A tie on Wednesday has left 17U Boys West Coast FC Armour 2000 (CA-S) and McLean 00 Green (VA) with everything to play for in Group A.
West Coast will head into the final day of preliminary play at the 2017 US Youth Soccer National Championships in first place in the group with four points. Meanwhile, defending champion McLean will need a win on Thursday to keep its title defense alive.
Neil Armour, coach of the Cal South side, said McLean came out on fire, but he believed his team took control of the game once his players settled in. While Armour thought a win was there for the taking, he knows the tie puts West Coast in a good spot moving into its final group game.
“Every point you can get is important. Three would have been nice. We would already be through,” Armour said. “Going into the third game with everything to play for and everything in our hands is a good position to be in at the National Championships. Because, at the end of the day, even the easy games are hard games.”
The two sides showed lots of quality as they went end-to-end for much of the game, but the back lines remained organized and didn’t allow either team’s forwards with much room to produce a winning goal.
McLean had a half-chance in the 34th minute, when Christopher Schram sent in an in-swinging cross from the right flank. Forward Maverick McGann managed to get his head on the cross, but sent his attempt over the bar.
Jack Rosener produced another close call for the Virginia side in the 72nd minute, as he freed himself at the top of the box and sent a left-footed drive toward the left corner of the goal. However, West Coast keeper Mitchell Wilson dove to his right to make the save and held the ball to eliminate any second-chance opportunity.
Much like his counterpart, McLean coach Jamil Walker was happy with his team’s performance and thought there were opportunities to come away with all three points.
“At the beginning of the game, I said a result keeps us in the tournament,” Walker said. “I thought we played really well and deserved to win the game. We had a number of chances but just couldn’t put it away today.”
McLean had to dodge a couple of dangerous West Coast chances in the final 15 minutes in order to earn the draw. With the Virginia side’s keeper of his line in the 78th minute, defender Raphael Leslau stepped in the line of a West Coast shot that may have been bound for the empty net. Another West Coast build up minutes later saw a shot from the left side of the box hit the outside netting.
The defending National Champions must now win their matchup on Thursday against second-place Michigan Jaguars 00 Green (MI) in order to advance to the semifinals. Walker said his team’s experience in must-win games should help, and the players love taking on such challenges.
Meanwhile, West Coast can advance with a draw on Thursday against Region IV champ Santa Clara Sporting 00 Green (CA-N) and guarantee a first-place finish in the group with a win. Armour knows that scenario sounds easier than it will play out, but he hopes the 17U side can be one of several teams from the club to move on to the next round.
“Just getting here is only doing on part of the job,” Armour said. “It’s a lot harder to win once you’re here. If we could come back with a couple of titles [as a club], we’d be ecstatic, but we know how difficult it’s going to be.”