By Steve Hunt, special contributor to USYouthSoccer.org
It was a hard-fought affair but the Dallas Texans 93G Red came away with a 1-0 victory over So Cal Blues-Dodge in the U15 Girls division of U.S. Youth Soccer National League play on Friday night at the Ross Stewart Soccer Center outside of Dallas.
"When you play at this level, the teams are very even," Texans head coach Shawn Cantrell said. "The teams from California are very strong. One chance is all it takes and then you continue to try and battle it out throughout the game. It was a very good game."
Texans' only goal of the match came in the 48th minute when Abby Smith connected on a long-range shot from about 30 yards out. After receiving the ball in the attacking third, Smith launched one that landed just inside the upper corner of the left post and just out of the reach of an outstretched keeper to make it 1-0.
"It was a great pass," Smith said. "I hit it and was just watching it. I wanted it to go in so bad. It was so exciting."
Cantrell liked what he saw from Smith on what proved to be the only goal of the evening for either side.
"I liked the creativity," he said. "It was a give-and-go and then she hit a shot. She's done that a lot this year. She did the give and go, got it back and we've been telling them to hit some shots from distance. She hit it, got it on frame and it was good enough to go in."
For much of the evening, Texans dominated possession but the Blues made a furious push for the equalizer late in the match. In the 78th minute, Emily Goldstein had a one-on-one with Texans goalkeeper Rosa Medina and the two collided. The ball fell to the Blues' Mikayla Siegel and her shot looked ready to go in before a Texans defender rushed in with a goal-saving block right in front of the net.
The Blues had one last chance in second half stoppage time. After a foul just outside the Texans box, Goldstein stepped up and took the free kick but Medina was there for the save.
After the match, Cantrell heaped some serious praise on his back four for their great performance, especially late in the game.
"I thought they were great," he said. "We made some changes late because we got some kids tired but the organization in the back was very sound. You have to be organized against very good teams and they were very organized."
Cantrell also credited his team for doing such a solid job on the ball.
"At this level, you've got to kind of get a feel for the other team first," he said. "But once we had done that, we figured we could get to the width a little bit and keep possession of the ball out there. They were really trying to clog up the middle and once we got it out wide and were able to serve balls in, I thought we did a good job of keeping possession."
Smith was equally pleased with how the Texans performed. "I think we did amazing," she said. "We pressured every ball and just wanted it so bad. Those chances that they got at the end, I knew our defense had it because they are so strong."
Both sides play again at 1:00 PM tomorrow. Texans will face Eclipse Select on Field No. 1 while the Blues will face Sting Dallas Royal 93 on Field 2.
Cantrell sees his squad as only needing one simple thing before Saturday. "We need as much rest as we can," he said. "You have to get your rest. Tomorrow will be a very high-level game. We've just got to come prepared tomorrow."
Smith concurred. "We just need to keep doing what we're doing," she said. "I think we're playing great."