Toys for Tots: PWSI Courage 96 Boys Red makes surprising run to U-16 final
By Roger Gonzalez
One of the most impressive teams at PWSI Toys for Tots this weekend has been PWSI Courage 96 Boys Red. Led by coach Mayowa Owolabi, the Under-16 squad put together a solid tournament despite just four returning players and a new coach.
On Saturday, the boys won 4-2 over CYA Cesena and 1-0 over VISTA Venom.
On Sunday, their 2-0 win over Loudoun 96B White booked a spot in the championship final, a rematch against CYA Cesena.
“They are still combining lot of passes,” said Owolabi, who has been pleased with his team’s play in a big-picture sense.
In the semifinals, electric forward Enrique Castillo bagged both goals, the latter coming on a simple through ball in the second half that left the player alone versus Loudoun’s goalkeeper. Castillo took a few touches and entered the penalty box before finishing calmly into the lower part of the goal.
Despite having scored seven goals in three games and allowing only two, the coach wasn’t 100 percent happy with his pupils.
Often, throughout many of their games thus far, the players have been overly ambitious with the ball. With a solid look at goal available from further out, they instead were essentially trying to walk the ball into the goal.
“They want to get inside the [six-yard box] before they shoot and want to beat four players before they do,” Owolabi said. “You let them know, strike a ball. In training, we usually work on striking the ball outside of the 18[-yard box]. They always want that pretty goal.
“I always let them know, strike early, strike early, strike early. They are kids, so they will do their own little thing.”
The team didn’t manage to fix the issue in the final as CYA Cesena rolled up a 4-1 win in the final.
“It was just a really physical game,” the coach said. “The guys went down early 2-0, so they tried to play a little bit different style.”
Down 2-1 at the half, they couldn’t turn it around.
“They just kind of out-muscled us, out-bodied us a little more,” Owolabi said.
The coach obviously wanted to win, but he talked about just how impressive his team was in its first competition.
“It was a great first tournament,” he said. “They came out, they all worked very hard. We are still on the right path right now.”