Following a draw to open its week, defending National Champion Arlington SA 2002 Red (VA) showed persistence in earning a 3-0 win against OK Energy FC Central 02 (OK) on Wednesday at the Scheels Overland Park Soccer Complex in Overland Park, Kan.
The Arlington victory moved it to the top of the 17U Boys Group B standings, where all of the teams are still alive to advance with one day of group play remaining at the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
With OK Energy entering Wednesday’s match with three points in hand, Arlington came out aggressive to avoid losing pace in the group.
“The boys knew that we needed the three points because anything can happen with the other results,” Arlington coach Eduardo De Souza said. “We don’t want to depend on anyone else. We want to depend on ourselves.
The Virginia side created several first half chances, as it pinned OK Energy deep in its defensive end for sustained stretches of time. The opening 45 minutes ended with Arlington producing two good looks on header attempts, which narrowly missed the frame of goal.
At halftime, De Souza said he and his team focused on continuing to play their style of game and moving the ball to produce a breakthrough.
The repeated pressure on the OK Energy back line finally resulted in an Arlington goal in the 51st minute. Joseph Core freed himself on a run down through the box on a corner kick, and he nodded a header down and inside the back post to put Arlington in front.
“It felt great to get that first goal,” Core said. “In the first half, we had so many chances. To finally get that first goal, we knew more could come after that because that’s how our team is.”
It didn’t take long for Arlington to build on its lead, as Core twisted his body to send a 54th-minute header past the charging OK Energy keeper for his second goal of the match. Core’s two headers came on just a pair of several scoring chances Arlington produced through the air. The forward Core said the team practices making a variety of runs in the box, and it was nice to see it finally come together and help the team grab control of the match.
OK Energy recovered to put together some movements into its attacking half, but Core put the game away by completing a hat trick in the 83rd minute. This time, Arlington kept the ball on the ground — working it to Core in the center of the box, where he slid a left-footed shot into the net to make it 3-0.
While it came away with three points in a high-stakes game on Wednesday, Arlington still has work to do in Group B in order to advance for a chance to defend its National title. Core said the familiarity from last year’s event helps his team realize that it has to fully focus on the match at hand before it can look at the big picture of trying to repeat.
“Having the experience from last year is great because there is no game too big,” Core said. “We’ve been to the highest level, but we’re just taking it game-by-game. We just have to work the hardest to come out on top.”