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WILSON, N.C. (Dec. 10, 2015) — The top teams in the country showcased their talent Thursday as several energetic matchups got the ninth season of US Youth Soccer National League Boys play underway in Wilson, N.C. All 16 teams in each of the Under-14, Under-15, Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 Boys age groups began their 2015-16 National League season at the Wilson Gillette Soccer Complex and Rocky Mount Sports Complex.
National League teams earn their place in the league based on a proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competitions and are among the nation's best. Competing for a league title and a spot in the US Youth Soccer National Championships, each and every game will play into who represents the National League this summer in Frisco, Texas.
More than 100 college coaches lined the sidelines on Thursday and many more are expected to attend this National League weekend to scout some of the top teams and players in the country. The competitive level of each game adds to player evaluation, as every team has to earn their place in the league, regardless of location or club affiliation.
Playing in the league for the first time, 2015 National finalist Seattle United 98 Copa (WA) is excited to compete against some of the top teams from around the nation.
“This is a big age for the boys in terms of college recruitment and things like that,” Seattle United coach Jason Farrell said. “We are thrilled and honored to be part of the National League. It’s good for our team, but it’s also good for our club.
“It makes us better — as individuals, as players and as a coach. Every game is big. Every team is good. You don’t always see that. We’re fortunate to live in a good soccer community but any time you can take the competitive side to another level, it helps us become a better team.”
Thursday’s results proved just how difficult it is to come away with a win in the National League, as just one of four defending National Champions managed to secure three points on the season’s opening day.
Several coaches have said there is little room for error in the National League, as opponents have the ability to take advantage of any mistake. After his team began its first National League season on Thursday, Under-14 Solar Chelsea 02 Red (TX-N) coach Chris Stricker said it’s important to remain focused when facing the level of competition in the league.
“Our goal is to put it all on the field and show we can compete with everyone. We are a team that takes it one game at a time,” Stricker said. “The great thing about the National League is that everyone is so good, that if you drop your guard for a minute, you’ll lose.”
The National League is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Region I Champions League, Midwest Regional League, Southern Regional Premier League and Far West Regional League). 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.
National League action will continue Friday, Dec. 11, as the boys teams play their second game of the season. Complete standings, scores and schedules, including goal scorers and match information, can be found at the results page here. Click on the score of each game for more information.
Some highlights from Thursday's matches…
Defending National Champion Baltimore Celtic Darby 01/02 (MD) kicked off its first National League season with a 3-1 win over Region III Champion South Carolina United FC 01 Elite in Under-14 Blue Division play. Theodore Ndje gave Baltimore an early lead when he slid his fourth-minute shot past the keeper, and Peter Mangione doubled the lead with a left-footed blast to the near post. Ndje later powered a shot around the keeper to push the advantage to 3-0 before half. South Carolina had the upper hand in the second half, and it pulled a goal back when Damon Williams found the back of the net in the 69th minute. That was as close it got, as Celtic earned the 3-1 victory.
Under-14 Boys Penn Fusion 01 Elite (PA-E) kicked off its Blue Division campaign against local side CASL 01 Red (NC). Penn Fusion controlled possession most of the first half but couldn’t break through the solid CASL defense. Despite having a majority of possession, the best chance of the first half came for CASL when a ball was lofted into the Penn Fusion box. CASL hit a hard shot to the bottom corner but Penn Fusion’s keeper Michael Graham Jr. dove to his left to make the save to keep the score 0-0 going into half. The second half was more of the same, but the best chance was created by Penn Fusion, as the Pennsylvania side saw an early shot ring off the crossbar. Both team’s defenses continued to hold, and the game finished in a scoreless tie as each team earned one point on the opening day of play.
The Under-14 Red Division kicked off the first day of play with a cluster of goals in a game between Concorde Fire Central Elite (GA) and 2015 National Championships third-place finisher Sporting J. B. Marine – Mann (MO). All the first half goals came in a matter of nine minutes, beginning with Sporting’s Aaron Boulch’s seventh-minute tally. Concorde’s Gildardo Cisneros responded in the 10th minute to level the score. Concorde took the lead in the 12th minute as a cross fell to a wide open James Dunning, who shelfed his shot into an open net. Sporting leveled the game just three minutes later as an Aaron Boulch corner pinballed out to a wide open Thomas Deavilla, who made no mistake and finished his shot to bring the score to 2-2. Concorde got the last goal of the first half as it immediately answered in the next minute when Luke Riley found the back of the net to take a 3-2 lead into halftime. In the second half, Jesus Tadeo beat his defender to the endline and played a beautiful ball across the face of goal that teammate Andrew Rogers tapped in to extend Concorde’s lead to 4-2 in the 39th minute. The Georgia side finished the scoring in the 62nd minute with a John Franks goal to complete its 5-2 win.
Elsewhere in the Under-14 Red Division, SC Waukesha 01/02 Blue (WI) fell, 2-0, to Solar Chelsea 02 Red (TX-N). Solar commanded the possession most of the game and started the scoring in the eighth minute when Skyler Stricker found the back of the net. Stricker’s teammate, Broke Pope, added a goal just three minutes later when he tapped in Robbert Pino’s cross to give the North Texas side a 2-0 lead. Waukesha had a few dangerous chances on the counter in the second half but couldn’t figure out the Solar defense and the game ended 2-0 in favor of Solar.
Region I Champion McLean 00 Green (VA) opened its National League season with a 4-0 win over Fullerton Rangers 00 White (CA-S) in Under-15 Blue Division action. William Blake found the back of the net five minutes in to the game to spot McLean an early lead, and Daniel Diaz-Bonilla doubled the advantage in the 12th minute. Diaz-Bonilla added a second tally after the break, and teammate Yassine Elkahloun capped the scoring with a 68th-minute goal. The McLean defense did its part, as it recorded a clean sheet in a complete team performance to open the season.
In the Under-15 Red Division, four teams came away with victories in very close games. A 3-1 win for FPYC Fury (VA) was the largest victory of the day, while West Coast FC Armour (CA-S), Sparta 01 JK (UT) and CFA Raiders (IL) each recorded 2-1 wins.
In the Under-16 Blue Division, Sporting KC Academy (KS) and Fewster FC (MD) met Thursday in a rematch of the 2015 National Championship final. Fewster, the 2015 runner-up, came out firing in the opening half and went ahead on Benjamin Stitz’ 12th-minute goal. The Maryland side continued its pressure and added two more tallies, as Adrian Avellaneda and Alejandro Arbelaez each found the back of the net before halftime. It was a different story after the break, as Sporting KC responded with goals from Mike Keon and Jonathan Munoz to pull within one. After a Sporting player was taken down in the box, Keon converted a 68th-minute penalty kick to level the score. Fewster had a couple of great chances in stoppage time, but the Kansas City keeper made a couple of key saves to help his side hold on for a 3-3 tie.
The Under-16 Red Division featured several tight games on Thursday, as just two teams managed to come away with victories. LA Galaxy South Bay Gold (CA-S) currently sits on top of the standings thanks to a 3-0 win, while Dix Hills Hurricanes (NY-E) is close behind after earning a 2-1 win. Four teams are tied for third after a pair of games ended in 1-1 draws.
Defending National Champion Baltimore Celtic 98/99 (MD) had its hands full with Region II Champion Sporting St. Croix (MN), as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw to open their Under-17 Blue Division campaigns. St. Croix generated some early pressure, but Baltimore grabbed the first-half lead when Jonathan Molina found the back of the net in the 24th minute. The Minnesota side continued to threaten Celtic’s back line as it looked for an equalizer, and Ataniel Claremond delivered in the 82nd minute to force the 1-1 draw and split the points between the two sides.
In the Under-17 Red Division, 2015 National finalist Seattle United 98 Copa (WA) played to a 3-3 draw with Loudoun 98 Red (VA). The Washington side jumped out to a 2-0 advantage after Samuel Agosti and Vincente Aquino Contreras each found the back of the net in the first half. Loudoun responded after the break, as 2015 Golden Ball winner Giovanni Vasquez netted two goals to pull the Virginia side level. Seattle responded immediately with a great Lucas King strike that beat the keeper and dipped under the bar. However, Loudoun once again came back, as Vasquez dribbled into the box and created a chance that Reece Cooke pounced on to beat the keeper and earn the 3-3 draw.
In the Under-18 Blue Division, a 3-0 win has Lehigh Valley United 97 (PA-E) sitting on top of the standings, as the Eastern Pennsylvania side was the lone team in the group to not concede a goal on Thursday. FC Dallas 98 Premier (TX-N), Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S) and Ohio Premier Green (OH-S) also picked up victories on the opening day of play.
Four teams — UFA-Norcross 98 Fury Premier (GA), Baltimore Celtic 97/98 (MD), Santa Barbara SC White (CA-S) and FC Golden State Platinum (CA-S) — each picked up wins in the Under-18 Red Division and will aim to create some separation with results on Friday.
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: http://tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2015-16-National-League/