s newest sides against each other.
Sporting Delaware came out at full speed, peppering Louisville City goalkeeper Alex Kron with shots and forcing him to make two big saves within the first five minutes of the match. Sporting kept the pressure on and was eventually rewarded for their persistence, earning a penalty when Jonathan Daniel found his way into the box and drew contact in a dangerous position.
Sporting’s Tyler Flowers saw his initial penalty attempt saved by Kron on a beautiful, full-extension diving save, but he would get another chance as Kron was whistled for coming off his line early. On the second attempt, Kron made no mistake, going to the same location as Kron guess the opposite way.
Not content with sitting back, Daniel continued to menace the Louisville City defense, earning scoring chance after scoring chance for Sporting Delaware. However, the Louisville City backline bent but did not break, keeping the score at just 1-0. Meanwhile, their offense slowly and surely started to flip the field in its favor.
In the 38th minute, Louisville City broke through and evened the contest at 1-1. Forward Elijah Harper leapt into the air battling for a service and managed to knock the ball past Sporting goalkeeper Jaden Howard for the equalizer.
“They scored first so we had to find a way back into the game,” said Hylton Dayes, Louisville City U16 Head Coach. “Scoring at that point was a real confidence boost for us and I felt like it was important that we took the initiative because we started too slow. It was definitely positive, the timing of our goal.”
The two sides entered halftime tied at 1-1, determined to find a game-winner in the second frame.
Fueled by their goal late in the first half, Louisville City came out swinging, earning the majority of the scoring chances early in the second. But after Sporting Delaware had a chance to settle in, the squad turned up the heat on the Louisville defense.
Daniel and fellow winger Jordan Illian became the focal point of the Sporting offense, utilizing their speed to get down the field and send crosses into the box. The result was plenty of scoring chances, including twice late in the half when Illian clanked shots off the post. But each time, the ball stayed out of the net
“They were both dangerous,” said Erik Temple, Sporting Delaware U17 Head Coach. “Jonathan drew a penalty kick, Jordan had two off the post in the second half. We knew early on they were trying to press us in the middle of the pitch and we talked about getting it wide out to those guys. They played very well.”
It was a busy day at the back for Louisville, kept on their heels for long stretches of the game by the attacking duo for Sporting. The boys in purple would rely upon counter-attacking options but could not find the answers.
After 80 minutes, the two sides were still deadlocked at 1-1, with each team earning a draw to start the weekend.
“We’ve really enjoyed the environment here so far,” Temple said. “Seeing all these clubs, just really enjoying the moment, enjoying the games, playing 80 minutes at a time and then going to the next one.”
“We want to test ourselves against the best teams in the ECNL, against the best teams in the country,” Dayes added. “So results are important, but it’s also about how you play. We want to see if we can grow into the weekend too, which means that hopefully the performance tomorrow is better than the performance today and then the performance on Monday is better than Sunday. And so we’re looking to grow into the weekend and obviously, play good soccer while we’re doing that.”