The Rebels 2001 Elite (CA-S) bench players leaned forward and looked toward the near corner in anticipation, as the final seconds ticked down.
When the final whistle blew, they quickly jumped to their feet to cheers and claps. With a 1-0 win against BC United 01 (NY-W), the Rebels secured a second-place finish in 17U Girls Group B and a spot in Saturday’s semifinals at the 2018 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas.
After giving up a two-goal lead on the opening day, the Rebels made sure their early goal on Thursday stood up in the must-win matchup.
“We felt we were prepared,” Rebels coach Ryan Marquez said. “We thought we left ourselves down a bit in the first game. The performance today was gritty and tough against BC United, who is a great team.”
The Cal South side grabbed its lead in the 10th minute. Following some buildup and a one-on-one situation down the left wing, Erin Healy made a run to the back post and received a pass before tapping in the opening goal.
BC United entered the game one point ahead of the Rebels in the standings, so the early goal helped the Cal South side get on its way to a necessary victory.
“It helped us relax a lot,” midfielder Angelina Espinal said. “But knowing all the teams here, you can’t let up with a 1-0 lead. It was kind of scary trying to hold it, but it was nice to have that early cushion.”
Marquez said the Rebels didn’t play with the mindset of holding the lead but rather looked to continue attacking and try to add some additional breathing room. His team managed to create several threatening opportunities, but it saw multiple shot go inches wide or end up in the strong hands of BC United keeper Hannah Fuller.
The Cal South side looked to target wide players, as Espinal said the team’s preparation and film sessions suggested it could take advantage of open spaces on the outside. With BC United pushing players forward as it looked for an equalizing goal that would put it through to the semifinals, the Rebels were able to take advantage of numbers on counter attacks.
Meanwhile, BC United produced its share of ventures deep into the attacking end throughout the second half. The New York West’s best chance came in the 75th minute, when Catherine Collins ran onto a bouncing ball but her flick over the on-charging keeper sailed just over the bar.
In the end, the Rebels successfully held their one-goal lead for 80 minutes — earning the win it needed to continue on to the semifinals. Espinal said the team is excited to represent the club and make a name for itself in its hometown of San Diego — a youth soccer hotbed. The Rebels coach thinks if his team can play its game and continue to be gritty, it can do just that.
“There’s nothing like momentum,” Marquez said. “If you go down early and then come back to win two games in a row to get through, that does a lot for you. We’re just going to focus on us and see if we can put together a good performance.”