ECNL GIRLS NATIONAL FINALS DAY 1: ONE STEP CLOSER
For some, Saturday marked one step closer to the season’s ultimate goal. For others, it was the end of one pursuit and the beginning of another.
Twenty-four teams across the U17 – U13 age groups descended onto West Creek Soccer Complex in Richmond, Va., for the ECNL Girls National Finals. For the U17s, U16s, U14s and U13s, it was the Champions League semifinals, and for the U15s, it was the Champions League Quarterfinals. But regardless of what stage of the playoffs they were competing in, everyone gave it everything they had. And unfortunately for some, it meant the end of a run at a championship.
Below is a rundown of each age group of who is moving on to the National Championship and who will be heading to the third-place game.
LAFC Slammers 3, United Futbol Academy 1
Propelled by a prolific first half, LAFC Slammers locked in a spot in the National Championship match with its 3-1 win.
All four goals of the contest were in the first half with LAFC Slammers pulling away and then staying ahead. Slammers took the first goal of the game early in the first half off a beautiful header, but then just before the water break, UFA tied the game up with a stunning free-kick into the upper 90 to make it a 1-1 contest.
Less than a minute following UFA’s tally, LAFC Slammers regained the lead by means of a counterattack that found the back of the net. Then, with five minutes remaining in the first half, LAFC Slammers converted once again, using beautiful ball movement to lead to an easy far-post strike.
In the second half, LAFC Slammers used possession and stout defense to maintain its lead, not allowing any UFA comeback attempt to surface to earn the victory and the advancement.
MVLA 3, Solar SC 1
Aided by two first-half tallies, including one just before halftime, MVLA earned a 3-1 victory to move on to the National Championship.
MVLA was the first team to get on the board, scoring early as it capitalized on a rebound after a save by the Solar goalkeeper. But shortly after, Solar converted off a corner kick on the right side that saw a forward knock the ball across the line with a head to bring the game to 1-1.
Just before halftime, MVLA converted on another scoring attack to take a 2-1 lead into the break.
In the second, MVLA earned a corner kick from the right side, which resulted in the team’s third tally of the contest, coming off a header from inside the box. Trying to claw back into the game, Solar SC continued to send numbers forward, searching for a goal to change the tide, but MVLA refused to let their opponents in, shutting the door on every comeback attempt, taking the 3-1 victory and securing a spot in the National Championship.
PDA Blue 3, Richmond United 2
PDA Blue was able to overcome a two-goal deficit to upset the hometown team in a thrilling semifinal matchup Saturday.
PDA Blue and Richmond United both came out of the gates strong, earning scoring chances early and often. After PDA Blue nearly scored, Richmond launched a counterattack to take a 1-0 lead. Then, just before the water break, United scored once again in quick succession to double its lead to 2-0.
Then, just before halftime, PDA was able to bring the game even again at 2-2. That score held until there were less than 10 minutes remaining, when PDA Blue scored once more. With a corner kick to the left side of the pitch, the service resulted in a perfectly placed header, giving them the 3-2 lead and eventual win. Next up is the National Championship.
LAFC Slammers 2, Tampa Bay United Rowdies 0
In a battle of superb defenses, LAFC Slammers were able to break through twice en route to a 2-0 win.
In the first half, LAFC Slammers and Tampa Bay United traded chances, attacking and counter attacking, searching for the first goal of the game. But late in the first 45 minutes, LAFC Slammers finally got on the board to take a 1-0 into the second frame.
LAFC Slammers then made halftime adjustments and the result was an early second half tally to double the team’s lead. With the 2-0 advantage, Slammers let its defense do the work, thwarting any chance Tampa Bay United could muster. With its suffocating defense, LAFC Slammers cruised to a 2-0 win and a spot in the National Championship match.
Solar SC 4, LAFC Slammers 1
In the day’s only battle between the two teams fighting for the overall club championship, Solar SC managed to earn a 4-1 victory.
With both sides feeling each other out for the first minutes of the half, LAFC Slammers were the first team to find the scoreboard, converting on a penalty kick after Solar committed a foul in the box. Slammers’ 1-0 lead was not for long, though, as Solar immediately marched down the field and headed in a corner kick to tie the game at 1-1.
That 1-1 score held until early in the second half, when Solar was dragged down in the box, resulting in a PK. Solar stepped up to the line and buried a shot into the bottom right corner, taking the 2-1 lead.
Later on in the half, Solar split the defense for a breakaway, and the charging LAFC Slammers goalkeeper tripped up the forward, resulting in another PK that Solar buried for a 3-1 lead. Adding a fourth goal just before the final whistle and Solar booked its ticket in the National Championship game.
So Cal Blues 1, Jacksonville FC 0
So Cal Blues and Jacksonville FC played one of the tightest games of the entire day, where the game’s only goal was the difference.
Throughout most of the contest, So Cal Blues and Jacksonville FC traded possession and scoring chances. So Cal Blues opened the game with a majority of the scoring chances, but as Jacksonville FC settled into the contest, it thwarted So Cal Blues’ chances and pushed forward themselves.
As the two teams continued to attack and counterattack, it was finally So Cal Blues who got the break they needed.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, with the score tied 0-0, So Cal Blues earned a corner kick on the left side. With a service into the box, the So Cal Blues attack got just enough of a head on the pass to make it a 1-0 contest. That score held, and So Cal Blues will head to the National Championship game.
LAFC Slammers 4, San Juan SC 1
In a battle between two California clubs, LAFC Slammers emerged victorious after coming from behind.
San Juan jumped out to a 1-0 lead after converting a head early in the first half, but after the water break, LAFC Slammers tied the contest up thanks to its halftime adjustments. LAFC Slammers added a second tally before the end of the half, taking a 2-1 lead into the break.
Following halftime, LAFC Slammers took advantage of a fortunate bounce in the box to make it a 3-1 game, then added a fourth in the dying minutes to cap off the victory and landing a spot in the National Championship.
Eclipse Select 3, Solar SC 2
In one of the most exciting contests of the day, Eclipse Select erased a second-half deficit to snatch victory away from Solar.
Eclipse opened the scoring just minutes into the match, cashing in on a beautiful volley to grab the 1-0 lead. After allowing the goal though, Solar started to settle in, methodically working for their chances. Eventually, it leads to a scoring chance that paid off, as a shot to the near post squeaks in to knot the game at 1-1. Solar then took the lead late in the half as the squad continued to mount pressure against Eclipse.
Just like they did in the first half, Eclipse came out guns blazing and evened the game at 2-2 thanks to some pretty passing throughout the field. As the half wore down, both sides traded punches, looking for the game-winner, but it was Eclipse who would find it, rocketing a shot into the back of the net for the 3-2 with just five minutes remaining. Solar nearly tied it once again with a penalty kick in the final minutes, but the shot rang off the crossbar for the team’s last scoring chance of the game.
At the final whistle, it was Eclipse Select who earned the 3-2 win and a spot in the National Championship match.
Solar SC Advances
In the highest-scoring contest of the entire day, Solar SC and Internationals SC exploded for a combined 13 goals in their quarterfinal match. Internationals opened the scoring, but then Solar proceeded to score four of the game’s next five goals, taking a 4-2 lead at half.
Internationals fought its way back, bringing the game to a 6-6 tie that was destined for penalties. However, Solar Sc managed to find one more score, knocking in a service from a corner with no time left to secure the win.
World Class FC Advances
The only game to go to penalty kicks Saturday, World Class and Challenge SC were truly evenly matched. Challenge SC scored first in the contest and then added another to take a 2-0 lead, but then goals at the end of the first half and beginning of the second brought World Class back even.
Challenge SC once again found the back of the net to take a 3-2 lead, but then with just minutes left on the clock, World Class solved the Challenge defense one more time to make it a 3-3 game. In penalties, World Class FC outshot Challenge SC, moving on to the semifinals in the process.
KC Athletics Advances
Another high-scoring affair, KC Athletics managed to advance thanks to a high-scoring second half. WNY Flash and KC Athletics traded goals in the first half, with both sides scoring two, but then KC Athletics managed to pull away in the second to continue in the knockout stage.
San Diego Surf Advances
San Diego Surf and Colorado Rapids were also two evenly matched teams, but it was Surf that was able to find an extra gear and get the extra tally for the win. The two squads played to a scoreless first half, with the second being the determining factor. It was there where Surf was able to beat the Colorado Rapids keeper twice, booking its place in the semifinals Sunday.
To see the ECNL Girls National Finals scores, schedules and more, click here.