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ECNL Jun 26, 2012

ECNL U-15: Familiar scenario plays out as Colo. Rush rally for OT win over Eclipse Select

By Jimmy LaRoue

Waukegan, Ill.– In the past, going down a goal late in a match might have meant a definite loss for Colorado Rush’s Under-15 ECNL team.

Not anymore.

After falling behind on a goal in the last few minutes of the match, Colorado Rush center back Breahna Robertson tied the match just before the end of regulation, and then Aspen Robinson scored late in overtime to provide Rush with the winning margin in a 2-1 win Monday over Eclipse Select in the ECNL U-15 Flight A quarterfinals.

“To be fair, it was two very good soccer teams,” said Rush coach Wes Hart. “Obviously when you get to the final eight, every team is good, but I think it was two teams that played a similar style and trying to connect passes and playing out of the back.”

Rush will face PDA, 2-0 winners over the Dallas Texans, in the semifinals. The other semifinal will pit Dallas Sting against Crossfire Premier, 3-1 winners over TSC Hurricane. Sting shut out top seed Gwinnett Soccer Association 2-0.

“It was a good soccer game, obviously better since we won,” Hart said, laughing. “I don’t know if I’d be saying that if we lost, but it was an enjoyable game in which both teams had chances.”

Eclipse Select, who finished second in the U-15 National Flight A standings during the regular season, scored the opening goal of the match with about five minutes remaining, setting off a hearty celebration among the club’s supporters.

The late goal forced Rush into making a tactical adjustment.

While still confident, knowing his team has been behind before and having created several second half chances, including a shot off the crossbar, Hart went to a three-player back line and shifted Robinson, who has pace, up top.

The move paid dividends a minute into second-half added time, as attacking midfielder Jordan DiBiasi, who Hart credited with being a handful for Eclipse Select throughout the match, served a cross into Robertson, who scored with just seconds before the end of regulation as the Rush supporters erupted.

“There was nothing to lose at that point,” Hart said. “If we lose 2-0, 3-0, who cares?”

Hart said Rush has shown a lot of character and resiliency in the last couple of months.

“My first two years I had them, every time we went down a goal, I don’t think we ever came back and won a game,” Hart said. “In the past two months, we must have been down four of five times in games [and won].”

Hart recalled one game in particular, during the ECNL San Diego Showcase, in which Rush trailed Bethesda SC 3-1 before rallying for a 4-3 win.

Even in its opening match here, Rush rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat Ohio Elite Soccer Academy 3-2.

“I think it was those types of games that gave us belief that, you know what, we’re down a goal, keep doing what we know how to do and it’ll come,” Hart said.

In the overtime, Hart was playing for the win, not wanting to have the match decided on penalty kicks.

“In a game like this, I don’t think either team would have wanted to win or lose – well, neither team would have wanted to go to PKs and have that settle the game,” Hart said.

As successful as his team has been in coming from behind, they’ve been almost as unsuccessful in shootout situations, last season winning just one out of seven shootouts. With overtime winding down, Hart was preparing what he’d say to his team.

“On the one hand, I was thinking about what I’d tell the girls,” Hart said. “I’d say, ‘Hey, there’s no other team in the country that’s had as much shootout experience as you have,’ but on the other hand, in the back of their minds, they’re saying ‘No team in the country’s probably lost as many shootouts as we have.’”

Fortunately for Hart and Rush, it didn’t come to that.

Like the first goal, in which DiBiasi got to the end line and crossed the ball into the box, Betsy Brandon beat two players and got into the box, pulling the ball back to Robinson, who put in the game winner with two minutes remaining in the second overtime.

Hart said it was a near perfect replication of the last minute game-winner against Ohio Elite, with Robinson scoring that one as well.

The girls posed for a team photo after the win, still excited about the outcome, but Hart said they would need to refocus quickly for the semifinal.

“As I told the girls, they should enjoy it and celebrate it for 30 minutes and then move on,” Hart said. “We didn’t come out here to get to the semifinal. We came here to win it. You can only enjoy it so long, and now as soon they get back to the hotel, they need to focus on PDA.”

Rush faces New Jersey-based powerhouse PDA in a high-powered semifinal matchup at noon CDT on Tuesday. The other side of the bracket features Dallas Sting vs. 13th-seeded Cinderellas Crossfire Premier (Wash.).

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