North United Rush (PA-W) came back from a two-goal deficit to defeat Fullerton Rangers 02 White (CA-S), 4-2, opening up the National Championships with an exciting victory.
Being down 2-0 brought North United back to this year’s Eastern Regional Championship game when the team was in the same situation and had to fight back to win the regional title in a 3-2 victory.
“I think because we came back from a two-goal deficit in the regional championship, we’re used to being gritty and having to get back into it,” North United forward Megan Donnelly said. “Especially because it was 2-0, everyone remembered that you can’t give up. It’s never over until they blow the last whistle.”
Fullerton earned the early lead with an eighth-minute goal from Mia Guererro as she took on a few defenders down the middle of the field, cut past them and kept her shot on the ground. The Cal South side continued to pound shots on goal but could not convert another before the break.
“We were down one nil at halftime, but we felt like we had possession and we were controlling the game pretty well, and we were creating opportunities,” North United head coach Jodi Chmielewski said. “We talked at halftime that it was that final touch in the attacking third that we needed to fix. We were confident that we would continue to create opportunities.”
Fullerton came out of halftime ready to go as Zoe Ip made it a 2-0 game in the 43rd minute. Ip held onto the ball, while encountering some defenders in the 18-yard box, and was able to bounce the ball past the goalkeeper. Six minutes later, North United got on the board and cut into Fullerton’s lead when Ellie Coffield drove the ball just inside the right side post.
“It’s a little deflating when you give up a goal early in the second half to go down 2-0, but our team is super resilient and the response immediately was fantastic to cut it to 2-1,” Chmielewski said.
Donnelly had been knocking on the door with several attempts at the goal, and she finally put the ball in the back of the net after taking on the Fullerton goalkeeper in a 1-v-1 situation, earning the equalizer for North United. Just two minutes later, Donnelly stole the lead from Fullerton when she blasted a long shot that dipped right under the crossbar. North United gained some breathing room as Donnelly completed a hat trick by taking an open shot from the top of the 18-yard box, sending the ball high over the keeper’s hands.
With North United opening up group play in comeback victory fashion, Chmielewski acknowledged the reason for the team’s ability to not feel defeated despite being down a goal or two.
“We’ve been in that position before where we typically tend to respond very well in the second half,” Chmielewski said. “One of our best attributes is that we continue to pick each other up even though situations and mistakes are made, and I think that just builds everybody’s confidence.”