ECNL San Diego Showcase highlights top girls’ talent, building toward national championship in June
By Jimmy LaRoue
With the recently concluded Elite Clubs National League Showcase: San Diego, the league’s teams are building toward the season’s final showcase at PDA in Zarepath, N.J. before the road finally gets to Waukegan, Ill. in June for the ECNL National Championship.
Based in the northern San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe, the ECNL’s latest showcase featured Under-15, U-16, U-17 and U-18 action, with each team there playing one match per day for the three-day event.
As usual, the action in San Diego showcased the league’s advanced technical and tactical quality, and unrelenting intensity of play.
The host San Diego Surf U-15 and U-16 teams finished the weekend undefeated, with the U-15s defeating National Flight A first-place side Colorado Rush in the process.
“The girls showed a lot of resilience, fight and spirit, and they were able to come out with nine points, which is huge,” said Surf U-15 coach Jose Ocampo.
Other teams had strong showings as well.
Danville, Calif.-based Mustang SC’s U-18s, who won the 2010 ECNL National Championship, finished the weekend 2-0-1 and are primed for another title run. Slammers FC U-16s, meanwhile, swept all three of its games over the weekend.
Colorado Rush’s U-17 and U-18s also finished the weekend undefeated, and all four Rush ECNL teams have a good chance at participating in June’s national championship. The Rush U-15, U-16 and U-17 squads are inside the top-16, while the U-18s will need a good showing at the ECNL PDA Showcase to get in.
Several East Coast teams also made the most of their long trip to the Left Coast.
FC Bucks’ U-17s (Pa.) won all three of their games, while McLean Youth Soccer’s U-17 National B Flight team (Va.) took a 1-0 opening-day win over National Flight A’s Slammers FC, who sit atop the Mountain West Conference, and won two of three games on the weekend.
“We were very organized, and I thought we deserved to win,” said McLean coach Clyde Watson of the opening win.
Bethesda SC’s U-18s picked up three wins in three games, and the Maryland club’s U-17 side finished 1-1-1 on the weekend, dropping a 1-0 decision to San Diego Surf and earning a 1-1 tie against SoCal Blues before defeating Mustang SC 2-0.
“The takeaway, I think, is [when] you come out west, you play these teams, which are just great,” said Bethesda coach Jonathan Morgan. “They’re all big, they’re all strong, they’re all athletic and they all compete.”
PDA’s U-18s (N.J.) finished 2-1-0 over the weekend, while the U-16s left the weekend with a 2-0-1 mark. Ohio Premier Eagles U-18s and U-17s each went 2-0-1.
All 38 clubs in San Diego had the opportunity to play before more than 200 college coaches from around the country, who had praise for the ECNL’s high level of play.
“I would say that the level of competition within the ECNL, I think, is good, because you tend to get kids, or excuse me, teams – the games themselves are far more competitive, so you see fewer and fewer lopsided games or things of that nature,” said University of Virginia assistant coach Ron Raab.
“In terms of the evaluation process, I think it makes it easier to see kids that are being challenged as opposed to games that are a little bit lopsided, they don’t get a true representation, I don’t think necessarily, of their abilities. The idea behind the ECNL, I think, has done well in terms of getting teams in competitive environments.”
Some teams, such as Sereno SC U-16s, were looking to build off their performance in San Diego to eke out a spot in the top 16 that qualify for the national championship event, while coaches such as Larry Draluck of SoCal Blues are trying to show that having fun can be a part of an elite club.
The most recent showcase, along with the league’s four other National Showcase Events in Phoenix, Ariz., Sanford, Fla., San Antonio, Tex. and Zarephath, N.J., collectively dubbed “The Road to Waukegan,” will help determine ECNL’s national champions with the season culminating in the 2012 ECNL National Championship at the Waukegan Sports Park in Chicago, Ill. in late June.
Each team at the U-15 and U-18 age groups participates in two national events, while each team at the U-16 and U-17 age groups participates in three of these events.
Arizona hosted the season’s opening showcase in October, followed by the Florida event in late December and the Texas event in late February.
The 2011-2012 season now heads towards its final showcase in Zarepath, N.J. over Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28. ECNL typically welcomes upwards of 200 college coaches and recruiters to each event, as well as U.S. Soccer scouts.