• January 22, 2021

By Jacob Born | January 22, 2021

The Bird and the Worm

Imagine flying more than 2,300 miles across two different time zones, and then having to wake up the next morning for your first kickoff of the weekend. 

Such was the case for Utah club La Roca. 

Having just played one conference game ahead of ECNL Florida, the La Roca U-15 side opened the tournament against a Florida West squad that had a much more manageable three-hour drive. 

But La Roca wouldn’t let travel be an excuse. The club came out and scored two goals in the first half and cruised to a Day 1 victory. 

“It was a lot of hours,” said La Roca coach Adolfo Ovalle. “We had to stop in Denver before continuing on here to Orlando. But once you’re excited about this trip, you just make it happen, you make it work. We showed up to a great hotel, got a great night’s sleep, and showed up excited to play.”

La Roca opened the scoring midway through the first half when Amir Odeh capitalized on a scoring chance. A long-range shot by La Roca looked like it would find the back of the net, but the Florida West defense made a goal-line block before the rebound rolled right to Odeh’s feet and with a wide-open net, he did not miss. 

As the first half wound down, La Roca doubled its lead. Luke Wilcoxen made a great individual effort to get to goal near the center of the box and his ensuing shot led to a ball bouncing around in the box. Benjamin Taylor picked it up and buried a shot into the back of the net for the second tally. 

In the second half, La Roca continued to press and defend well, not allowing Florida West to get many chances. The best opportunity for their opponent came off a free kick 30 yards out when Diego Mora Valdettaro rifled a shot off the crossbar. The set-piece led to multiple rebounds inside the box, but the La Roca back line kept every one out of the net. 

At the final whistle, it was an impressive showing for La Roca, not letting lack of game experience this year or travel get in the way of a big win. 

“This environment is just so unique and so wonderful,” Ovalle said. “The level of the fields, the level of the opponents, it’s just really, really great. We’re excited and happy that we have two more games this weekend.”

Back Against The Wall

This season is Louisville City Academy’s first in ECNL and ECNL Florida happens to be the U-17 side’s first national event. With just one league game under their belt, Louisville City matched up against the 9-6-3 GSA, playing a fiercely even 80 minutes that showcased the high level of talent in the league. 

“It’s really cool that we can play different teams from different regions,” said Louisville City coach Simon Bird. “These events the ECNL put on are awesome. GSA is top-quality competition. It’s fun to play against those athletic, physical, well-coached teams.” 

The two sides traded body blows early, with each team getting quality scoring chances from free kicks close to the box. But it was GSA who got on the board first when Piers Ringdahl found pay dirt. The Louisville City Academy goaltender made an initial save on a shot from GSA, but the rebound broke free after a GSA challenge. Ringdahl directed the rebound on net, which bounced off a Louisville City defender and across the line for the score. 

GSA extended its lead to 2-0 shortly after halftime thanks to a tally from Ervin Alic. Fighting through a foul, Alic ripped a shot into the bottom left corner of the net for the goal. 

As the clock wound down, Louisville City pushed more and more forward, before finally cutting GSA’s lead to 2-1. Louisville City was awarded a corner and from the left flag sent a low service into the box. As the cross threaded through the GSA defense, Jacob Melendez one-timed the serve into the back of the net. 

Just minutes later, Louisville City evened the score at 2-2. Controlling a ball at the top of its own box, the GSA defense attempted to pass the ball back to its keeper. However, the defender’s pass went awry and went in for an unfortunate own goal. 

In the closing minutes, both sides put everything into their respective offenses, but neither could find the game-winner. The result was a highly entertaining, competitive and physical 2-2 draw. 

“On one hand, being 2-nil down, we’re happy to come back and get the draw,” Bird said. “But on the other, we missed opportunities, and just talking to the guys at the end, they wished they had an extra five minutes. We’re happy with the result at the end but also disappointed we couldn’t complete the comeback.” 

Gotta Blast

Space Coast United, another club in its first season in ECNL, opened the national event against Eclipse Select SC, a team that is seeing its first game action of the year this weekend. Opposing one of the original Midwest Conference clubs, Space Coast United rose to the occasion with a 1-0 victory, primarily due to the team’s resiliency. 

“We’ve had high school games this week, but the resilience was there,” said Space Coast United coach Nicholas Robinson. “The defensive effort in the second half I was really happy with.”

The lone goal of the contest came within the opening minutes, as Space Coast United converted a free kick to the left of the box. Space Coast lobbed the ball toward the far post, where the Eclipse Select goalkeeper attempted to punch out the pass. However, the goalkeeper misjudged and Space Coast headed it back toward the close post. Waiting there was Conner Floyd, waiting to tap it in for the score.  

As the game progressed, Space Coast United was content managing the game from their end, weathering the Eclipse Select pressure and looking for opportunities to counter. Eclipse Select methodically attacked and re-attacked, and each time, Space Coast United was ready and made the necessary stops. 

Eclipse Select’s best chance came midway through the second half, when their forwards had numbers up heading into the final third. Using the numerical advantage well, from the left side Eclipse Select launched a shot that hit the left post and ricocheted out in front. Players were ready to pounce on the loose ball, but the Space Coast United goalkeeper jumped on it before allowing another shot. 

Making more big saves, Space Coast United kept the Illinois side off the board and earned the team’s first win of the weekend at the final whistle. 

“Every single game is a tough game in this league,” Robinson said. “No matter what happens, you have to be at your best, otherwise you’re going to be punished. Our defense and midfield made it as difficult as possible for their front three, front four, just to get any good looks. As long as we did that and not give anyone good opportunities and minimized them, I knew we’d earn the clean sheet.”

Around The Pitch

  • The U-15 age group averaged the most goals per game on Day 1 (3.42 goals per game) while the U-18/19 age group averaged the least goals per game (2.82). 
  • There were 32 clean sheets among the 62 games played today, with the U-16 age group leading the way with 10. 
  • Of the 20 clubs that brought a team for every age group at ECNL Florida, none were able to escape the day 4-0-0. 


About The ECNL:

The ECNL is the nation’s leading youth soccer development platform. The ECNL respects and celebrates the unique individuality of every youth soccer player and club, supporting and enabling them to unleash their unfettered passion and fierce tenacity in striving to achieve their potential. 

The ECNL mission to Raise the Game is a total commitment to create the best possible environment for players, coaches, referees and administrators, with a determination to constantly question convention and challenge the status quo in youth sports.

The ECNL Commitment:

We will lead, set our eyes on new horizons, and pursue them relentlessly. 

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