One year ago, Grand Rapids Crew Jrs. (MI) won their first US Youth Soccer National Championship after failing to win the gold in their first three trips. Their first opponent in last year’s nationals was Florida Rush, who Crew dominated, 4-0.
That wasn’t the case in the finals of the Under-18 Boys division at the 2012 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Rock Hill, S.C. Rush exacted their revenge in dramatic fashion by winning 2-1 in overtime.
"The first game of nationals last year, they crushed us. We knew if we wanted to beat them we would have to train and work harder," Rush player Jeremy Tilley said. "I’m glad we had a chance to play them again in the finals. Grand Rapids Crew is a great team, and it has been one of the best rivalries of 2012."
Crew started things off in the 12th minute when Adam Clauss (Detroit Mercy) sent a cross on the ground from the left side that found Charles Constantino (Butler) in the middle of the box. Constantino took a touch and sent a beautiful strike at the far post that found the side netting.
Rush increased the pressure in the second half. After missing a couple of chances, Tilley (Florida Institute of Technology) received a lob pass near the box in the 78th minute. Tilley shook off a defender and chipped the ball over Crew keeper, Chase Rau (Wisconsin). Tilley quickly found himself at the bottom of a dog pile as his teammates collapsed on him in celebration.
"We talked during halftime about how we could catch them on the counter attack," Rush head coach Nate Omodt said. "Jeremy was able to get behind the last defender and score a goal."
After 90 minutes of play, the score was deadlocked at 1-1. The game went into overtime, a situation Crew was all too familiar with, as their 2011 National Championship was won in penalty kicks. But the Rush weren’t fazed. Just six minutes into the overtime period, Rush forced a penalty kick when a striker got behind the Crew defense and was taken out in the box. Jean Rivaroli (North Florida) stepped up and delivered his shot into the bottom corner to give his team the lead, 2-1.
Crew refused to go away and forced numerous opportunities on the offensive end, but none of them found the back of the net. After the final whistle blew, the party started for the Florida Rush as players and coaches rushed the field to celebrate their first National Championship.
"Tears are running down my cheeks right now. I’ve never felt like this before," Tilley said. "All I want to do is lift the trophy with my team. It’s wonderful. I love my team."