By Steve Hunt, special contributor for USYouthSoccer.org
Most coaches say that the 2-0 lead is the worst edge to hold in soccer. The So Cal Blues-Dodge built such an edge in the first half of their Under-15 Girls match against Sting Dallas Royal 93 in the US Youth Soccer National League at Ross Stewart Soccer Center outside of Dallas, but held on for a 2-1 victory.
The Blues' win, coupled with a 3-0 triumph by the Dallas Texans 93G Red meant that the SoCal side had clinched a ticket to nationals, something they were clearly excited about.
"It's awesome," Blues head coach Randy Dodge said. "I hope we represent the West Coast like it needs to be represented at the nationals. This team has done a great job all year long and has really come together. Now we go to the big stage. We're ecstatic that these kids get to do that because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them."
In the 21st minute, the Blues' Lauren Bohaboy gave her side an early 1-0 edge. Haley Rosen had crossed the ball into the box, where it was deflected. The ensuing carom fell at Bohaboy's feet and she curled it just inside the right post for the score.
Then, 12 minutes later, they doubled their edge when Kaylie Davidson converted off a corner kick to make it 2-0. Emily Goldstein took the corner from the near flag and sent a great ball into the Sting box, where Davidson knocked the ball into the net on a slide tackle.
The match stayed 2-0 until Sting broke through in the 48th to cut the deficit to a single goal. After an Allison Allen corner kick where the ball bounced around, Hayley Williams scored from inside the Blues box and it was 2-1.
Dodge admitted that he was never really comfortable while his team was up by two goals.
"That's the worst lead you can have," he said. "The momentum changes with the next goal. If the other team gets that goal and it goes to 2-1, they have the momentum. The emotion and energy goes to them and it could easily go to 2-2. And if it goes to 2-2, it's anybody's game. It's almost as bad as PKs. When you have a 2-0 lead, you want to get that third (goal) but don't ever want to give up that first (goal to the opposition)."
But he did like how his team responded after the Sting's goal. "We made some subs, got some other girls in there to spark it a little bit more," Dodge said. "I told them at halftime that even if we gave up a goal not to panic. There was a brief seven minutes when we were panicking a little bit and that's not our style. We finally just established it and the girls did a great job."
On Friday night, the Blues dropped a tough 1-0 match to Texans but the performance that his side put together today was a better illustration of how well they can play than how they fared in their loss the night before.
"All I wanted them to do was to be rhythmic and play the way that we can play," Dodge said. "Last night, we didn't do that and that was the only disappointment we had. It was a tremendous effort against the Texans but we didn't dictate our style of play. Today we did and we were rewarded with great goals and great chances. The Sting created a nice goal off a corner kick but the whole game was ours. We really didn't give up much and held the ball really well. I think we really showcased what the Blues are about as a club. We hold the ball and want to play. The kids stepped up today, dealt with the pressure and did a great job."
Both goal scorers are clearly excited about going to nationals in Arkansas later in the year. "Yes, we're really excited that we get to go to nationals now," Bohaboy said. "It's great that we won today."
Davidson agreed but added that today's win and clinching a spot in nationals is only one step in the process. "I'm so excited because this puts us one step closer to winning a ring at nationals," she said. "That's what our goal is right now."
The Blues hit the field again on Sunday morning, when they will face Eclipse Select 91-92 at 8:00 a.m. on Field No. 3.