ECNL VIRGINIA: DAY 3 IN REVIEW
Burning at Both Ends
After a 4-2 win against Charlotte SA on Friday and a 2-0 loss to BRYC Elite Academy on Saturday, Palm Beach United’s U16 team went into Monday’s matchup against Ohio Elite looking to end ECNL Virginia on a high note.
However, the contest did not begin in Palm Beach’s favor, as Ohio Elite scored within the first minute. Tannar Beermann received a leading pass splitting the defense, forcing the Palm Beach goalkeeper off his line. Beermann deftly knocked the ball ahead and out of Jack Sanchez’s reach, giving himself an easy tap-in.
In a very early 1-0 hole, the Palm Beach squad had to methodically chip away at the Ohio Elite defense. Palm Beach United and Ohio Elite each had no issues moving the ball into the final third, but once there, couldn’t find a connecting pass to lead to a finishing touch. Midway through the half though, Palm Beach United finally linked up.
Palm Beach United earned a corner from the left side and the team put a service on the ground into the box. Crashing the back post, Maxwell Charles managed to get a foot on the pass and redirect the shot into the back of the net, knotting the game at 1-1.
Using the momentum from its goal, Palm Beach United ramped up its offense, earning a number of chances off both set pieces and the run of play. But each time, Ohio Elite’s netminder kept the offense at bay.
Heading into halftime, the score was tied 1-1. But it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Early in the second half, Palm Beach United broke through once again. Through the run of play, the Palm Beach United defense forced a diving save by William Haverland, but the rebound came right to the feet of Stephen Hall. He blasted a shot on net, and while the goalie got his hands on the ball, it wasn’t enough to stop it, giving Palm Beach United a 2-1 lead.
Palm Beach continued to use its offense as its best defense, refusing to allow Ohio Elite the opportunity to mount a counterattack. Controlling possession for the rest of the contest, Palm Beach United secured its second win of the weekend in the 2-1 victory.
“It’s great to end the showcase on a good note,” said Levo Gular, Palm Beach United U16 Head Coach. “After allowing an early goal like that, you have to keep your composure. The game isn’t finished until the last minute. Our players kept calm on the ball and found our opportunities. I’m very pleased with how we responded and how we handled ourselves during the showcase.”
Monday morning presented perhaps the best contest of the entire weekend, when the 20-0-0 Lonestar SC South U17 team faced off against the 12-0-5 STA U17 squad. It was a battle of two undefeateds and it certainly lived up to the hype.
Within the first minute, Lonestar SC jumped out to a 1-0 lead, catching STA off-guard with an early attack. Benjamin Paranidharan received a through ball from the Lonestar SC midfield and went in on STA’s goalkeeper all alone. He calmly a shot past Ryan Friedberg for one the quickest goals of the entire weekend.
Being in a 1-0 hole early was nothing new for STA, but also something the coaching staff stressed would be problematic for the club.
“It was obviously far from ideal, having them score with just 24 seconds on the clock,” said Tom Shields, STA U17 Head Coach. “We preached about starting fast. We’ve tried to warn them, against good teams, we can’t afford to gift goals away and we can’t afford to give head starts in games where we’re playing the quality of opposition that we did today.”
Even with a lead, there was still a full game to play and the two sides went blow for blow with each other. For every STA attack, there was an equal counterattack by Lonestar SC.
In the 15th minute, Lonestar nearly doubled its lead when Victor Landin-Aviles curled a shot from the left side of the box, only to be thwarted at the last second by Friedberg. STA returned fire in the 24th minute when Matais Arbelaez Borrero made a beautiful pass right to the foot of his teammate, but the shot went directly into the hands of Edward Alonzi.
In the final seconds of the first half, STA finally broke through, evening the game at 1-1. STA earned a free-kick from long range, and the club decided to make a short pass on the left side. From there, the service went into the box, where Zachary Feldman jumped for a header and redirected it into the net. Just after the tally, the referee blew the whistle for halftime.
Coming out of the break, Lonestar SC put pressure on the STA backline, earning a pair of free kicks in tight within the first 10 minutes of the half. But each time, the STA defense blocked the shot and cleared the rebound before anything more could develop.
Fueled by its defensive stalwartness, STA started to flip the field in its favor, bringing about an impressive offensive push. In the 60th minute, the team was rewarded for its efforts.
Using his speed, Josh Virgil caught a pass and sprinted down the field, sensing an opportunity to strike. He made a pass into the middle for Gavin Scavino, who shook a defender and then took a shot on net. Aiming for the far post, his shot avoided the outstretched hand of Alonzi, giving STA a 2-1 lead with 20 minutes to go.
As the minutes wound down, Lonestar SC’s desperation started to mount, and as such, the club did more and more to find a tying tally. In the 69th minute, Luke Hanna engaged in a long run into the box, setting himself up for a great scoring chance, but the STA defense reacted and didn’t allow him to get a shot off.
Lonestar kept adding more and more pressure to its attack and in the 78th saw its last chance of the game. The team put a pass into the box, looking for a foot to push it over the line, but Friedberg saved Landin-Aviles’ shot.
At the final whistle, Lonestar saw its perfect season come to a close with the 2-1 defeat, while STA maintained its unbeaten streak.
Despite the loss, Lonestar saw positives from the match, outlining how it can help the team come playoff time.
“I’d rather lose today than the playoffs,” said Darren Warham, Lonestar SC South’s U17 Head Coach. “To win 20 games and lose one, I’m OK with it. I think when you win 20 games in a row, you kind of become overconfident. So when you become overconfident, you start seeing little mistakes creep in. So in all honesty, I think it’s a good thing. They’ll come back, they’ll learn from it.”
As for STA, it’s another positive outcome for the club and continues them on the path they have been pursuing since the beginning of the season.
“Obviously, the boys dug themselves a hole at the start of the game, but I’m absolutely delighted at the character that they showed, the quality that they showed,” Shields said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them and happier for them. I hope they take the confidence they’ve earned from this weekend, carry it into good training sessions, more good games in league play, and try to finish the season as strongly as we can and as high as we can in the Northeast Conference. And then see what the summer brings.”
Still seeking a win on the weekend, Charlotte SA’s U17 team didn’t want to leave ECNL Virginia empty-handed, setting up one last chance for a victory when they faced off against Baltimore Celtic Union.
The two teams played exclusively in the midfield for the first 10 minutes of the contest and during that time, Charlotte SA sensed a weakness in Baltimore Celtic that to exploit. Once realized, it did not take long for the Charlotte side to execute its plan.
Charlotte stole the ball in the middle of the pitch and immediately put a ball in deep along the left side. James Kelly ran onto the ball and then crossed it into the middle, where Sebastian Mitchell was laying in wait for an easy tap-in tally at the 12-minute mark.
Ten minutes later, the duo nearly did it again, with Kelly sending in a service to the box with Mitchell ready to cash in, but this time, the shot was blocked by the Baltimore defense at the last moment. Charlotte continued to launch balls from the backline up the field, but could not find a second goal in the half, taking a 1-0 lead into the break.
After reinforcing the game plan at halftime, Charlotte SA came out and scored two goals in quick succession. In the 49th minute, Kelly added a goal with his assist when he received a pass inside the box and chipped a shot over the goalkeeper, Bryson Shaull, for the score, which began with a long pass from the Charlotte defense.
In the 55th minute, Charlotte SA made it a 3-0 contest, converting on a free kick. Ardlai Pinto took the kick from outside the left corner of the box and his shot went under the jumping wall and past the diving Shaull for the score.
Charlotte SA continued to keep Baltimore Celtic Union in check throughout the rest of the half, but the Maryland squad saved its best scoring chance for last.
Taking a play out of Charlotte’s playbook, Baltimore sent in a long pass from its backline down the right side of the pitch. The Charlotte goalkeeper came out to challenge, when the Celtic forward managed to get a shot around the goalkeeper. Destined for the back of the net, the Charlotte defender got to the net and made a goal line clear just in time to maintain the clean sheet. Not one minute later, the final whistle sounded, with Charlotte earning the 3-0 win.