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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Dec. 10, 2011) – Only one more day remains in the opening weekend of the US Youth Soccer National League Boys play, with Sunday's matches solidifying team standings until the next meeting in Weston, Fla., Feb. 18-20.
Under-15 Chicago Magic (IL) are playing in the National League fresh off a Region II championship and a National Championships finals appearance. Coach Jorge Valle cited the experience of playing at the National Championships and the level of competition the National League offers as the reason to want to compete in the league.
"It was a real pleasure for us to be part of the National Championships. It was really well organized and with the top teams, the level of competition was really high. We faced strong teams, champions of different regions, and at the end we faced the Fullerton Rangers which is a really strong team. We had a great experience."
The chance to pit themselves against other proven teams from across the country is something Valle believes will benefit his players' development.
"That's it, yeah. The idea is to come here for the National League and try to go through the first round and go all the way to Nationals, but it's always tough. You're facing top teams from states and regions and when you think a team is going to be strong they end up being stronger than you thought. Then, a team that you thought could be a team that you could play (your style against) ends up being a team that makes it really hard to play. There are no weak teams, there's just strong teams, so every game is like a finals game. If you lose a few points here or there you start to get in a bad shape, so it's always good to try to earn as many points as possible, but with this level of competition it's not easy."
"This is the perfect competition for (the players). Every game is tough, you face strong teams that are organized and have good coaches, so I think this is the best competition that our players can be in."
Games are being played in conjunction with the NCAA Men's Division I College Cup, creating another significant opportunity for the nation's collegiate, professional and national team coaches to see National League players in an environment of meaningful play.
National League teams are club soccer teams with an individual proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competitions and are among the nation's best. Nearly 300 collegiate coaches have attended this weekend to scout some of the top teams and players in the country, citing the competitive level of each game as every team has to earn their spot in the competition, regardless of hometown or club affiliation.
The 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. In addition to recruiting opportunities, National League teams compete for the league division title for a slot in the annual US Youth Soccer National Championships.
Some highlights from today's matches…
Four-year National League competitor Grand Rapids Crew Juniors
(MI) met a familiar foe in year's division runner-up Javanon 94
(KY). The two squared off in the 2011 Region II semifinals as Grand Rapids won 2-1 and went on to claim the Regional and National Championships. Today's game was again decided by one goal, with Grand Rapids coming out 4-3 victors. Sean Conerty, a Michigan State commit, Region II ODP player and '11 National Championships Golden Ball winner, netted twice to lead Grand Rapids. Michigan commit, Region II ODP player and Youth National Team member Jason Stacy also struck for Grand Rapids, as did Butler University commit and Region II ODP member Caleb Postlewait. Javanon made a run for the game after Kentucky commit and Region II ODP player Jason Scearce's brace was followed by Region II ODP player JD Hawkins' 79th
minute goal, but Grand Rapids held on to stay unbeaten.
Region III champion Florida Rush Nike
and Region IV champion Rush Nike 94
(NM) played a rematch from last summer's National Championships, won 3-0 by the Florida side, to a 1-1 draw today. Charles Klepac put the New Mexico squad ahead four minutes after the halftime restart, but Florida ODP player John Bocinsky leveled in the 68th
minute to save a point and end the game in a stalemate.
Region IV semifinalist Downtown Rapids 95
(NV) overcame an rough loss yesterday to FC Frederick 94
(MD) by delivering a 7-2 victory today over Ohio North state champ Everest SC Black
. Region IV ODP player Juan Carlos Regalado Jr. netted a hatrick for Downtown while Nevada ODP member Danny Ortiz struck twice, and Antonio Murillo and Aaron Ortiz each grabbed one. After Everest's James Haupt, a 2010 National Team Residency member and Region II ODP player, and Federico Silva cut the lead to one in the 64th
, Downtown scored four goals in the last 20 minutes to get back on track.
2010-2011 National League division runner-up and Region I finalist OBGC Rangers
(MD) moved to 3-0 atop the Blue division with a 4-0 victory over WAZA FC East 96
(MI). A pair of Region I ODP players led the way for Rangers as Jony Karahbetyan opened the scoring two minutes after the restart, and Jeremy Ebobisse now leads all scorers with six after a second half hatrick.
Last season's Red division runner-up Classics Eagles Red
(OH-S) remain one spot behind 2011 Region IV quarterfinalist, Scottsdale 96 Blackhawks
(AZ), and in third place of the Blue division after the two tied 1-1. Classics went in front in the 16th
minute on a Grant Fisher strike, but Arizona ODP member Luis Lopez Perez knotted the game for the Blackhawks 10 minutes before halftime as neither team could find the net again.
Defending Region II champion and National Championships runner-up Chicago Magic
(IL) hung on to second place in the U-15 Blue division after a 1-1 tie with Region III semifinalist Concorde Fire Elite
(GA). Thomas Nyameke put Magic ahead in the 12th
minute, but Danny Johnston's 35th
minute goal pulled Concorde even and the defenses held strong the rest of the game.
St. Louis Scott Gallagher Academy
(MO) held on to second place in the Red division, just two points behind leader CUP Crew Juniors Gold 96/97
(OH-S), with a 4-0 win versus GSA Phoenix 97 Red
(GA). Jessie Messerly scored first in the 9th
minute and Keegan Gordon scored the first of his brace in the 37th
going into halftime. Michael Wielansky extended SLSG's lead to three in the 48th
, and Gordon finished his second with 10 minutes to play to cap the scoring.
The opening weekend of National League action concludes Sunday, Dec. 11 with games at Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex, Sports Blast, Heardmont Park and Liberty Park Soccer Comlex. For complete standings, scores and schedules, click here
or go to USYouthSoccer.org/National_League/