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BRADENTON, Fla. (Jan. 13, 2018) — The 2017-18 US Youth Soccer National League season resumed play Saturday, as half of the girls teams in the 15U through 18U age groups competed at the IMG Academy for the US Youth Soccer Winter Showcase in Bradenton, Fla. In addition to the National League matches, 36 US Youth Soccer Regional League teams competed in showcase games at the event.
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 2018 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 no division titles clinched, but several teams made important jumps in the standings by securing three points with wins.
PDA Shore Freedom (NJ) was among the sides that earned a crucial three points on Saturday, as it won a matchup of teams near the top of the 15U Blue Division table. PDA coach Bryan Finley said that most games he has seen have been very close contests and it is always a fight to earn three points in the league.
“I can’t say enough about the competition. Every team we’ve played so far has been fantastic, including Cincinnati [Saturday] morning,” Finley said. “This is our first year in the National League for PDA Freedom. It’s been far better than I expected or thought it would be. Every minute and every half is a true battle. I’m excited about what it’s doing for the development of our team at PDA.”
The National League teams that do not compete in Florida will complete their season at the Players College Showcase in Las Vegas — with boys games held March 9-11 and girls games played March 16-18.
The National League features the top 256 teams in the 14U through 18U Boys and Girls age groups. With teams in each age group divided into eight-team divisions, each side has had to earn its place in the league through success in US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues and National Championship Series play.
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 will continue Sunday, Jan. 14, at the IMG Academy. 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…
PDA Shore Freedom (NJ) moved to the top of a crowded 15U Blue Division with a 2-0 win over CDA Premier 03 (OH-S) on Saturday. The Ohio South side had an upper hand in possession in the opening half but couldn’t convert a few half chances, as the game went to the break in a scoreless tie. PDA began to shift the momentum in its favor, and Kristina Akselsen nearly put her team in front when a 47th-minute dipping shot from distance hit the underside of the bar and stayed out. Akselsen didn’t miss her next opportunity 10 minutes later, when she freed herself at the top of the box and sent a right-footed blast past the diving keeper — putting PDA in front, 1-0. In the 66th minute, the CDA keeper did well to tip a free kick off the bar, but PDA’s Taylor Magill charged in and finished the rebound to double her side’s lead. The New Jersey side secured its fifth straight clean sheet to hold on for the 2-0 victory.
North United Rush (PA-W) picked up its fourth win of the season with a 3-0 victory over UFA 02 Premier (GA) in 16U Black Division action. The Pennsylvania West side needed just two minutes to grab an advantage, as an Ellie Coffield strike put North United up early. That goal provided the only difference for much of the match, and UFA threatened to equalize with sustained second-half pressure. However, Megan Donnelly gave North United an important insurance goal in the 66th minute, as it fought to hold off UFA. The Georgia side came close to scoring several times, including a shot from Kimberly Harris that grazed the post and a Sydney Martin drive from distance that North United’s Katharine Kelly tipped over the bar. However, Donnelly countered the pressure and put a shot around a charging UFA keeper to seal the 3-0 victory for North United.
With a 1-0 victory over NCFC 02 Elite (NC), Eclipse Select 2002 (IL) made a jump in the 16U White Division standings. The goal came in the 30th minute as Sydney Malaga put the ball in the back of the net. For the majority of the second half, Eclipse did not allow anything to get past its defense as it searched for a second goal. In the final minutes of the match, NCFC continuously found Logan West on the right flank, who attempted to create some opportunities, but NCFC was not able to capitalize on them. NCFC came close when Malaina Aronson took a shot from a difficult angle on the right side of the goal. The shot headed for the back of the net until Eclipse’s goalkeeper stuck a hand out for the save — preserving the 1-0 victory.
With a 3-0 win over Arlington 2001 Red (VA), FCKC Academy Blues Elite (MO) moved into a first-place tie in the 17U Blue Division. The game remained close for much of the early going, as the teams went to halftime with the game scoreless. However, National League goal-scoring record holder Lily Farkas put FCKC in front with a 51st-minute tally. Farkas gave the Missouri side some breathing room in the 68th minute when she netted her second goal of the contest, and Madilyn Hamline capped the scoring with a strike in the 76th minute. The Blues picked up their second clean sheet of the season, as they claimed the 3-0 victory — pulling even in the standings with idle Century V 01 Gold (PA-W).
Nationals Union 01 Red (MI) stays close to the top of the 17U Red Division with a late-goal 1-0 victory over Fever United 01 Guerra (TX-N). An even first half led to Nationals Union picking up the pace in the second half. The Michigan side had one of its closest chances of the game when Madison Saleh sent the ball to the back post for an open Madison Marsh, but Marsh’s one-time volley went just wide left of the goal. Despite Nationals Union taking control of the match, Fever United did sneak past the defense with a couple shots from Victoria Margiotta and Isabella Turlington. As the game passed the 90-minute mark and entered into stoppage time, Nationals Union earned its goal as a corner kick was played into the 18-yard box. Nationals Union volleyed the ball first time, which was blocked, but Chloe Barnthouse followed up the shot to gain the last-minute game winner.
LMSC Storm (PA-E) pulled closer to the top of the 18U Black Division after a 1-0 victory against CDA Premier 00 (OH-S). As both teams were tied in the standings before Saturday’s match with 2-2-0 records, the game was set up to be a close one. LMSC scored the only goal of the game in the 31st minute as the ball was played across the goal to find Morgan Rees for a simple tap-in. CDA responded quickly after the restart when Nicoletta Anuci ran onto a loose ball for a 1-v-1 with LMSC goalkeeper Simi Bleznak, but Bleznak came off her line and stood strong to steal the ball away. While the remainder of the game displayed chances at both ends of the field, LMSC held onto the lead for the win.
With a 4-1 win over NCFC Elite 00 Ladies (NC), Princeton SA (NJ) took the first place spot in the 18U Blue Division. An early goal from Victoria Belcuore started the Princeton attack. A Princeton corner kick was played too long, but Leanna Rebimbas served the ball back across the goal for Belcuore to finish over the keeper’s hands. Princeton continued to pressure, while NCFC struggled to get out of its defensive half. NCFC’s first chance at goal earned the team a penalty kick as Hannah Dion drove forward through a few defenders and was brought down inside the 18-yard box. Bethel Belayneh equalized the game as she placed the penalty kick low on the ground in the 32nd minute. The goal gave NCFC an energy boost as Brooke Sroka launched a long shot at goal immediately after the restart, but Princeton goalkeeper Isabella Castagnetti stretched out for the save. In the second half, Mary Clare Langan netted a goal after the ball dangled in front of the goal for a few seconds, giving Princeton the lead once again. Maddison Perna stepped up for a penalty kick and buried the ball in the bottom left corner to increase Princeton’s advantage, and Belcuore topped off the victory as she pressured a defender and earned a free shot at goal.
A matchup of the top two teams in the 18U Red Division proved to be a tight one, as New Jersey Stallions Academy-Stampede (NJ) and Sporting Omaha FC Elite 2000 (NE) played to a 2-2 tie. It didn’t take long for the pace of the game to pick up, as Sporting’s Delaney Gunn opened the scoring in the 10th minute. That lead didn’t last long, as the Stallions immediately replied with a Sarah Miller strike to level the score. The early scoring run continued in the 19th minute, when Regan Zimmers found the back of the net to help Sporting regain the lead. New Jersey once again had an answer, as Ashleigh Sarafin tied the game at 2-2 in the 52nd minute. The teams exchanged chances for the remainder of the match, but neither managed to beat the opposing keeper. With the draw, New Jersey maintains a one-point lead at the top of the standings.
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: http://tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2017-18-National-League/