ECNL FLORIDA – REGIONAL LEAGUE DAY 1 RECAP: WE GOT THIS
We Got This
Time was winding down and South Carolina United was still searching for its first goal of the contest.
The club’s U18/19 ECNL Regional League team was facing off against Prince William Courage at ECNL Florida – Regional League Friday morning and was trailing 1-0. The Courage scored early in the contest, as a long ball from the defense found the foot of Cole Dunbar in the attacking third. He made a great one-touch to himself to slip through the defense, and then beat the charging goalkeeper for an easy tap-in in the 12th minute for the lead.
“We felt a bit unlucky on the goal,” said South Carolina United Head Coach Matthew Drapeau. “They sucked us in and got us in a transition moment and then played one over the top. A beautiful touch by the kid to put it away too.”
Following that goal, both clubs fought in the midfield, trying to tilt the pitch in their favor. In the immediate aftermath, Prince William continued to get the majority of the scoring chances. As the half wore on though, play started to slowly shift toward South Carolina. It would continue to see-saw, going back and forth, even after the second half commenced.
“We talked about what we did well, in the first half,” Drapeau said. “The best parts of the first half were when we kept it and swung it. So we wanted to continue to do that, staying true to the game plan. And if we did, eventually, a goal will come.”
The two teams both were in first place in their respective ECNL Regional Leagues heading into the match, and it showed on the field; neither side giving an inch to the other, punching and counterpunching, trying to chip away at the opponent’s backline for that all-important second goal of the match.
And yet, from the 12th minute to the 75th, neither side could breakthrough. That is, until the 76th minute.
After pressure from the South Carolina offense and multiple set pieces, quickly following a restart, Lane Greenlee found the ball at his feet. With his back to the net, Greenlee pivoted and ripped a shot with his right foot. It ricocheted off the left post and into the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1.
Now even, both sides spent the last 14 minutes of the match pushing for the go-ahead goal, which created a wild and extremely open finish. Prince William had multiple scoring chances off corner kicks, serving the ball long to the back post, with headers just missing the frame. At the other end, South Carolina also worked the far side of the pitch, forcing big saves from the Courage keeper.
Finally, in the 86th minute, the ball found the back of the net one more time.
With the ball in the midfield, South Carolina’s Noah Cunningham saw an opening and sprinted down the left side of the pitch, receiving a throughball in the process. Still at full speed, he sliced through the defense to get a clean look on net. He swung and slipped his shot underneath the goalkeeper and just to the left of the post, knocking it home to give his club a 2-1 lead with just four minutes to go.
In those final four minutes, South Carolina defended well, mixing conservative defense with strong on-the-ball pressure, negating any scoring chance for Prince William. At the final whistle, the club had earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
“We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve taken a lead late then our opponent has come back,” Drapeau said. “So to see resiliency, making the right decisions, doing the defensive work, that was huge. We thought we had played better, so to fight and get the game-winner in the 86th minute was fantastic.”
It was just the start of the tournament for South Carolina United, but having that type of game to begin a showcase is encouraging. Not just because of the result, but because of the process and what his players showed on the pitch to those in attendance.
“It’s not about wins and losses in a showcase, it’s about playing your best soccer,” Drapeau said. “A lot of these kids are talented and they deserve an opportunity. So to be able to come to an event where you know there’s going to be quality coaches that are looking for quality players. It’s just great for these kids and a great opportunity. And we really appreciate the ECNL for putting on an event like this for all the teams in the Regional League.”
“Today marked a tremendous moment for the ECNL Regional Leagues, welcoming clubs from around the country to a beautiful venue for showcasing opportunities in front of college coaches,” said Jason Kutney, ECNL Boys Commissioner. “With hundreds of NCAA Men’s College Coaches registered for ECNL Florida, the presence along the sidelines today validated the efforts and abilities of these boys.”
To view the complete scores and schedule from ECNL Florida – Regional League, click here.