2017-18 US Youth Soccer National League Boys season kicks off in North Carolina
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WILSON, N.C. (Dec. 7, 2017) — The top teams in the country showcased their talent Thursday as several energetic matchups got the 11th season of US Youth Soccer National League Boys play underway in Wilson, N.C., and Rocky Mount, N.C. All of the teams in each of the 15U, 16U, 17U, 18U and 19/20U Boys age groups began their 2017-18 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 200 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.
The competitiveness and depth of the league was on full display on the season’s opening day, as just two of five defending National Championships — 16U Solar Chelsea Red 02 Stricker (TX-N) and 18U Baltimore Celtic SC 00 (MD) — came away with wins.
In the 16U White Division, Club Ohio Green 1 (OH-S) started off its National League campaign with a 2-0 win. Coach Michael Lawrence discussed the importance of the first day of play.
“Usually the most important thing is trying to get the first win,” Lawrence said. “Obviously, playing and traveling makes it a little tougher for the first day, but it’s never easy to get the first win. Usually the hardest one to win is the first game.”
Being familiar to the National League, Lawrence knows what the league is all about and what is at stake.
“The best thing about National League is that everyone has earned their place here,” Lawrence said. “There’s no one that’s been given anything. Every team is quality, so it presents a different challenge. Being part of the National League is a tremendous accomplishment. Being able to compete at National League and win games is even better.”
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 Friday, Dec. 8, 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…
Sporting BV SKC Academy 04 (KS) played a calm, organized game to defeat GPS Lexington SA 04 Gold (SC), 2-1, in 14U Red Division action. Maintaining possession and playing the ball around, the Kansas side scored its two goals within the first 11 minutes of the match. Braeden Borninkhof scored the first in the fifth minute, while Gage Daniels added another six minutes later. In the second half, Sporting continued to create combination plays as it searched for another goal, while GPS began to gain more chances and clear shots. After taking a few shots, Bruce Powers was able to bury a goal for GPS in the final minute of the game. Powers beat the Sporting goalkeeper and slot the ball into the goal. However, it was Sporting who walked away with the win.
In the 14U Blue Division, Oklahoma Energy FC 04 Central (OK) produced a last-second goal to defeat Striker FC – MV (CA-S), 2-1. Oklahoma Energy got on the board first as it was granted a free kick in the 14th minute. Rokas Pukstas lofted the ball over the wall and goalkeeper for an upper-net finish. Six minutes later, Striker FC struck back when it earned a penalty kick, which Carlos Flores placed in the right side of the net. Oklahoma Energy dictated the play through the second half and did not want to settle for the draw, gaining several dangerous chances. Daniel Gutierrez played a significant role in Oklahoma Energy’s push forward and had a couple close shots that were wide or bounced off the crossbar. Oklahoma Energy was finally rewarded as Gutierrez ran on a 1-v-1 breakaway and was fouled at the top of the 18-yard box. As it was the final play of the game, Pukstas stepped up to take the kick once again, and although the Striker goalkeeper got a hand on it, the ball landed in the goal. As soon as the ball crossed the line, the whistle blew, allowing Oklahoma Energy to run away with the win.
LVSA 03 Silver (NV) claimed a 5-1 victory over defending National Champions United SA Mt. Pleasant 03 Premier (SC) in the 15U Blue Division. LVSA started off the game with high intensity, so it was a matter of minutes until it got on the board. The first goal came as LVSA took a free kick at the top of the 18-yard box and found Alexander Alvarado on the left side with room to run. Alvarado took the ball down the line and played it across the face of the goal for the ball to be deflected into the net. Less than a minute later, LVSA went up 2-0 when a ball was played into Abigay Gomez, who found a pocket of space to strike a low shot into the goal. Determined to get back into the match, United SA cut into LVSA’s lead when Chase Kennedy scored in the 52nd minute. The goal boosted United SA’s energy, but LVSA quickly added to its lead when Abel Mendoza received a lay-off pass, chest trapped the ball and volleyed it into the net. Despite United SA’s second half push, LVSA responded by adding two more goals to the mix, thanks to Gabriel Miranda and a second from Mendoza.
An entertaining 16U Black Division match resulted in both teams earning a point, as CUP 02 Gold (OH-S) and Tuzos Academy 02 (AZ) played to a 1-1 draw on Thursday. After a few minutes for the teams to settle in, the Ohio South side grabbed an 11th-minute advantage. A nice build-up play saw the ball played toward the end line on the right wing. A CUP attacker played a quick square ball, which found Fernando Rodriquez for a tap-in goal to put his side in front. Tuzos responded in the 19th minute, when Gabriel Gonzalez found the back of the net to equalize the game at 1-1. Each team had its share of attacking possession in the second half, but neither side managed to secure a winning goal as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
In the 16U White Division, Club Ohio Green 1 (OH-S) came out on top of Arlington SA 2002 Red (VA) with a 2-0 victory. Arlington pushed its offense forward and had several early chances, but Club Ohio goalkeeper Trent McConnaughey kept the ball out of the net, and the defensive line stood strong. Although Arlington maintained the majority of the possession, Club Ohio capitalized on its few opportunities. In the 11th minute, David Urrea Partida, who was open on the left side of the field, received a ball from the opposite flank and found the bottom right corner of the goal to put Club Ohio ahead. Arlington did not stop working as Joseph Core blasted a driven shot to the upper corner, but the ball traveled wide. Club Ohio shut down Arlington’s chances with a second goal as Matthew McLaughlin picked up the ball outside of the 18-yard box and drove the ball to the back left corner or the goal. In the second half, while Arlington still fought to get into the game, Club Ohio took over the possession and created more opportunities for itself, yet the Ohio South side kept its two-goal lead for the win.
USA/MP 01 Premier (SC) got off to a flying start in the 17U Black Division with a 4-1 victory over defending group winner Raiders FC (IL). It took just seconds for the South Carolina side to go in front, as Jackson Stebbins netted the game’s opening goal in the first minute. Jonah Miller pushed the advantage to 2-0 before Felipe Ramirez pulled Raiders back within one with a strike just before the halftime whistle. Alexandre Ballish Regueiro pushed the USA/MP advantage to 3-1 with a 52nd-minute tally, and Evan Posnanski capped the 4-1 victory with a late insurance goal.
After winning the Black Division a year ago, McLean 00 Green (VA) earned a point to open 18U Black Division action with a scoreless draw against Ohio Premier (OH-S). The game flowed from end to end, as both sides managed to create opportunities for a breakthrough goal. In the 60th minute, McLean forward Kameron Bell-Cooper held off a defender before turning and shooting — forcing the OP keeper to push the attempt wide. Ten minutes later, OP generated a chance when left back Grant Simon made a trailing run and hit a low drive that the McLean keeper smothered. The Ohio South side continued to generate late pressure, and it narrowly missed on a final attempt when a 90th-minute header sailed just wide of the right post. With the draw, each side picked up a point that could prove to be valuable as the season progresses.
An historic streak came to an end on Thursday when TUSC 00 Red (TN) and Raiders FC (IL) played to a scoreless draw in 18U Red Division action. The result marked the first time in 15 National League matches that the Illinois side has dropped points after it won back-to-back division titles with 7-0-0 records. The physical matchup saw play go back and forth, but neither side managed to produce a breakthrough goal. With the result, TUSC and Raiders each earned a point, but they will be aiming to secure the full three with wins on the second day of play.
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/