FRISCO, Texas (July 28, 2016) — Needing just a tie to advance out of its group, Under-16 Girls FCKC Pink Panthers Elite (MO) left no doubt by scoring a stoppage time game-winner on Thursday.
The 2-1 victory against defending champion Legends FC 99 (CA-S) helped FCKC move on to the semifinals at the 2016 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas while ending Legends’ attempt at winning a third title in four years.
“This team has been through a lot. They’re showing a resilience, which is a huge trait to a competitor,” said FCKC coach Brad Childers, who is relatively new to coaching the Under-16 team. “It’s been challenging and fun, and the response has been tremendous. It’s been an awesome ride.”
With the game tied at 1-1 in stoppage time and Legends pushing for a necessary go-ahead goal, FCKC’s Kassidy Newsom intercepted a clearance 35 yards from the Cal South side’s goal. The Legends keeper was off her line, but rather than trying to chip her from distance, Newsom took on the lone defender and slid her shot inside the right post — sealing the win.
An FCKC victory looked anything but certain earlier in the game, as Legends took a 14th-minute lead when Nia Harris slid her shot past a charging keeper and into the net. Legends threatened to double the lead when it earned an indirect free kick deep in FCKC’s penalty area, but the Missouri side did well to prevent a shot on the set piece.
Legends appeared to be in control until it conceded a penalty kick in the 54th minute, which Hallie Klanke converted by sending the keeper the wrong way — equalizing the game and giving FCKC the temporary upper hand in the group standings.
“Even though we went down, we knew we couldn’t give up,” FCKC center back Makayla Martin said. “Even a split second of not giving your best or giving up on your team can cost you a goal.”
Childers said his team has focused on a “competitor’s maturity” and remaining mentally tough. Those traits showed on the field, as FCKC did well to maintain the tie in the latter stages of the game. It wasn’t without a little luck, however.
In the 60th minute, Legends forward Denae Antoine hit a shot around the keeper only to see the ball hit square off left post. The ensuing rebound ricocheted just past Antoine’s outstretched leg — allowing FCKC to gather the ball and clear the danger.
The Missouri side limited Legends’ chances for the remainder of the game before Newsom clinched FCKC’s advancement with her stoppage time strike.
Martin said FCKC will need to put in a complete team effort on Saturday to earn a spot in the Under-16 Girls final. Meanwhile, Childers hopes the performance so far in Frisco is a sign of things to come for the club.
“One of the exciting things is that these girls were little girls at one time and dreamed about getting here,” Childers said. “They’ve got little sisters back home who are dreaming to be in their shoes someday. What we’re looking to build is a culture within our club of repeating a legacy and getting into Nationals often.”