Concorde Fire Elite (GA) entered its Under-18 Boys game on Thursday against Albion USA (CA-S) knowing it would be in for a tough test with a very familiar opponent.
In the end, the Georgia side felt fortunate to be on the winning side after Albion gave Concorde all it could handle.
The win puts Concorde in a good position to return to the final, while Albion is eliminated from contention. Concorde head coach Steve Muccillo said it wasn’t as easy as the score would suggest for his team to get its second win of the tournament.
"I think if people look at that score line and see we won 2-0, they may think, ‘Man, they really handled them,’" Muccillo said. "But that Albion team had the ball most of the game, they had territory most of the game. We scored two not very pretty goals and we’re very fortunate to come out winning today."
Concorde took an early lead in the 6th minute when Cooper Coughlin’s shot barely trickled over the goal line before an Albion defender could clear it. Despite going down a goal, Albion continued to pressure the Concorde back line but couldn’t break down the Georgia squad’s defense.
The early goal helped calm the nerves and gave Concorde confidence to withstand the pressure from Albion, Concorde forward Tyler Alexander said. After his team narrowly beat Albion in the 2011 final, as well as in the US Youth Soccer National League this past November, Alexander knew Concorde would need to play well to have success.
"This is like our West Coast rival," Alexander said. "Every time we play them, we know it’s going to be an intense game. It’s going to be more physical than most other games."
Concorde’s defenders continually got in the line of Albion’s shots and crosses, helping ease the pressure as the California side kept the ball in the attacking half for much of the game. U.S. National Team player Ariel Lassiter got one of just a few shots on goal for Albion shortly after half, but the Concorde keeper made a sprawling save. The ensuing rebound was put in the back of the net, but it was called back for being offside.
It looked like Albion was primed to score an equalizing goal, but Alexander converted a breakaway chance to put Concorde up, 2-0, in the 60th minute. Once again, the Albion defense was a split-second too late to clear the shot off the line.
The final 30 minutes featured several chances for Albion to pull within a goal, but the Georgia side’s defense didn’t allow much space to operate in its own box. Alexander said the defense did well to keep a clean sheet, while Muccillo praised the entire team.
"I think collectively we defended well," Muccillo said. "Our forwards worked well to pressure. Albion is very good. If you saw the game, you saw how well they passed in midfield. We expended a ton of energy chasing and tracking them. Collectively, as a group defensively, I thought we did very well."