Girls wrap up US Youth Soccer National League opening weekend
WILSON, N.C. (Via US Youth Soccer) — After four days of play, the US Youth Soccer National League 15U, 16U, 17U, 18U and 19/20U Girls have solidified their spots in the standings until half the field meets again Dec. 31–Jan. 2 in Orlando, Fla., where teams will continue competing for a league title and a ticket to the 2017 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas.
The National League brings together some of the best teams in the country, all of which have had to earn their place in the league through success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competition. Hundreds of collegiate coaches, as well as members of the U.S. Soccer staff, attended the National League matches in North Carolina to scout some of the top talent in the country. Player evaluation is enhanced by the competitive level and importance of each game, as teams compete for a berth in the National Championships.
The competition within each age group has been very competitive, and multiple teams are still very much alive for every division title. The first-place team’s lead is two points or less in 12 of the 16 divisions, and seven divisions have ties at the top of the standings. Meanwhile, just eight teams came away with a win in each of their four games.
Of the defending National Champions, only 17U Midwest United FC 00 Royal (MI) managed to go 4-0-0 in North Carolina. One of the sides joining Midwest among the unbeaten and untied teams is 17U Scottsdale Blackhawks Taylor (AZ) — who know the importance of a quick start in the first week.
“To finish on top of the National League, whether expanded or not, you’re playing against some of the best teams in the country, so it’s always going to be difficult,” said Paul Taylor, head coach of the Scottsdale Blackhawks. “It makes it doubly hard now without the first two slots. You’ve got to beat the best to get the opportunity to go the National Championships.
“It’s one game at a time. We came here hoping for a couple of wins and a couple of ties. We were fortunate enough to come away with the four wins against great competition.”
National League teams earn their place in the league based on a proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competitions. Competing for a league title and a spot in the US Youth Soccer National Championships, each game will play into who represents the National League this summer in Frisco, Texas.
National League Girls action continues when half of the 128 teams meet Dec. 31–Jan. 2 in Orlando, Fla., alongside the Disney Soccer Showcase, while the remaining 64 squads play March 17-19, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nev., alongside the Players College Showcase.
Some highlights from Sunday’s matches…
Legends FC 02 Academy 1 (CA-S) finished the first National League weekend as the frontrunner of the 15U Blue Division after earning a big win over Solar Chelsea 02 Hopkins (TX-N). Legends hold a 3-0-1 record. While Legends started the game off at full-speed, Solar Chelsea also had some counter attacks, including a couple breakaways from Raigen Powell. Legends’ first goal came in the 23rd minute when Mya Daily was on the end of a corner kick and converted a back post finish. Solar Chelsea continued to put up a fight and nearly tied the game when the ball was crossed in front of the goal and Taylor Conway hit a first-time shot into the net, but a close offside call prevented Solar Chelsea from earning the goal. In the second half, Legends searched for another goal, and they were rewarded when Alexia Yela dribbled down the sideline and slot the ball in the bottom right corner of the net. Three different Legends players added insurance tallies to the score, including Haley Halbersma, Nadia O’Reilly and JLynn Rodriguez.
A faceoff between the top two teams in the 16U Black Division led to a 1-1 draw for Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S) and FCKC Academy Blues Elite (MO). Lily Farkas netted a goal in the 25th minute of the match with a shot from distance to give FCKC the lead. In the second half, FCKC maintained control of the game with multiple close opportunities, but Fullerton had a quick breakthrough and Jaida Wilson was able to slip the ball past the FCKC goalkeeper for the equalizer. FCKC showed determination to take back the lead as Farkas had a one-on-one chance with Fullerton goalkeeper Jenna Ruano, but Ruano was quick to come off her line and block the shot. FCKC’s Taylor Reid also blasted a rocket that hit the cross bar and bounced down back into play. Fullerton’s defense stood strong and organized despite all the pressure from FCKC, and by the final whistle, the score remained tied as both teams took a point.
Greater Binghamton FC (NY-W) earned three much-needed points in the 16U Blue Division as it claimed a 2-1 victory over National Championship semifinalists 2001 Tennessee SC Showcase (TN). A second place team in the 2015-16 National League Red Division, Greater Binghamton is now tied for first in the division with a 2-0-2 record. Angelina Fahrenkrug scored first for Greater Binghamton in the 14th minute. Tennessee SC pushed hard in the second half, and they eventually earned the equalizer when Anna Haddock stepped in front of the goalkeeper as the ball was passed across the goal with a one-time shot. Just as the game was about to result in a tie, Greater Binghamton’s Victoria McKnight received a throw-in deep near Tennessee SC’s goal line and placed the ball in the goal.
In a congested 17U White Division, Legends FC 00 Academy (CA-S) earned a big 1-0 win on Sunday against Nationals Union Black (MI) to remain in a tie for first place. Neither side managed to grab an advantage in the first half, but Legends began to create some consistent pressure after the break. The Cal South side had a close call in the 55th minute when a chipped shot was cleared off the line, but it continued to attack and broke through in the 66th minute. A Legends free kick was deflected toward goal, and Madeline Milby — with her back to the goal — got a powerful flick on the ball and sent it past the keeper. That proved to be the winner, as Legends secured its first clean sheet of the season to get the win and remain level with HBC Impact 00 (NY-E) in the standings.
New Jersey Stallions Academy-Stampede (NJ) picked up a 2-1 win over Tennessee SC 2000 Showcase (TN) to keep within a couple points of defending National Champion Midwest United FC 00 Royal (MI) in the 17U Blue Division standings. Ashleigh Sarafin gave New Jersey a 12th-minute lead when she found the back of the net. That advantage held until the 50th minute, when Katherine Tyner netted an equalizer for Tennessee. However, Jaime Walton responded with a goal just four minutes later to help the Stallions regain the lead. Despite some late pressure from Tennessee, the Stallions held on for the 2-1 win to finish the week 3-0-1.
Kings Hammer Academy Red (OH-S) came back on Sunday to earn an important three points and keep pace at the top of the crowded 18U White Division standings. The Ohio South side’s matchup with Albion SC White (CA-S) went to halftime with the Cal South side in the lead thanks to Betsabe Ornelas’ 18th-minute goal. KHA responded shortly after the break when Makenna Jordahl made a run to goal and hammered home a perfect cross with her first touch. Kiley Keehan put KHA in front in the 58th minute by cutting into the box and sending a left-footed curler inside the far post. Claudia Como added a 69th-minute strike to help cap the 3-1 victory. KHA leaves North Carolina tied with FC Pennsylvania Strikers (PA-E) and FCKC Academy Blues Elite 99 (MO) at the top of the table.
In the 18U Red Division — where the top five teams each held a 1-0-2 record after three games of play — National Championship finalists La Premier PO (UT) rose to the top of the division after defeating UFA 99 Premier (GA), 1-0. It was a scoreless game through the first half and most of the second. Both teams had their chances but neither could get past the goalkeepers. Near the end of the second half, the ball remained in La Roca’s offensive half, and in the 79th minute, Olivia Wade turned with the ball to free herself and finished to the bottom left corner of the goal. Wade’s goal proved to be the difference La Roca needed to sneak away with a victory.
In a matchup of 19/20U Blue Division co-leaders, Beach FC 98 Academy (CA-S) earned a 2-0 win over FC Copa Celeste (NJ). It took just five minutes for Beach to grab an advantage, as Nadiyah Siqueiros hit her shot through traffic and into the side-netting to put the Cal South side up, 1-0. Beach goalkeeper Eden Millan made a few key first-half saves, including a stop on a 36th-minute penalty kick, to help her side maintain its advantage. Siqueiros added some breathing room with a 48th-minute goal, and Beach hung on to earn its third win of the week — putting it at 10 points total and on top of the standings following play in North Carolina.