2013-2014 US Youth Soccer National League Boys resume play in Orlando, Fla.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 27, 2013)
— The 2013-2014 US Youth Soccer National League
Boys resumed league play Friday, as 32 of the 80 teams competed at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., alongside the Disney Soccer Showcase.
The National League provides an avenue for teams to play in meaningful matches against top competition from across the country for continued development and opportunities for exposure at the national team, collegiate and professional levels. In addition to recruiting opportunities, the top two finishers from each division (Blue and Red) will earn a ticket to the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships
, making each match valuable to the teams’ fate as it could make or break their chance at competing for the National Championship.
Friday saw the first National League team punch its ticket to the 2014 National Championships in Germantown, Md., as Under-17 CUP Gold 96/97 (OH-S) remained perfect on the season with a 4-0 win over Concorde Fire Elite (GA). The win guarantees CUP at least a second-place finish in the Under-17 Red Division, and Saturday’s showdown with defending National Champion Smithtown Arsenal (E-NY) could be the game that determines the division champion. Should CUP earn the group title, it would be the squad’s second National League division championship in three years, after it won the Under-15 Red Division in 2011-2012.
While the Under-17 CUP squad was lucky enough to clinch a top two finish on Friday, many other teams aimed to secure key victories that would help position them to have a shot at a division title or a qualifying spot for Nationals.
Patrick Flinn watched his Vestavia Steamers 96 Black (AL) side score a 90th-minute winner to notch a crucial win in the Under-18 Red Division on Friday. Flinn said every result is critical at this stage of the National League season, and he was very happy with his team’s 1-0 win over PDA McGeough (NJ).
"Even though PDA was the better team for about 65 minutes, we didn’t give away a lot of chances and took over at the end and created enough chances to beat a good team," Flinn said, citing the importance of fighting for a full 90 minutes. "That’s what the National League is all about. The most consistently good teams will end up in the first two spots. Coming from Alabama, we don’t consistently play teams like this. That’s the most difficult thing for us, to be on at the beginning and the middle and the end — to be consistent. It’s bringing the best out of us."
The National League teams that do not compete in Orlando, including all Under-14 squads, will complete their season at the Players College Showcase in Las Vegas — with boys games held March 14-16 and girls games played March 21-23.
The National League is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Region I Premier League, Midwest Regional League, Region III Premier League and Far West Regional League). The National League provides an avenue for teams to play in meaningful matches against top competition from across the country for continued development and opportunities for exposure at the national team, collegiate and professional levels.
Some highlights from Friday's matches…
Solar Chelsea Red 99 (N-TX) earned three points with a 2-1 comeback win over Roadrunners Blue (MD) on Friday. The Roadrunners took the lead on a 10th-minute goal from William Garner, but Solar responded just before halftime when Mandel Steward found the back of the net to even the score. Roadrunners pressured the Solar net for much of the second half but couldn’t break through for a go-ahead goal. Solar capitalized on withstanding that pressure when Javier Jimenez found the back of the net with just a minute remaining in regulation to give his side the 2-1 win.
The Solar win sets up a key matchup in the Under-15 Blue Division on Saturday, as the Texas side faces division leader Loudoun 98 Red (VA), which has yet to concede a goal through five National League games.
After going a perfect 7-0-0 in the National League last year, Sunrise Elite 97/98 (FL) finds itself in a tight fight for the top two spots in this season’s Under-16 Blue Division. Roberto Poplawski helped Sunrise to a strong start against Arlington Impact Red (VA) on Friday when he scored in the 13th minute. Poplawski assisted on the second goal with a well-timed pass to Michael Swift Jr., who beat the keeper from the right side of the box to double the Sunrise advantage. Cristian Marich added a third goal for Sunrise before Daniel Damiani scored for Arlington in the final minutes, as Sunrise came away with a 3-1 victory and an important three points in the standings.
In the Under-16 Red Division, FC Dallas 98 Premier (N-TX) picked up a 3-1 win over FC Alliance 98 Black (TN) to move up in the standings. The FC Dallas keeper made a pair of sprawling saves in the first half before Delfino Garcia calmly tucked a shot into the corner of the net to give FC Dallas the lead. Sebastian Venegas and Gerber Chavez also scored for Dallas, while Alex Schupp netted a goal for FC Alliance. With Dix Hills Elite (E-NY) also joining FC Dallas in the win column Friday, the matchup between the two sides on Sunday could have a ticket to the National Championships on the line.
Smithtown Arsenal kept another clean sheet as it defeated Tennessee SC 15 (TN), 1-0. Thomas Butzke scored the game’s lone goal when he drilled a rebound into the net from the top of box in the 58th minute. A positive result Saturday against CUP Gold would go a long way in helping Smithtown earn a ticket to Germantown, Md., and give the New York side a chance to defend its National title.
GSA Phoenix 97 Premier (GA), which won its National League division last year, picked up a key 2-1 win over Manhattan SC PSG 96 (E-NY) on Friday to remain in the hunt for a top two finish in the Under-17 Blue Division. After Amara Sesay converted a penalty kick to give PSG the lead, Daniel Kierath hit a rocket from 30 yards out in the 60th minute to equalize the score. GSA came back nine minutes later and gained the lead on a Joseph Efford goal, which proved to be the game winner in GSA’s 2-1 victory.
CUP Gold 95/96 (OH-S) is also close to clinching a top two finish and spot in the 2014 National Championships after it came away with a 2-0 win over Lehigh Valley United 95 (E-PA). Following a scoreless first half, CUP took the lead in 63rd minute thanks to an Austin Harrell strike. Greg Bohn doubled the lead three minutes later when he finished off some nice build-up play with a composed chip into the corner. Those two tallies proved to be all the offense in the match, as CUP earned the 2-0 victory.
National League action continues Saturday, Dec. 28, at ESPN Wide World of Sports with games at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Complete standings, scores and schedules, including goal scorers and match information, can be found at the results page here
. Click on the score of each game for more information.