USL Academy Cup 2023 Day 1 Recap: Hat tricks and PK saves highlight opening day
The first day of the largest-ever USL Academy Cup was packed with drama, high-scoring affairs, and jaw-dropping individual performances. With the first round of group stage matches complete, we take a look at those that marked the headlines of Day One.
The day started with a defensive affair between Real Colorado and Phoenix Rising FC in the U15 Boys Elite Division. An own-goal by Phoenix broke the deadlock just after halftime, and Real Colorado held the line to come away with all three points as their midfield worked to create high turnovers and restrict Phoenix to their own end.
Elsewhere, four goals from four different scorers propelled Indy Eleven to the top of the U15 Boys Elite Division as they defeated South Georgia Tormenta 4-1. A sixth-minute goal from Jake Alb put the Indiana side ahead, and they never looked back.
The big winner in the U15 Boys divisions, however, was Louisville City FC, as they raced ahead of Park City Red Wolves with four goals in the first ten minutes. Each score came from a different player, and they rolled on to go to the top of Elite Group B.
Competing with them after the first day is Tampa Bay United, who notched a 1-0 win behind Cohen Nance’s 24th-minute goal.
The U19 Boys Elite division started with a bang, thanks to an electrifying 3-3 draw between Phoenix Rising and Wake FC featuring three different equalizing goals in the back-and-forth affair. A 73rd-minute goal by striker Conor Geraghty secured the point for Rising.
An equally riveting game took place just next door between Tampa Bay United and Hartford Athletic. The scoring opened early after a charging run by Nicholas Skubis started a team moved finished off at the back post by Asher Jones. Hartford grew into the game and got their equalizer after a failed clearance on a corner. After halftime, Tampa Bay conceded a penalty, and it looked like the hometown team would be facing a deficit. Nicolas Mejia made a save from the spot, and it sparked Tampa Bay to two more goals in a 3-1 victory.
At the U13 Boys Elite Division level, it was Perry Luanglatbandith with a brace that propelled Nona FC to the top of their group, putting in the performance of the day for that age group.
This year, the expanded girls divisions impressed on the first day of matches.
In the U19 Girls Elite Division newcomer Cleveland Force SC went up early over Greenville Liberty SC with a goal by Brooke Allen. The Liberty answered back after Cleveland committed a foul on the edge of the box, giving the Liberty a great spot for a free kick. University of South Carolina commit Autum Cayelli stepped up and perfectly placed it out of reach of the goalkeeper to equalize. The match ended 1-1, giving both sides an important point in their opening match.
Autumn Cayelli scores a free kick for @gvl_liberty in the 29th minute of the match
Way to #BringYourAGame !! pic.twitter.com/cLMeTmyQen
— USL Academy (@USL_Academy) March 30, 2023
NC Fusion started the tournament out strong by shutting out Indy Eleven in their opening match. Sophie Wyshner opened the scoring after teammate Molly Widderich curled the ball into the box and Wyshner got her head on the end of it. Fusion went on to double their lead after Aaryn Gabriel, a University of Minnesota commit, found the back of the net in the second half.
The other two matches in the U19 Girls Elite bracket were fast-paced and high scoring affairs. NC Courage downed AC Connecticut 8-0 to open the tournament. Kaytan Kroboth, an Appalachian State commit, recorded a hattrick for the Courage in the match while Penn State commit Isabella Ayscue added a pair of assists.
LA Parish AC routed FC Miami City by a score of 7-1 Thursday afternoon. Playmaker Faith Johnston dished out five assists for the Louisiana-based side, while Keira Morgan contributed the lone goal for FC Miami City.
With another two days of group play still in store, there’s still time for any team to leave with silverware this weekend. For full scores and standings, check out the tournament schedule.