By Jonathan Duren 

Team Effort

So Cal Blues’ U17 squad supported their offense with great defense as they were able to make a first-half goal stand for a 1-0 win against Colorado Rapids Sunday morning.

So Cal Blues were defensively sound across the entire field even though they were tested early, stopping multiple shots off a corner kick by Colorado in the 10th minute. So Cal Blues got their midfielders involved shortly after that, winning the ball upfield and feeding a pass to Tatum O’Coyne, who was able to beat the keeper to the far post for the 1-0 lead.

The Rapids had multiple looks on goal in the latter 20 minutes of the first half, hitting the post in the 21st minute. Near the 40-minute mark, Colorado earned another scoring chance, when a strong attacking run down the right side by Hannah Murphy gave way to a shot in the middle from Alyx Hiatt, forcing So Cal Blues goalkeeper Teagan Wy to make a big save to maintain the lead. 

Colorado Rapids didn’t miss a beat in the second half and kept pushing downfield in pursuit of an equalizing goal. They were able to get a shot on frame right off the restart, but another good save by Wy kept So Cal Blues ahead.

As time wore on, Colorado Rapids began to get creative as they searched for a goal. Colorado Rapids earned a throw-in in an attacking position in the 74th minute, and Heather Gilchrist executed a flip throw to get some extra distance into the box. That throw eventually led to a cross sent to the back post, but So Cal Blues was able to clear the ball out of danger. Colorado Rapids made one last-gasp effort in the 78th minute, but a cross into the box went right into the hands of the goalie.

With defense leading the way, So Cal Blues was able to end the showcase on a high note with the 1-0 win and a perfect weekend. So Cal Blues Head Coach Terri Patraw said she was proud of her team playing a tough game in their third game and said the active midfielders and forwards were key to the victory.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game,” Patraw said. “It was the third game in this heat and humidity for this crew. But we got it done and we’re happy to leave here with three wins.”

Patraw also saluted Wy, saying she’s been dependable for the team.

“She’s special, she’s a big-game keeper,” Patraw said. “It gives us a lot of confidence with her at the back. She’s steady and she makes everything look simple.”

So Cal Blues will head home with three wins in their pocket, and Patraw said she and her team enjoyed their time at the showcase.

“It was awesome, it was a perfect event,” Patraw said. “The ECNL did a fantastic job with it and it was very organized.”

Pressure Cooker

Wilmington Hammerheads’ U16 squad was able to break through against Ohio Premier U16 defense in the first half to take a 1-0 lead, but Ohio Premier was able to overcome the deficit with a high volume of chances for a 2-1 win.

Ohio Premier seized early control of the game, forcing the Hammerheads defense into tough saves and clearances in the first 10 minutes of the game. Wilmington was able to weather the storm and was rewarded for it, securing the game’s first goal in the 22nd minute. Gabrielle Farrel made a determined run through the midfield and cut past defenders to get into the box to get a shot off. The effort was parried away by OP goalkeeper Ava Watson, but Celia Diener was ready for the second effort and knocked the ball into the waiting net.

Ohio Premier stuck to their attack-focused game plan and won a corner in the 26th minute after two shots in the box were stopped by the Wilmington defense. The first shot off the corner was defended, but a second effort from the left side turned into a tally, as Sophia Penegor rose above the defense to head home a goal. Both sides put together a handful of chances before the end of the half, but the defenses were up to the task, keeping the game at 1-1.

Ohio Premier continued his high press to begin the second half and they were able to turn that into a go-ahead goal in the 54th minute. Olivia Heskett stepped up and intercepted a pass in the attacking third for Ohio Premier and immediately played a through ball for Emily Barnett into the box. Barnett picked her spot, screaming the ball into the bottom right corner to send her team ahead.

Barnett nearly picked up her second goal not just a few minutes later, but Hammerheads goalkeeper Avery Kievit made an impressive one-on-one save to deny the opportunity. Wilmington Hammerheads’ backline defended well as a team in the second half to stop multiple chances from Ohio Premier and sparked counterattacking opportunities, but Ohio Premier was able to keep their one-goal lead for the remainder of the contest.

Ohio Premier Chris King said he was pleased with his team’s resilience Sunday.

“It’s a long weekend,” King said. “After we gave up the goal, the kids just kept playing. We talked about how we’d have to face some adversity in our last game and I felt like they dealt with it very well.”

King noted the team’s ability to stay in formation and play from wide areas gave them the advantage on the way to the win.

“Our wide players were able to ask questions of their backline,” King said. “When they stayed pinched, we did a good job of identifying and playing to our wide players’ feet. And when they stretched out we were able to find some seams in the middle. We did a good job of asking the right questions and finding the right answers.”

King said being able to attend the showcase has been exciting for the team, especially with college coaches back on the sidelines.

“We’ve missed this for a while now,” King said. “The kids were excited to be here. I think the college coaches might have been more excited than the kids. It’s been a great atmosphere and from day one we’ve had great weather. It’s been tremendous.”

Fun In The Sun

Richmond United U17 and Sunrise Prime combined to score three goals in five minutes during Sunday’s contest, with the Florida side using its two tallies to break a 2-2 deadlock and cruise to victory.

Richmond United’s Jill Flammia scored a brace in the match, notching the first goal of the contest after some tight passing opened up a turn-and-shoot opportunity at the top of the box in the 16th minute. Sunrise Prime’s Pietra Tordin responded with the first of three goals on the day. In the 27th minute, after blocking a clearance by the goalkeeper from the left side of the box, Tordin took one touch and hit a rocket to the top corner to level the game.

Sunrise Prime added another goal in the 38th minute to take a 2-1 lead after an interception in the midfield led to a goal for Enasia Colon.

Richmond United evened the score once again after Flammia scored her second goal on a penalty kick in the 54th minute, and that’s where the fireworks began. Just three minutes after the penalty kick, Tordin fought through the Richmond United defense to allow Sunrise Prime to regain their advantage, and then Leah Finkelman struck less than two minutes later to solidify the team’s lead.

Tordin completed her hat trick with 10 minutes remaining in the game, capping off an impressive performance and securing her team a major victory.