A year has made a big difference for Dallas Kicks SC 01 (TX-N), which went winless at Nationals in 2014.
Now, four straight wins have the North Texas side heading to the Under-14 final, as it came back to defeat FC Pride 01 Elite (IN), 2-1, in their semifinal matchup at the 2015 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Tulsa, Okla.
Kicks coach Juan Martinez said his team has done many of the little things correctly, and it has translated to success this week.
“Eliminating any opportunity can be the difference between losing, 1-0, and winning, 1-0,” Martinez said. “I think we’ve done well at paying attention to the smallest details, as far as transitioning from defense to offense, shifting, being in the right position and anticipating what your teammates are going to do.”
Taking care of the details has made the Kicks a tough team to break down. And when FC Pride’s Alexa Holl hit her early second-half shot just under the bar, it marked the first goal the North Texas side had conceded this week — and also created its first deficit.
Instead of letting the deficit negatively affect them, the Kicks showed energy off the restart and worked the ball into their attacking end, where they earned a corner kick. They played a quick short corner that allowed Taylor Tufts to dribble into the box and lace a low shot through traffic and into the net for an equalizing goal.
Martinez said the players’ experience when being behind in the National League has helped teach them how to bounce back like they did in Saturday’s game.
“Once they scored the goal, I felt our girls dug deep,” Martinez said. “They’ve been down before. We responded with a goal within a couple of minutes, and that gave us the momentum to score the go-ahead goal and keep fighting.”
After the teams exchanged half-chances, Dallas created a great opportunity and took advantage of it. Samantha Meza received a pass just inside midfield and muscled the last FC Pride defender off the ball. She calmly rounded the keeper and slid her shot into the center of the goal to put her side up, 2-1.
FC Pride threatened on a few occasions to produce an equalizer, but the Dallas back line managed to prevent any clean looks at goal and the Kicks hung on for the victory.
With the team advancing to the final to play Legends FC Gold (CA-S), Martinez said it’s a great opportunity for their club and supporters — many of whom are expected to make the drive from Dallas on Sunday morning to attend the championship match.
“Our younger teams are talking about coming up. We’re talking about 150 people coming and making the drive for the final,” Martinez said. “It’s not about one person or one team. Winning the National Championship is really for an entire community. That’s what I’m looking forward to more than anything.”