In a battle between the top two teams in Group A of the 15U Boys age group, Tuzos Academy 02 (AZ) tallied its third win after defeating St. Louis Scott Gallagher SC Elite (MO), 1-0.
Both teams played a composed first half with St. Louis gaining more opportunities. St. Louis’ earned a promising look with a shot to the upper corner, but the Tuzos goalkeeper leaped in the air in time to keep the ball out of the net. Meanwhile, Tuzos had a few combination plays and shots from over 30 yards out, but the first half ended without a goal from either team.
In the second half, the even play continued, but Tuzos was able to pull ahead with a goal from 2017 Region IV Championships leading scorer Jason Villalba. A free kick in the right corner started off the play, and Villalba received the ball at the back post to bury it into the net.
“We gave it our all,” Villalba said, discussing Tuzos’ performance for the day. “They had a lot of advantages on us like height advantage. We kept playing our way, not their way.”
One of St. Louis’ best looks of the second half took place when a ball was played over the defense and Adam Lucas hit a shot from the right flank, looking for the left top corner, but the Tuzos goalkeeper made the save.
St. Louis began to build up more chances near the end of the match, but Tuzos held the Missouri side off and maintained the 1-0 lead.
With Tuzos being a new team and this year being its first run in the National Championships series—through State Cup, Regionals and now Nationals—Tuzos has been able to show well especially since each of its wins was decided by a one-point difference.
“To be a new team and to come this far is already an achievement,” Tuzos head coach Jesse Cadena said. “Every team that comes to Nationals has one purpose: to win. At the luncheon, it was well said by the FC Dallas player where he didn’t have the opportunity to win the championship. For us, we tell the kids, ‘You never know when you’ll have a second opportunity, so might as well take it now.’”
After finishing in the first and second place spots of the group, both Tuzos and St. Louis advance to the semifinals with Tuzos taking the top seed. Tuzos will play the second seed of Group B on Saturday for the semifinal matchup.