Penn Fusion U-16 boys knock off winter rust with opening win at Jefferson Cup
By Jimmy LaRoue
Midlothian, Va. – Penn Fusion Soccer Academy 95 Boys coach Lee Martin is hoping his team’s preparation will pay off with results on the field at the Jefferson Cup.
“We’ve always said to our players, ‘Tournaments are normally won before you even start.’ They’re won on preparation and in the hotels the night before,” Martin said after his team’s 3-0 win over Loudoun 95 Red in the Under-16 Championship bracket at SportsQuest on Friday. “When that whistle blows, you’ve got to be 100 percent ready.”
Martin is trying to replace one player lost to an ACL tear, while integrating one who’s playing his way back from one.
Martin lost team captain and central defender Christos Yiantsos to a major knee injury, but he may have found a person to fill the void in Ryan Nork.
“He’s been a difference for us, because we’ve tried others and we’ve been leaking goals,” Martin said.
Penn Fusion does get one player back from his own ACL tear, forward Ian Davis, who Martin describes as “a tremendously technical player.” Davis damaged his knee during the team’s first National League game last year.
“He’s been out for a year, so he’s just coming back, so he’s really missed the best part, his prime, 15, 16 years old,” Martin said. “But you can’t take away the absolute bags of quality that he has within him, just natural ability. Form is just form, you know. His form’s in and out. He’s getting better and better. He’s definitely got professional written all over him.”
Martin said he was scoring for fun before it occurred. But because he hasn’t scored a goal since the injury, His confidence is low.
“I had two long-term injuries myself,” said the coach, “and it takes a while to really get your confidence back. That’s the key.”
Martin noted that his team is rusty, but still managed to control about two-thirds of the possession in the second half to secure the win.
“Our key was to be really solid at the back and build from that,” Martin said. “If we could then get a goal, then they would have to change the game plan, and then it would open up the game for us, and we have the players with the technical ability that can play one- and two-touch and just keep the ball all game.”
Still, the fluidity in the final third is something Martin hopes will improve through the spring.
“It’s our second weekend out this year for us, so we’re a little bit rusty,” Martin said.
“Our key was to be really solid at the back and build from that. If we could then get a goal, then they would have to change their game plan and then it would open the game up for us and we have the players with the technical ability that can play one-and two-touch and just keep the ball all game. I think second half we controlled the game. I think we had maybe two-thirds of the possession and over a full game, if you control the possession, you’re probably going to end up and win the game.”
Even shaking off cobwebs, Martin said he enjoys bringing teams to the Jefferson Cup, which has been doing for 15 years, and was pleased with the warm afternoon conditions Friday.
“The 16s, the 17s, we make sure we come here because of the facilities, the college coaches,” Martin said. “It’s a better showcase environment for them here. So we’re excited to be back down here.”