• December 4, 2021

In Fate’s Hands

There was a single moment that changed the tide of Saturday’s game between Virginia Union FC and South Carolina Surf at ECNL South Carolina that foretold how the rest of the match was going to go. It came late in the first half, when there was still plenty of time left, and yet, following it, you just knew one side was going to earn the win.

After plenty of scoreless play between the two sides for the majority of the opening frame, South Carolina Surf was really laying its attack on thick. Goalkeeper Eli Butler was a brick wall, making save after save. Surf had another wave of attacking coming when Virginia Union committed a foul in the box, setting up a penalty kick when San Diego was feeling extremely dangerous.

Butler stared down his opponent when he stepped up to the spot to take his shot. When he ran forward, the ball went low to the right. Butler hit the ground, making the stop, but couldn’t corral the rebound. Surf followed its shot, and one-timed the rebound back on frame. Butler popped up and shut the door again, blocking the second shot with his legs. His defense crashed the net and cleared the ball, closing Surf’s best chance of the afternoon.

The Virginia squad was fired up.

“That was a huge momentum shift,” Butler said. “You just have to have some confidence in yourself. It’s all a guessing game, but I got it right today and once you do that, it’s all good from there. I actually thought the second save was harder than the first, just to get up and react, but it was a great feeling.”

Using that momentum, Virginia Union took over the game. But it wasn’t with overwhelming possession but rather being smart with their possessions. Surf continued to press and continued to bombard the Union’s goalkeeper, even after Butler finished his half. It wasn’t until midway through the second half that finally, a team got on the board.

Surf was pushing forward once again, building out of the back and looking to time a long run with a breakaway opportunity. However, the Virginia Union defense cut off the build-up, allowing a quick counter to form.

Felix Green corralled the ball and raced down the left sidelines, with one of his teammates streaking down the middle of the pitch for an odd-man opportunity. Green put in a cross to his teammate, who kicked it right back to Green. Determined to do it himself, Green took a shot on net, beating the opposing goalkeeper to give his team a 1-0 lead.

“I got the ball in the midfield and was looking for my left wing,” Green said. “From there it was just a finish. Nothing too special about it.”

Now trailing, Surf continued to push numbers forward looking for the equalizer. But it just wasn’t their day. Virginia Union’s backline continued to stand tall, thwarting Surf’s constant attack. Meanwhile, when presented with a quality scoring chance, the ball always seemed to find the keeper or just miss the net.

Never discouraged by the near misses, both teams stuck to their game plans, and when the final whistle blew, Virginia Union had earned its first win of the showcase.

“Moving forward we just need to keep up that defensive effort,” Green said. “We need to keep having those penetrating passes, getting good shots and hopefully scoring a lot of goals. Winning in a showcase like this, it felt amazing and is really important.”

“Felix’s goal, he had been working so hard all game, so it was great to see him get rewarded,” Butler added. “He won it for us. I thought they had a great team, but we worked hard throughout the entire game and pulled it out in the end. Hopefully we can repeat this effort and keep it going for the rest of our season.

To view all ECNL South Carolina scores and the full schedule, click here