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ECNL Aug 10, 2011

ECNL International tour team notches first win of three-game England tour

(LONDON) – The ECNL/id2 International Tour team Wednesday played the first match of three planned exhibitions in England, riding three goals and an assist from three FC Stars of Mass clubmates to a 6-1 victory over Bristol Academy Women’s Football Club on the grounds of Filton College in Bristol, England.

It was the first of three scheduled matches against top women’s clubs in and around London, and the first such trip sponsored by the Elite Clubs National League, a top-flight U.S. competition now beginning just its third season in existence. With the support of Nike, all travel expenses have been fully covered for the 17 players, who were selected out of 84 players attending the ECNL/US Club Soccer id2 camp in February.

With Bristol Academy, Chelsea, and Aston Villa on the books for the seven-day affair, the goal of this first match was simply to get comfortable with each other and the tactical philosophy of the coaching staff. Jay Howell (Birmingham FC) and Chris King (Ohio Premier) manned the sidelines, trotting the team out in a 4-3-3 on the shortened synthetic turf field at the impressive private facility.

The match began a bit shaky as the girls had just one practice together the day before, near the team hotel in Watford. However, the sheer individual talent of the side easily overcame those shortcomings, and as the match wore on their comfort and confidence clearly grew.

FC Stars standouts Morgan Andrews, Hayley Dowd and Corey Persson each scored on the day, with Dowd also providing an assist on Andrews’ opening goal of the match in the 6th minute.

Andrews and Dowd both plan to attend Boston College, where they will be joined by ECNL/id2 teammate Rosie DiMartino, who recently committed to the Eagles. The Long Island native added her own assist today, providing the helper to Dowd for the final goal.

North Carolina bound Summer Green (Michigan Hawks) scored the second goal, while Toni Payne (Birmingham FC) snatched the highlight reel third goal of the day with jaw dropping solo effort. Payne, who committed to Notre Dame in February, received the ball 10 yards deep in her own half and beat several players on a surging run before firing a rocket into the upper right corner from 20 yards to close out the first half.

Not rolling over by any means, the host club came out in the second half determined. Bristol pressed higher and with more energy searching to get back in the game, and were rewarded with a dangerous free kick from 26 yards in the 55th minute.

They made no mistake with their chance, blasting a low drive to the left corner past the wall, pulling the score to 3-1. Even more invigorated, Bristol continued the pressuring tactic in hopes drawing within one.

Nikki Driesse and Corey Persson had other ideas however, as the pair combined to restore the 3-goal margin in the 60th minute. Dreisse (PDA/uncommitted) picked off Bristol pass and immediately fed Persson with a perfect through ball. The future Penn State Nittany Lion calmly finished past the onrushing keeper to make it 4-1.

If the hosts felt they could get back in the match, they were unfortunate to provide the fifth goal of the day all by themselves when a defender accidentally headed into her own net while attempting to block a shot. The goal was unlucky for Bristol, but it also clearly sealed the opening win for their U.S. counterparts.

Dowd’s goal finished the day in the 80th minute when the keeper could only slow down her close-range effort and had to watch the ball trickle over the line.

In the end, the game was not as lopsided as the score indicated, but the Americans finished their chances when they had them, making the going much easier. With the goals of getting off to a good start and getting to know each other better accomplished, the 15- and 16-year-olds turn right around to face Chelsea Ladies’ top reserve team in London on Thursday at 7 pm local time.

Bristol Academy WFC is made entirely of students attending Filton College, a landmark institution about 90 minutes west of London and just south of Wales. The college grounds double as home to Women’s Super League (WSL) team Bristol Academy, the only team in the newly formed women’s professional league to operate a permanent home stadium field – or “ground,” as the hosts explained.

All ECNL/id2 players saw plenty of time in the match, with the only exception Kristina Konkol-Mroczkowski, who unfortunately turned her right ankle during the team’s Tuesday training session. The dangerous Real So Cal striker who plans to play at UCLA will likely miss the Chelsea match as well, but is aiming to be ready for Sunday’s trip closing match against Aston Villa.

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