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LAS VEGAS (March 9, 2019) — The US Youth Soccer National League 14U, 15U, 16U, 17U, 18U and 19U Boys continued league play Saturday at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex and James Regional Sports Park in Las Vegas, Nev., alongside the 2019 Players College Showcase. The boys will wrap up the Las Vegas weekend on with games on Sunday, and many tickets to the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships are still to be secured.
Saturday saw four teams secure their ticket to Overland Park, Kan., with each of those sides clinching division titles.
Teams qualify for the National Championships by winning their division (14U-18U age groups) or by finishing in the top two of their division (19U age group). Aside from earning a ticket to Nationals, the top finishers in the 14U-18U age groups also have a chance to earn their automatic return to the league for the 2019-20 season.
“We had a setback [Friday] against a very good La Roca team,” 16U Milwaukee Bavarians 2003 (WI) coach Ben Gyurica said. “Today was a must-win game. The boys knew that. We talked about this being a must-win if we wanted to finish in the top two, at least, to requalify for the league. The boys’ mindset was fantastic from the start. It was a wonderful thing to watch as a coach.”
No matter what is on the line for the teams playing in Las Vegas, each game provides the players with an opportunity to grow by challenging themselves against top competition from around the country. Gyurica said playing at this level and having results matter benefits the players.
“We talk about development a lot, and we think a big part of development is learning how to win,” Gyurica said. “In the National League, games matter. It means something. Coming to a competition like this and developing the mentality to win, it’s fantastic. This competition brings it out of us, and it is great for our development as a whole.”
National League Boys action in Las Vegas wraps up on Sunday, March 10, with games beginning at 7:30 a.m. PT and the last matches kicking off at 12:25 p.m. PT (Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex) or 10:35 a.m. PT (James Regional Sports Park).
Some highlights from Saturday’s matches…
USA Premier 05 Angeletti (UT) and Rise 05B Elite I C (TX-S) both came into the second day of 14U Red Division play undefeated. With two wins on the day, Rise could clinch the division title, but USA entered the match with a different ending in mind. USA came out looking fierce from the opening whistle, taking it to the South Texas side. The first goal came in the 5th minute of play, as Trevor Walk got down the right flank and hit a low hard cross that was slammed in by Alan Dedic. Just five minutes later, Jake Sprunt added a second for USA as he finished a close range off a corner kick that was flicked on into the box. USA upped its advantage to 3-0 before halftime as Dedic hit a beautiful side volley off a cross into the box. Rise pushed to get back into the game and almost pulled one back, but USA’s Jeffrey Smith headed Rise’s Edvin Hasica’s chance off the goal line. Walk added a goal of his own late in the second half as he hit a shot far post to bring the final score to 4-0. USA ended the day in first place after earning a win in its second game against Pipeline 05 Boys PreAcademy (MD). A win or tie against in its game against Nationals Union 05 Black (MI) tomorrow will clinch the Red Division for USA, while Nationals will need the victory to earn the title via head-to-head tiebreaker.
Sporting KC Academy (KS) earned a 3-1 victory over Real Jersey FC (NJ) in its first game of the day to put itself in a great position in the 14U Blue Division standings. Real Jersey were the aggressors out of the gate and earned a 1-0 lead in the 5th minute. Anthony Perdomo beat two Sporting defenders to around the end and fired a shot that was saved by Charlie Duske. The ensuing rebound fell to Matthew Conger, who tapped it in from close range. The goal appeared to wake Sporting, as it began to possess the ball and put pressure on Real Jersey. Sporting equalized in the 16th minute when a cross played back into the box found Manuel Romero, who finished his chance. Just a minute later, Getasew Akalu ripped a blast from outside of the box to give Sporting a 2-1 lead. Sporting drew a penalty late in the first half that was converted by Gianluca Armellino, and the Kansas side closed out the half leading 3-1. Real Jersey’s best chance in the second half came as Anthony Perdomo got around a defender to the end line, but Duske came out and smothered the ball at his feet to stop the chance. The Sporting defense held strong the rest of the game to give it an important three points. After also earning a victory in its second game of the day, Sporting now face group co-leader Pennine United 05 (OH-N) to decide which team. Pennine will clinch the title with a win or a draw, so Sporting will need to play for a victory.
Libertyville FC 1974 Elite (IL) followed up its four points from Friday with six more points after earning 1-0 victories over FC Alliance 05 (WV) and Ukrainian Nationals 2005 Black (PA-E) on Saturday in 14U White Division play. Miguel Garcia scored the goal in the first game, while Saul Valadez scored the goal in the second. Libertyville earned its second victory today on a corner kick in the 43rd minute. The corner kick led to a scramble in the box that popped to Valadez. Valadez made no mistakes in finishing his chance to give his team the 1-0 victory. The six points moved Libertyville to the top of the table and allowed it to clinch the White Division title after getting some help from Santa Clara Sporting 05 Green (CA-N), who defeated KHA 05 Red (KY), 1-0. With the White Division title in hand, Libertyville has now booked its spot in the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships.
Nationals Union 04 Black (MI) kept itself in a position to contend for the 15U Blue Division title after earning a tight 1-0 victory over SC Del Sol White 04 (AZ). A late first half goal by Nolan Miller was all that separated the two sides in the first half. After some combination passing down the side, Jeremy Sharp played a cross into Miller, who collected the ball and finished his chance to push Union to a 1-0 lead. Sol pushed in the second half and almost leveled, but Jonathon Lopez’s flick-on header sailed just over the bar. Union had a chance to extend its lead as Jake Ursitti got in on goal, but Sol’s Norberto Lopez Valenzuela came up with a massive 1v1 save to keep his team in striking distance of an equalizer. Despite ending up a man down, Sol kept countering and looking for an equalizer but could not find a final connecting pass in the attacking third to level the score. With the win, Union now sit three points back of the Blue Division leader VHSC Steamers 04 Black (AL) heading into the final day of Vegas play.
TFA-San Fernando Valley (CA-S) spoiled LMSC Invictus’ (PA-E) chance to move closer to the Red Division leaders by earning a 2-0 victory over the Eastern Pennsylvania team. TFA almost took the lead early in the first half but saw a shot from outside of the box rocket off the crossbar. TFA’s Luis Lima scored the opening goal as he worked by two LMSC defenders and then slotted his shot into the bottom right of the goal. Lima added a second half goal to push TFA’s lead to 2-0, and the Cal South side’s defense did the rest to close out the game. With the loss, idle Oklahoma Energy FC 04 Central (OK) clinched the Red Division title.
Faced with a must-win situation, Milwaukee Bavarians 2003 (WI) came out on top in a wild 16U Red Division contest, as it won, 3-2, over Eastside FC (WA). The Washington side took a 22nd-minute lead after a strong start to the game. Eastside clipped a ball into the box from the left wing, and Ryan Clark hit a right-footed volley past the keeper to put his side up, 1-0. Milwaukee immediately replied, as Gabriel Anguil struck a low drive that hit off the keeper and found the back of the net. Following a handball in the box, Anguil converted a penalty kick to give the Bavarians an early second-half lead. This time, Eastside provide the quick response, as Anthony Suazo bent a shot around the keeper to equalize the score in the 49th minute. Despite going down a man, Milwaukee continued to generate pressure and capitalized on a 66th-minute free kick. Ryan Lamping curled in his attempt from outside the left side of the box an watched it sail into the far side-netting — providing the difference in Milwaukee’s 3-2 win.
In the 17U White Division, Michigan Jaguars 02 Green (MI) had a chance to inch closer to the top of the standings but settled for a 2-2 draw against Tuzos Academy 02 (AZ). The Michigan side started off well by taking a 21st-minute lead when Isaac Shiner converted a penalty kick. Shiner doubled the lead in the 31st minute by tapping a shot into an open net after Luke Benford got to the end line and played a square ball that sliced through the defense and keeper. Tuzos fought back in the second half and received a goal from Gonzalo Montejano, as well as a penalty kick conversion, to force a 2-2 draw. That result, coupled with a Chicago Magic Soccer (IL) win, allowed Chicago to move past the Jaguars and within striking distance of first place.
After two straight wins to start the season, Westside Timbers 01 Copa Red (OR) needed to pick up three points on Saturday to remain in contention for the 18U Red Division title. The Oregon side played a close match with Team Challenger FC 01 Black (OH-N) but ultimately dropped a 1-0 decision. Both sides exchanged threatening buildup play and dangerous free kicks in the opening half, but the game headed to the break in a scoreless tie. In the 57th minute, Logan Penton netted the game’s lone goal for Team Challenger, as the Ohio North side secured the 1-0 victory. With that result, Solar 01 Stricker (TX-N) — which compiled 11 points between North Carolina and Florida — clinched the Red Division title.
Despite being a man down, SLSG Elite 01 (MO) battled back from a two-goal deficit to earn a 4-3 win over KHA 01 Red (OH-S) in 18U Blue Division action. Camden Dunne got SLSG off to a good start with an 11th-minute goal, but KHA received strikes from Michael Wampler and Conner Harper to take a 2-1 lead into halftime. KHA extended the lead in the 54th minute when Connor Ammon received a through ball and fired his shot inside the left post. SLSG, which had a player sent off early in the second half, showed an immediate sense of urgency after falling behind by two goals. The Missouri side’s Christian Kraus swung in a low cross from the right wing that Tony Bodul directed into the net to pull SLSG within a goal. Dillon Flynn kept the momentum going and equalized for SLSG in the 61st minute, as he cut onto his right foot, fought off a defender and hit a shot into the roof of the net. Flynn finished off the comeback with a 71st-minute goal, as SLSG fought back for the 4-3 victory. The win pulled SLSG within a point of idle group leader PPA KSA 01 Pro-Profile (GA) in the standings.
In the 19U Blue Division, Saturday’s results allowed idle Lehigh Valley United 2000 Black (PA-E) to clinch a first-place finish, while Downtown LVSC 00 Gold (NV) and St. Louis Scott Gallagher Elite 2000 (MO) are still playing for a shot at second place. Meanwhile, multiple teams are still in contention for second place in the 19U Red Division.
The National League’s alumni have gone on to prove themselves at the collegiate and professional levels, with former players competing in NCAA Division I, II and III, Major League Soccer, National Women’s Soccer League, the UEFA Champions League, the Olympics and the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: USYouthSoccer.org/tournaments/2018-19-National-League/