Jeff Cup: Returning champs Black Watch Premier Rangers U-16s off to a dominant start
By Jimmy LaRoue
MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — Black Watch Premier Rangers of New York won the Under-15 Superior championship at last year’s Jefferson Cup. Playing in the U16 Elite bracket this year, Black Watch Premier is off to a rousing start, picking up a breezy 5-0 win over Penn Fusion SA 96 in the tournament’s opening stages Friday.
Black Watch Premier scored four of their five goals in the first half – two on penalties and another on an own goal – with the wind at its back. Gino Rossi converted both penalties for Black Watch, Reed Condi scored once and Theo Malone picked up the second half goal.
The team’s coach, Steve Freeman, said that with the team practicing outdoors through Dec. 20 in the fall and going back outdoors in February, the blustery conditions Friday had little impact on his team.
While it was more difficult going into the wind in the second half, Freeman credited Penn Fusion with getting reorganized in the second half.
“We did quite well in the very beginning,” Freeman said. “Much of it probably had to do with the elements. We had the wind at our backs and we had them kind of pinned in and we were fortunate to come away with a couple of free kicks, PKs. They responded really well as a group, so their coaching staff should be pretty pleased with how they responded.”
In the latter stages of the match, another observer of the match provided Freeman with an assessment, one he reluctantly had to agree with.
“A good friend of mine, the head coach at Colgate [Erik Ronning] was watching – we’ve known each other for awhile so we were just talking – and [he said] the last 20 minutes, you wouldn’t be able to tell who was the better group for the kids that were playing. They could play better.”
Freeman said his team, early in its season, faced some stiff competition at the Manhattan Kickoff Classic earlier this month. He said it is difficult to keep a high tempo and stamina for an 80-minute match.
“We’re struggling right now to keep the ball higher in the park, and actually tried to install some more attacking mentality from wide players, and get more numbers in and advance,” Freeman said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do, and at times we were very pretty good today, but the tempo of the game, we lost it.”
Unlike some Jefferson Cup participants, Freeman’s Black Watch Premier squad arrived without trouble on Thursday, giving them time to explore the colleges in the Richmond area. The club’s teams in younger age groups, however, were still on buses heading to the River City.
He said for the U-16s, the results take a back seat to player growth.
“Our target as a program – really, the results are secondary,” Freeman said. “How we play and perform as a group, the results kind of take care of themselves. We’re trying to play good soccer, and with that, hopefully the results will come.”