National Selection Games feature exciting competition at ECNL Tennessee
ECNL Tennessee served up everything you could ask for and more for its National Selection Games: goals, tension, impressive play and dramatic penalty kicks. With hundreds lining the sidelines, the U16/17 and U18/19 games put on a show for everyone in attendance.
In a high-flying offensive affair, Team East and Team West wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, as Team East scored the game’s first tally just minutes into the contest. But following the goal, the two sides settled into the game, trading scoring chances but spending a majority of the time trying to find the weakness in the other’s defensive scheme. Ultimately, Team East’s goal early on proved to be the only one in the half, as Team West went into the break trailing 1-0.
Following the reset, the floodgates opened.
Team West used halftime to make some adjustments, and those changes immediately paid dividends, as the squad potted two quick goals to flip their 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.
Team East was determined to find the equalizer and as the half wound down, they were rewarded for their efforts. A brilliant fake shot allowed Team East to find a wide-open player with a full net to shoot at, and she didn’t miss, tying the game at 2-2.
Both teams continued to fight to earn the win, and as the dying minutes ticked off, Team East converted one last time, pulling out the 3-2 victory.
Leading the charge for Team East was Eleanor Klinger of Internationals SC, who finished the game with two goals and an assist and was a key player for her squad throughout the game.
“That was the craziest game I have ever played in my life,” Klinger said. “Something I’ve always loved about soccer is the teammates and friends you can make. Meeting my teammates and coaches, in the short time we had, it was awesome. And then to go out and play like we did and win, it was just incredible.”
While the U16/17s was an offensive showcase, defense was key for the U18/19s in an equally entertaining contest.
Throughout the first half, both Team East’s and Team West’s defenses were tested, and each time, they answered the call. What it created was an atmosphere where every attack built tension and every stop breathed a sigh of relief from the sidelines.
The first 45 minutes saw Team East and Team West fail to solve the opposing goalkeeper, setting up a winner-take-all second half.
In the second half, when Team East finally found the first goal early in the frame, it shot a bolt of lightning through the spectators, making an already electric crowd even more lively.
Team West continued to fight and claw back into the match, looking for any opportunity to capitalize and even the score. With the game winding down, the Team East goalkeeper made a save, but Team West pounced on the rebound and buried it, knotting the game at 1-1 and eventually sending the contest into penalty kicks.
In the kicks, Team West outlasted team East, securing the Western squad a 2-1 victory.
“It was so much fun playing with new players in a setting like this,” said VDA’s Shay Montgomery. “I got to play a new position too; normally I’m a center mid, but tonight I played left mid and center mid. I think we were nervous to start the game, but then we settled in and got the win. It was great to play a different playing style and it’s hard to put a new team together but we all just had fun out there.”