Deep into the second half of its first 16U Boys Group A match in Overland Park, Kan., FC Dallas 03 Premier (TX-N) appeared to have left itself with the difficult task of battling back during the remainder of the week from an opening loss.
But by the time the match reached its last minute of regulation, the North Texas side was looking at a draw. And when the final whistle blew, FC Dallas left the field with all three points — coming back from a two-goal second-half deficit to defeat SLSG 2003 Elite (MO), 3-2, to open the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“In tournament soccer, you don’t want to lose the first game,” FC Dallas coach Neil Thornber said. “Even with a draw, you can move on, but coming back from a loss to earn the win is massive. We always want to be reliant on ourselves and not other results, so coming back is very pleasing.”
The teams used the game’s first half to settle in, as neither side created any real signs of a breakthrough goal. That was far from the case in the second half.
An FC Dallas counter attack was stymied by a SLSG center back, and the Missouri side quickly moved the ball back up to its attacking half. Once there, Cole Ross cut inside from the left wing toward the top of the box, and he powered a nice curling shot that flew just inside the right post — giving SLSG a 1-0 lead early in the second half.
SLSG gained further control of the match in the 57th minute when John Cordia placed his shot into the back of the net to extend the advantage to 2-0.
“We put ourselves in a situation to be two goals down,” Thornber said, noting that his team couldn’t afford to repeat its opening hour of play. “We needed to dig ourselves out, which we did.”
The Missouri side nearly pushed its lead to 3-0, but FC Dallas keeper Sebastian Mendoza made a diving stop on a dangerous 65th-minute free kick. Shortly after, Manny Martinez started the FC Dallas comeback when he made a run into the center of the box and used his first touch to direct a low cross into the back of the net.
In the 78th minute, Martinez finished off a nearly identical play by opening up his right foot and placing a shot inside the right post to level the score at 2-2. Martinez, who came on as a second half sub when FC Dallas switched to an attacking formation, said he entered the game with the mentality that he was going to make a difference on the score sheet.
“I can’t really describe it. It’s a really good feeling, and I’m just glad I could help my team,” Martinez said. “We don’t give up. We have what it takes to win it.”
As the game entered its final minute of regulation, FC Dallas began a sequence that produced the winner. After working the ball into the attacking half, a cross from the right wing to the back post found Timothy Ospina. He gathered the ball with his first touch and finished a shot that gave FC Dallas the 3-2 victory.
While FC Dallas sees a “1” in the win column after Tuesday’s win, Thornber said there is room for improvement and that his team will look to focus on itself and increase its own level of play as the week goes on.
“The first game is always about trying to impose yourself and getting a great start,” Thornber said. “The result says it was a great start, but we know we can play better and can’t keep going two goals down in the National Championships.”