Case Cox ran to the corner of the field, paused and then executed a back flip — a fitting celebration after helping Javanon 2001 Black (KY) flip Thursday’s game around.
Despite giving up a late goal in a 3-2 defeat to Raiders FC (IL), the Kentucky side provided enough second-half heroics to fight back from an early two-goal deficit and hold on to first place in 16U Boys Group A at the 2017 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas.
Each and every goal proved to be vital in group play, as goal differential decided a three-way tiebreaker at the top of the group. While Javanon came out on top of the group to advance to the semifinals, there was plenty of doubt at halftime after Raiders FC took a 2-0 lead into the break.
Melvin Mora put the Illinois side in front with a 21st-minute penalty kick, and Daniel Favela ran on to a ball behind the defense and slid his shot inside the right post to double Raiders FC's first-half advantage.
“There were a lot of heads down, and we were a little upset at halftime,” Javanon coach Tim Chastonay said. “It was one of those things where we had to pick them back up and tell them, ‘It’s basically even right now. It comes down to who can score some goals in the second half.’ I was really pleased with how they bounced back.”
With WCFC Armour 2001 (CA-S) winning, 1-0, at halftime of the other group game, all three teams were momentarily tied atop Group A with six points and a plus-two goal differential. However, Javanon quickly changed that.
After a foul in the box, Javanon’s Jansen Wilson stepped up the penalty spot and beat the keeper to the right corner of the net — cutting the deficit to 2-1.
The Kentucky side kept its foot on the gas and generated a series of corner kicks as it looked for an equalizer. On the third corner, Cox rose up at the back post and powered a header into the back of the net before performing his acrobatic celebration for the tying goal.
With those goals, Javanon created some breathing room in the standings. Chastonay knew how tight the group was, and he said that is the case when you play at this level.
“Every single game, you can’t count that you’re going to win the game,” Chastonay said. “Anybody can beat anybody out of the eight teams in this age group. I actually looked over all of the age groups. Except for maybe one team in each age group, every team had a chance today to advance.”
Despite giving up its lead, Raiders pushed for a game-winning goal and a shot at a semifinals berth. It created that goal in the 76th minute when Favela made a strong run from the left wing before cutting inside and hitting a right-footed drive past the keeper.
That goal helped Raiders FC to the 3-2 victory. But a second-half winner from West Coast’s Angel Franco in the other group game helped the Cal South side jump Raiders FC to take second place in Group A. With such a tight bunch of teams, Javanon coaches and players were excited to finish in first place and move on to Saturday morning’s semifinals.
“It’s awesome. Nobody really expected us to win Regionals. This is really a big deal for us,” Javanon forward Brandon McManus said. “It really means a lot. It means more than just representing Javanon. We’re representing our whole state and our city. Everybody back home is cheering us on.”