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WESTON, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2012)
– The US Youth Soccer National League
Boys teams competing this weekend wrapped up their seasons today at Weston Regional Park in Weston, Fla. The other half of the boys and girls divisions will finish their season and solidify the league standings March 23-25 in Las Vegas, Nev.
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 at the national team, collegiate and professional levels. In addition to recruiting opportunities, the first place finishers from each division (Blue and Red) in the U-15, 16 and 17 age groups will earn a ticket to the 2012 US Youth Soccer National Championships
, making each match valuable to the team's fate as it could make or break their chance at competing for a National Championship.
Other than the Under-18 Girls, who completed their season last Dec. in Orlando, Fla., no division champion will be decided until play resumes in Las Vegas. Five teams heading into Weston had an opportunity to wrap up the division, but only two still had hopes going into today's matches.
Defending Region II champion and National finalist Chicago Magic (IL)
needed only a draw versus West Pines United Black (FL)
to seal the U-15 Blue division and an undefeated season, but Daniel Reese's goal in the 20th
minute lifted West Pines to the 1-0 victory, while Magic have to wait with a seven point lead atop the table. Magic are hoping they did enough to return to the National Championships. The only threat to the first spot comes from Albion SC White (CA-S)
, who will need to win all three games next month.
"First of all, it's a privilege to be in the National League. Everybody has earned their place here and that's what makes it the National League. I told the boys that this is the level we need to be playing at, and without a doubt it's been a great ride so far and we really appreciate the competition," said West Pines United Head Coach David Cunningham. "I read an article yesterday about the Chicago Magic and how they were about to wrap this up and I said to the boys, 'Let's be the spoiler today.' Magic are a great team and I give my boys a lot of credit, fortunately for us we spoiled their run to an undefeated season. I'm delighted and it's a beautiful win for us."
"Playing in the National League certainly helps players to develop and it opens their eyes up to what we call 'the next level'. A lot of clubs advertise the next level, but once we got into Region III (US Youth Soccer Region III Premier League) and now into the National League, the boys are actually experiencing what the next level truly means and that's what the National League brings to us. The boys now feel like they're a step better. It's really a pleasure to play in this league and for the players it's exciting."
Region III finalist GSA 96 Phoenix Red (GA)
had the chance to take home the U-16 Red division crown and a ticket to South Carolina this summer with a win against AHFC 96 (S-TX)
. After falling behind 2-1 at halftime, it looked like GSA might lose all three points as they struck the post twice in the second half. However, a stoppage time goal from Joseph Sandres earned GSA a 2-2
draw, and although they didn't claim the group, the draw mathematically eliminated defending National League champion and National finalist Michigan Jaguars 96 Green
. The only threat to GSA's position atop the group is Beachside SC (CT)
, who will need three wins in Las Vegas.
Some highlights from today's matches…
Defending Region I champion Smithtown Arsenal (E-NY)
took over the top of the Red division by two points, but are likely to be surpassed by the time play is done in Las Vegas unless some precise results and drastic goal differential occur. Arsenal jumped in front thanks to a 2-1
victory over Lehigh Valley United 96 (E-PA)
on a Zach Pogrob game winner with a minute to play. Harrison Weilbacher had given Arsenal the lead in the 29th
minute, but Cade Harmon equalized for LVU nine minutes later to set up the dramatic finish.
Region I finalist OBGC Rangers (MD)
failed to come back from an early two goal deficit to begin the weekend with a loss, but rattled off 10 goals in the next two days to make their case for the Blue division title. Sean Cowdrey exploded for the first four goals of the game in a 5-0
win versus Classics Eagles Red (OH-S)
and he now sits in second on the scoring chart with six, just behind teammate Jeremy Ebobisse with eight. Jony Karahbetyan, tied for third in scoring with four, netted the final goal of the game for Rangers as the team scored 22 goals over the course of seven games. Region IV quarterfinalist Scottsdale 96 Blackhawks (AZ)
, the only team to shutout Rangers in a 5-0 win, are the only team that could top OBGC with five points from Vegas.
The weekend did not play out the way AHFC 95 (S-TX)
had planned as they gave up a two goal lead in the final three minutes to CESA 94 Premier (SC)
today, leaving AHFC in second place, despite heading into the weekend as the division leader. The door is open now for all four teams competing in Las Vegas to jump into first place. The regional rivals are familiar with each other as CESA knocked AHFC out of the 2011 Region III semifinals on their way to becoming Region III champions. Kayode George scored his third goal of the weekend to give AHFC the lead in the 16th
minute. When Mario Toro struck in the 76th
, AHFC thought they had added to their lead over the group, but Joseph Terry struck in the 87th
to pull CESA back and Austen Burnikel leveled in stoppage time for the 2-2
Region I champion Beadling SC 94/95 (PA-W)
assumed top spot in the Blue division thanks to a 4-1
victory over AC Bethesda (MD)
and three wins on the weekend. Michael Pcholinsky was ready to play for Beadling as he set the tone with goals in the 3rd
minutes. Vikram Pothuri pulled one back for Bethesda in the 22nd
, but Dante Piccolo and Ryan Vilella struck in the second half to cap a strong weekend for Beadling.
Region II finalist Lou Fusz SC Gold (MO)
assumed the Blue division lead with a 2-0 victory over WAZA FC 94 Black (MI)
. Lou Fusz now holds a seven point lead over their only competition for the division title, Annandale United (VA)
. Lou Fusz and Annandale drew 3-3 in Birmingham. Lou Fusz was in danger of leaving the division lead to Region III semifinalist CESA 93 Premier (SC)
, but Miles Chase scored the game winner in the 71st
minute and Lucas Hake added an insurance goal just before full time.