Jefferson Cup U-14 Championship Final: Carolina Elite top familiar rivals Twin City
By Jimmy LaRoue
The match against two of the top teams from the Carolinas lived up to its billing, as top South Carolina side Carolina Elite SA 97B Premier outdueled top North Carolina squad Twin City YSA 97 Twins White 2-1 in the Jefferson Cup’s Under-14 Championship final Sunday.
“Overall, I think the weekend was very good,” said CESA coach Andrew Hyslop, who also serves as the co-executive director of the club. “The competition’s good, and I guess what I like most about it is the teams we’re playing and the style they play, which at this age group I still think becomes kind of a forgotten part of the game at times. I think we all want to be successful, and the kids want to win the tournament, but I thought that our team and the three teams that we played, I thought was a nice brand of soccer to watch.”
CESA won its Saturday opener 5-0 against Michigan Rush Northville 98B Nike, the number-two team in Michigan, and followed that up with a 1-1 draw with Penn Fusion SA 97 later that afternoon. CESA opened Sunday play with a 3-1 win against FC Richmond Magic 97 to reach the final in a closely contested group.
Having played Twin City multiple times, Hyslop knew it would be a tightly contested match going into the final, and it played out that way.
“That’s a team that we know, on the one hand, we know it’s going to be a great game; on the other hand, they know us and we know them, so it’s going to often times going to come down to a set piece, it’s going to come down to maybe a mistake here and there,” Hyslop said. “It’s great to play them, because, as I was saying at the end there, what’s great about playing them is that it’s competitive, it’s hard-fought, but at the end of the day, both teams shake hands and there’s some genuine respect.”
Twin City had the majority of play for the first half, but wasn’t able to score. CESA took advantage to start the second half, scoring twice in seven minutes from Wilbert Perez and Jacob Arnold after the break, and carrying play for the next 20 minutes, according to Hyslop, and held on for the win.
Hyslop has his team train four days a week, working on having players be comfortable with the ball at their feet and playing under pressure. He wants players who can adapt to multiple styles of play based on field conditions or the opponent. He wants to see “a possession style with purpose,” with less focus on results but player development.
“This is the last age at which [soccer] is at its purest form,” Hyslop said. “They’ll still run themselves into the ground. They’re still young enough where they’re pliable. You can ask them to play in a certain way and they’ll try. They’ve still got that desire to play four games in two days, which isn’t easy to do.”
In the last two matchups between the two teams, they played to a 3-3 draw, and Twin City won 2-0. They play again in two weeks, and Hyslop realizes the result could go a different way then.
CESA has just started its league season, with the Jefferson Cup being its first tournament of the spring. Hyslop enjoys the top-flight competition that the tournament provides.
“What we like is great competition without necessarily the built-in rivalries that can get in the way of a good game,” Hyslop said. “We’re playing teams from Pennsylvania and Virginia and it’s nice to see. There’s a lot of good teams. We saw it again this weekend.
“Part of it is teaching our players to understand that we have ability too, but I think they come away with a greater understanding of what it means to travel, to take care of your body well … and then to know, that, hey, at the end of it all, you do get some reward for it.”