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ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 31, 2016) — The 2016-17 US Youth Soccer National League resumed league play Saturday, as half of the 128 girls teams competed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports and ChampionsGate Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., alongside the Disney Soccer Showcase.
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 top finishers from each division will earn a ticket to the 2017 US Youth Soccer National Championships, making each match valuable to the teams’ fate as it could make or break their chance at competing for the National Championship.
The battle for positioning in the standings remains close, and there is still very little clarity at the top of most of the divisions. Saturday saw zero division titles clinched, as several intriguing matchups remain this weekend that carry significant meaning in the division title races.
The opening day of girls games in Orlando saw the final unblemished defending National Champion — 17U Midwest United FC 00 Royal (MI) — drop its first points of the season in a loss to Sunrise Sting 2000 (FL). The loss ended an impressive run of 11 straight games without a loss or tie in National League play for Midwest.
That result coupled with New Jersey Stallions Academy-Stampede (NJ) win on Saturday allowed the Stallions to slip into first in the 17U Blue Division. However, New Jersey coach Shaun Cryer knows his team can’t get comfortable before his side meets Midwest on Sunday.
“To set off with a win, especially considering what happened in the other game, gives us a little advantage — if there is any — heading into tomorrow,” Cryer said. “But it’s going to be tough no matter what playing against Midwest, who are excellent.”
The upcoming showdown between teams from Region I and Region II is another example of the unique matchups teams face in the National League that also hold extreme significance in determining which sides advance to the National Championships.
Cryer echoed the thoughts of several coaches while saying that the interregional matchups against talented teams with different styles is a great development tool for his players.
“Every one of these teams test you,” Cryer said. “They’ll all play a different system. The predominant thing we’ve seen so far in the league is that every team is trying to play. If you have a weakness in your team, they’re going to find it.
“So, it makes you learn every time. If you’re playing seven games against seven teams who are all playing different ways, you learn different ways of dealing with that for the future. The development is massive.”
The National League teams that do not compete in Orlando will complete their season at the Players College Showcase in Las Vegas — with boys games held March 10-12 and girls games played March 17-19.
The National League is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional 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 continues Sunday, Jan. 1, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports and ChampionsGate Sports Complex. 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 Saturday’s matches…
Nationals Union 02 Black (MI) climbed to the top of the 15U Blue Division standings with a 2-0 win over SJEB Rush 02 Academy Blue (NJ). Nationals Union’s first look in the second minute converted into a goal as a corner kick was set up for Madaline Novak to head the ball into the back of the net. Meike Ingles made it a 2-0 game when she chest trapped a diagonal cross and volleyed the ball first time. Amanda Attanasi tried to get SJEB moving forward by dribbling past defenders and feeding the ball to others to create offensive chances, but the goal never came. The second half took a similar route where SJEB strived to wear its opponent down and get off some shots, but Nationals Union was able to get out of trouble every time, holding the shutout.
As Michigan Jaguars 01 Green (MI) and Greater Binghamton FC (NY-W) each held a 2-0-2 record in the first and second positions of the 16U Blue Division, Michigan Jaguars pulled ahead with a substantial win. Greater Binghamton pulled a fast one on Michigan Jaguars as Lauren Ashman netted a goal in the first minute, but Michigan Jaguars responded seven minutes later with a goal from Jessica Bandyk to tie up the match. After being stuck in its defensive half for a few minutes, Michigan Jaguars’ Gabrielle McCaslin outran a defender onto a through ball and blasted an upper net finish to give her side the lead. Sarah Noonan also tacked on a pair of goals after taking on multiple defenders and slotting the ball into the net both times. Greater Binghamton did not let Michigan Jaguars off the hook that easy as the team stayed in its offensive half for long periods of time. However, Michigan Jaguars topped the game off with two goals in the second half—one from Sloane Marwil and another from Danielle Wolfe. With the win, Michigan Jaguars lead the division with a record of 3-0-2.
United FA 01 Premier (GA) moved to second place in the 16U Red Division standings after earning a 2-0 win over Midwest United FC 01 Royal (MI), who previously held the second spot. The first half resulted in more offensive opportunities for Midwest United, but the match went to half scoreless. In the 42nd minute, United FA got on the board with a goal from Jordan Hall. Hungry for another and keeping the momentum going, United FA’s Riley Clark sent a diagonal ball from about 25 yards out which landed in the back of the net. Midwest United spent the remaining minutes trying to get back into the game, and the team was rewarded when Regan Dalton found the opening for an upper net finish. The equalizer never came for Midwest United, and United FA walked away with the victory.
A 3-1 win over FC Kansas City Academy Blues Elite 2000 (MO) on Saturday helped New Jersey Stallions Academy-Stampede (NJ) move to the top of the 17U Blue Division standings. Jillian O'Toole opened the scoring by receiving a pass at the top of the box and curling a shot over the keeper and inside the left post — giving the Stallions a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute. An FCKC high line and high pressure caused some problems for New Jersey while creating some chances for the Blues, but the Stallions fought off the FCKC chances and managed to double their advantage before halftime. Following a nice diving save from the FCKC keeper in the 42nd minute, Ashleigh Sarafin gathered the rebound and slid home the follow-up to double the New Jersey lead. Maddie Poertner pulled FCKC within one with a 56th-minute goal, and she nearly tied the game with a chip in the 83rd minute that floated off the outside of the left post. Hayley Baer added a late insurance goal for the Stallions to cap their 3-1 victory.
After going undefeated in North Carolina, HBC Impact 00 (NY-E) entered Saturday looking to extend a lead at the top of the 17U White Division. However, Nationals Union Black (MI) had other ideas as it came away with a 2-1 win over the Eastern New York side. After the teams exchanged some early chances, Nationals Union grabbed a 35th-minute lead when Hailey Salmo slid a penalty kick attempt inside the left post. Betsy Lueck later pushed the Michigan side’s lead to 2-0 with a 42nd-minute strike. HBC fought back and pulled within a goal with a penalty kick of its own, as Talani Barnett hammered her shot from the spot into the left corner. However, Nationals Union held on for the 2-1 win to jump to nine points in the standings — just one behind HBC in a crowded top half of the group.
FC Pennsylvania Strikers (PA-E) kept pace at the top of the 18U White Division with a 3-0 win over FCKC Academy Blues Elite 99 (MO). The two sides entered the day in a three-way first-place tie, alongside Kings Hammer Academy Red (OH-S), and the Strikers grabbed some early momentum with an exquisite ninth-minute goal. Kayla Mesaros created some room down the left wing to serve in a cross, and Emily McNesby made a perfectly timed run into the box, where she hit a first-time volley just inside the near post to give Penn Strikers the 1-0 lead. McNesby added a second goal in the 63rd minute to double her side’s advantage. FCKC pushed for a goal to switch the momentum of the game, but Francesca Pellerito netted an 85th-minute tally to cap the Penn Strikers’ 3-0 win. Kings Hammer also won on Saturday, setting up a key matchup with the Pennsylvania side on Monday.
A 1-0 win over Arsenal FC of PA Premier Pride (PA-W) helped UFA 99 Premier (GA) move into a three-way tie for first place in the 18U Red Division. Little could separate the two teams for much of the match until United FA’s Erin Houlihan broke the scoreless tie with a strike in the 60th minute. The Georgia side needed to work to make that goal hold up, as Arsenal threatened the United FA goal several times in the final half-hour of play. United FA keeper Courtney O’Malley came up big in the 84th minute when she denied a shot from Arsenal’s Lauren Schultz from within the six-yard box. The Pennsylvania side’s Delaney Snyder swung in a few dangerous crosses from the right win during throughout the second half, but the United FA defenders did well to end the threats — helping the Georgia side hold on for the shutout victory.
Team Chicago Academy 1998 Elite (IL) jumped up in the 19/20U Blue Division standings after defeating FC Copa Celeste (NJ), 3-1. After 45 minutes, Team Chicago held a 1-0 lead due to a Sarah Griffith goal in the 25th minute. Just four minutes into the second half, Team Chicago’s Jasmine Ruiz added a goal to the lead. FC Copa’s Katarina Nilsson cut into the advantage by slotting a penalty kick into the bottom right corner. Determined to score another, FC Copa kept the ball in its offensive half, creating a dangerous opportunity as Christina Rodgers lobbed a ball for Nilsson, who chest trapped the ball, spun the defender and bounced the shot off the post. Team Chicago shut FC Copa down with a stoppage time goal from Alyssa Bombacino. Team Chicago now holds eight points, sitting behind idle Beach FC 98 Academy (CA-S) and EGA Maroon 98 (NE).
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: Tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2016-17-National-League/