By Steve Hunt, special contributor for usyouthsoccer.org
Eclipse Select 91-92 headed into Sunday's match with Dallas Texans Red knowing that a draw would be all that they would need to win the title in the Under-16 Girls division of the US Youth Soccer National League. After trailing by a goal on two separate occasions, Eclipse tied the match twice and finished with a 2-2 draw at the Ross Stewart Soccer Complex in suburban Dallas.
Both of the Texans goals came from striker Amanda Frisbie. She put the Texans her ahead 1-0 in the 30th minute when her shot from the right side beat the 'keeper to the right edge of the goal.
Just six minutes after that, Christy Patterson drew the match level for Eclipse with a goal in the 36th minute. Patterson lobbed one over the head of the opposing 'keeper from the right side and her effort fluttered into the left side of the net and tied the at one goal apiece.
Frisbie added a second goal in the 50th minute. The play started when Texans goalkeeper Vittoria Arnold hit a great punt from in front of her goal. Frisbie got the ball on the right flank and lobbed it into the left side of the net from about 20 yards out to again give the Texans the lead at 2-1.
But Eclipse wasn't quite done for the day. In the 61st minute, Kayla Paoulos received a great cross in the middle of the Texans box from the right flank. All Paoulos had to do to tie things was hit an easy finish, which is exactly what she did to make the match 2-2.
Following that equalizer, the Texans had several more chances but once the final whistle sounded, it was a 2-2 draw. The tie also clinched a spot in nationals for the Texans as the No. 2 team in the U16G division.
Eclipse head coach Rory Dames had the following to say afterward. "It's never easy to play the Dallas Texans anywhere, let alone playing them in Dallas on their own fields because they're good and comfortable here," he said. "The fact we went down twice and got ourselves back into it shows a lot about the group."
But by no means is Dames or his team satisfied with their performance over the weekend, which also included a 1-1 tie with the SoCal Blues-Lippens on Saturday.
"We came in here wanting to win games," Dames said. "We couldn't really find a rhythm like we have in other games but part of that is credit to the Blues and Texans as well. Our goal wasn't just to qualify for nationals but also to win the league, and we did that. It's good for the girls and the group. We scored in the 80th minute yesterday to tie it after being down and came back twice today. We showed that we can get back into games."
Dames also feels that today's draw largely came down to two teams who knew they were likely going to nationals and had nothing further to prove. "In the end, I don't think either team had a lot," he said. "A tie got them (Texans) in, so they're not going to open things up. And a tie won the league for us. The biggest disappointment is that we didn't win either of the games. Ties do this and that but we came here wanting to win."
While the Eclipse coach would like to see better performances from his squad the next time they hit the field at nations, he was encouraged by the strong showings he got from some of his reserves pressed into duty because of injuries and suspensions.
"We played without Alexandra Heller (on Saturday), who is one of our center backs who couldn't play yesterday because of a red card," Dames said. "We also had Sam Scofield, our holding player, out with a broken foot. So, we played without two very important pieces to what we do. But Kelsey Hough and Ariana Kulinczenko stepped in and did a great job for us. We got Heller back today, so that made things a little easier for us. The goal for us was to win the league and we reached that. It's the first of many goals for us and we need to keep that in perspective."