By Steve Hunt
Contributor to USYouthSoccer.org
FRISCO, Texas (March 20, 2009) - In the 2009 US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Championships, Indiana won their first-ever championship in the 1992 Boys age group. With a convincing 3-0 victory over North Carolina to begin the 2009 event at Pizza Hut Park, their quest for a second straight title is alive and well.
"I'd say it was about eight out of 10," Indiana coach Gary Yohe said of his team's performance in the victory. "It all started early when we got that goal in the first minute. I think their team kind of let down and we let them know that we were in charge. It was a pretty good game and a pretty good start, but it could be better."
Indiana fired their first shot in the opening minute of play. Some miscommunication in the North Carolina back line allowed Fabian Urquiza to knock one past Carolina goalkeeper Trent Johnson to give the side from the Hoosier State an early 1-0 edge.
Twelve minutes later, Bryce Rockwell-Ashton gave Indiana a two-goal cushion with a great goal of his own. Urquiza fed Rockwell-Ashton, who then split several North Carolina defenders and then put a shot past Johnson for the tally. Rockwell-Ashton injured his hamstring and did not play in the second half. However, he is expected to play in Sunday's final.
Yohe called his team's second goal crucial. "It was very important," he said. "We had the wind in the first half and I felt like we had to at least get two goals before they got the win. I thought the wind determined the play of each team. It was very important we got that goal."
In the second half, North Carolina was the better team for much of the frame. On several occasions, they came close to making the game interesting. A header in the 60th minute glanced off the crossbar. Ten minutes later, a free kick by Edward Mullin was knocked over the goal by the Indiana keeper. A Carolina free kick in the 71st minute by David Sizemore glanced off the far post.
For Yohe, the final whistle couldn't come soon enough. "I wanted the time to go by quickly," he admitted. "There was a point where I thought two goals weren't enough. Our keeper made an excellent save on a free kick, they missed a few wide and hit the post. We gave them too many free kicks within 20-22 yards. They had their opportunities. Luckily they missed and our keeper made a few big saves."
Just before the final whistle, Indiana added one last tally to make it a 3-0 final. Charles Leonhard's first shot was denied by Johnson, but he stayed with it and knocked it his second effort into the back of the net.
For Indiana, the defending champions, the goal is simple. "They want to repeat," Yohe said. "That's what I told them before the game. I said that winning last year did two things. One, it put a target on our back. But then again, it gave us the confidence that we can beat anybody that we play. I think they're going to react, come out here and win it again. They want to win it again. I know that."
However, for that to happen, he wants to see two of his team's better attacking players more involved in Sunday's final. "They have to find our center midfielders-Max Lachowecki and Nate Snyder," Yohe said. "They have to be involved all game long. There was too much direct play. With the wind, we can take that but against the wind, we've got to keep the ball and find them because those two are our playmakers."