ECNL BOYS NATIONAL PLAYOFFS DAY 7: A PERFECT ENDING
Heading into the ECNL Boys National Playoffs, Utah Avalanche were a perfect 9-0-0. With the U13s competing in a single-elimination knockout bracket, in order to win a championship, they would have to remain perfect.
Three postseason wins later, Utah were bound for the National Final, with San Diego SC standing in the way of a title.
They needed just one more win. And San Diego SC was primed to play spoiler.
From the opening whistle, the Utah Avalanche took it to San Diego. Holding possession and making run after run behind, Utah peppered the San Diego backline, but San Diego stood strong. Through the opening 20 minutes, the field was decidedly flipped in Utah’s favor. But coming out of the water break, San Diego started to string together possessions.
After multiple scoring opportunities for San Diego, a Utah counterattack found paydirt. Bringing the ball up the left wing, the Avalanche was able to draw the goalkeeper out of the net. Capitalizing on the scoring chance, Utah sent a cross into the box, resulting in an easy tap-in for Alejandro Vasquez to take a 1-0 lead.
That score held until early in the second half, when the Avalanche doubled their lead. After San Diego pressed high to equalize, Utah built a scoring attack from the back, methodically moving the ball up the field and into the attacking third. From outside the 18-yard box, Jace Thomsen ripped a shot into the top right corner, past the diving keeper to make it a 2-0 contest.
Utah made it a 3-0 game with a rocket of a shot as the game wound down. And at the final whistle, once again, Utah earned a victory.
“We were a bit tired from our first games, and to have a full rest day, the kids were ready to go,” said Head Coach Nate Murphy. “They were firing on all cylinders. We had a game plan going into it and they executed it very well. I loved the 16-team format. Every team was strong and you knew that you had to bring your A-game. San Diego, they were a great team but I think we played our best game of the tournament today and it earned us a trophy.”
From start to finish, Utah never suffered a defeat. They finished first in their division and won every game played, culminating in the first national championship in Utah Avalanche history.
“No one at our club had ever won a championship before,” Murphy said. “It’s been a pretty cool year with these kids. They’re a really unique set of boys. They’re all super talented but also really coachable and willing to learn. An undefeated season, our club’s first championship, both sets the bar high for the rest of our club. It sets the precedent that they can achieve those things. For them to continue to grow and to know that if they continue to work hard and do their best, they can achieve what they want in life.”
A perfect ending indeed.
To view the complete scores and schedules for the ECNL Boys National Playoffs, click here.