School’s In Session

Heading into the event, the PDA Blue U14 squad was one of just two teams in the age group that were undefeated, and on Friday, they faced off against the 8-2-2 Jacksonville FC team. It was a back and forth affair, with just one goal scored between the two sides. 

That lone goal came late in the first half off the foot of Maya Nuwayhid. She wove through the Jacksonville FC defense and sprung herself for a breakaway. With the goalkeeper coming off her line, she made a quick move and kicked home the score. With the 1-0 lead, it was time to let the PDA defense go to work. 

Throughout the second half, the entire PDA Blue backline had a bend-but-don’t-break mentality. Jacksonville FC lodged attack after attack, but as soon as they hit the final third, the PDA Blue defense would not let them get any further. With minimal chances, PDA was able to lock down the squad’s 14th win of the season and maintain their perfect record. 

“It was great to get a win here today,” said Larry Hart, PDA Blue Head Coach. “It’s great to see other good competition at events like this. You come down here to events like this to learn. We learned some strengths and some weaknesses today, and when you play quality teams like Jacksonville FC, that’s what you want to do, to learn. And we’ll hopefully keep learning throughout the weekend.”

Thunder and Lightning

The best part about ECNL National Events is being able to play competition outside of the conference schedule, which means facing a team you’ve never played before. It’s even better when it’s your first showcase in more than a year.

“This was our first showcase since Houston last year,” said David Alberti, Minnesota Thunder U14 Head Coach. “It’s just fun to get out here and play. And being from Minnesota, it’s good to escape the cold and be able to play some great soccer.” 

Minnesota wasted no time, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first half when Maddyn Greenway beat the FC Delco netminder. Greenway then notched a brace midway through the second half when the Thunder were awarded a penalty kick due to a foul in the box. Greenway stepped up to the spot and let her shot rip, burying her shot low to the left side of the net. 

Alberti gave credit to his backline following the game, saying because of their success of weathering any FC Delco attack, it gave the forwards the opportunity to press and look for goals, which led the team to victory. 

“Our defense, they’re just very gritty defenders,” Alberti said. “They’re tough and they’re physical. Our centerbacks lead the way and everybody just feeds off of that. Our backline is always very solid for us.”

Straight To The Net

For SLSG White’s U13 team, ECNL South Carolina did not start the way the club hoped it would. 

FC Dallas jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the first half, and then the club’s only goalkeeper went down with an injury. 

At halftime, Head Coach Kelsey Dinges asked the team who wanted to sub in and play goalkeeper. Immediately, the hand of Caroline Wylie shot up. 

“We talked at halftime, how we could come out with our heads down, or we could go out and protect Caroline and fight and compete for one another,” Dinges said. “Our players always have a lot of fight and they love the game, and they wanted to fight and compete for each other. That really showed this throughout the second half.”

In the second half, Wylie kept FC Dallas off the board, with her entire team rallying around her. Defenders made sure to block shots and clear loose balls, while attackers put everything they could on net. What resulted was a goalless second frame for FC Dallas, and in addition to the second half clean sheet, SLSG White scored late in the frame to cut into their opponents’ lead. 

Despite not finding an equalizer and ultimately falling to FC Dallas 2-1, at the end of the game, Dinges said the No. 1 thing the team can take from the game was how everyone played for each other. 

“You love to see them have a competitive edge and to work for one another,” Dinges said. “The camaraderie the team showed was really, really good. I was really proud of them.” 

Day 1 of ECNL South Carolina is now in the books, and Day 2 will continue to bring that same intense competition, team building and incredible atmosphere athletes come to expect from ECNL National Events.