ECNL ARIZONA CLUB COMPETITION DAY 1 RECAP: COMPOSED AND CONFIDENT
Since ECNL Boys introduced the National Selection Games for the 2021-22 season, every single contest has been incredibly exciting. From penalty kicks to showstopping goals and raucous crowds, it is always a must-attend at national events. And at ECNL Arizona, the NSG once again lived up to the hype.
Team West came out from the opening whistle, determined to leave its impact on the game early and often. Just five minutes into the contest, D’Andre Pickett (FC Tucson) opened the scoring for the boys in white. Running down a ball near the touchline on the right side of the pitch, Pickett placed a low-angle shot on net that beat the goalkeeper and found the side-netting for the 1-0 lead.
“Scoring that goal was amazing,” Pickett said. “One dude on the team saw me and he said I had the biggest smile on my face. You see all the stuff about the NSG on social media, and to be able to score in one, I just can’t believe it.”
Just five minutes later, Team West doubled its lead to 2-0 off a strike from Joel Wollin (Seattle United), slipping a shot under the goalkeeper for the tally. Their lead held at two through the water break, but following the mid-half break, Jack Civitts (Crossfire Premier) buried his shot seconds after the restart to make it a 3-0 contest.
“We definitely wanted to keep building on the game and what we were doing,” said Davis Legacy’s Ben Elkins. “We knew three goals wasn’t going to be enough.”
Despite being down 3-0, Team East refused to concede. The team pushed numbers forward and started to chip away at the Team West defense, getting good looks on net and challenging the opposing goalkeeper. However, Team West was able to maintain the clean sheet through the first 45 minutes.
Following halftime, Team East built off its promising end to the first half and pressured the Team West backline. The two sides engaged in a heated mid-field battle until the 60-minute mark, when Team East finally got on the board with a shot off the foot of Jesus Ochoa (FC Golden State East). Five minutes later, Team East added another goal thanks to Jaylinn Mitchell (Slammers FC), making it a 3-2 contest.
“We were just telling ourselves to keep our composure,” Elkins said of Team West allowing two goals in quick succession. “We were going to keep fighting and the goals were going to come.”
Elkins proved to be right, as immediately following Team East’s tally, Team West marched down the field and pushed its lead to 4-2 when a shot from Duane Baker (Beach FC – CA) found the back of the net.
At the 70th minute mark, a missed clearing attempt by Team East allowed for Brady Elliott (Sporting CA Arsenal FC) to knock a rebound into the open net to bring Team West’s lead to 5-2.
For the remaining 20 minutes, Team West was able to keep Team East at bay, and at the final whistle, earned the 5-2 victory.
“This game was absolutely exhilarating,” Elkins said. “I thought our team came out with a lot of energy and power. Seeing all the people in the stands, it was eye-opening and felt as close to a professional game as I can think of.”
“It felt amazing to get the win,” Pickett added. “That was a great group of guys on Team East. But West just came out on top today.”
To view the complete scores and schedule from ECNL Arizona, click here.