Galaxy 2001 Blue (IL) fought its way into the 17U Boys National Championship final with a 2-1 victory over PPA KSA 01 Pro-Profile (GA).
In an intense, fast and physical battle, the semifinal was not an easy match for either team, and it took a strong defense for Galaxy to ultimately win. The game started out even with no clear dominating team.
In the 32nd minute, Galaxy’s Ty Konrad sent a long free kick from midfield into the mix of players, and Cameron Strang was there to poke the ball in. The lead didn’t last for long as KSA retaliated six minutes later when the goalkeeper blasted a drop kick to catch the Galaxy defense on the counter attack. KSA’s Deedson Vixamar laid the ball off for Carl Henry Desir to strike into the upper net.
At halftime, Galaxy head coach Jay Konrad brought up factors of work rate as well as the elimination of space in between his players and the KSA team.
“We thought that if our work rate could dictate the flow of the game, we’d be okay,” Jay Konrad said. “[KSA] has a lot of technical kids, so you’ve got to really limit the time and the space that they have because if you let them get the ball, get a touch around you, you’re in trouble. We really talked about never giving anyone free time.”
The game winning goal came for Galaxy 17 minutes into the second half when the team pulled the same play as its first goal. After Konrad launched the ball into the box from midfield, the ball bounced off of a KSA defender, which set Kyle Blasingame up perfectly to volley the ball into the net.
“That game winning goal by Kyle Blasingame, that kid is an absolute work horse,” Jay Konrad said. “I’m so happy he got one in because he does so much of the work that goes unnoticed. For him to come out, dig out that second ball and slot it home, I’m super happy for him.”
As KSA pressured Galaxy’s backline and created numerous opportunities, Galaxy kept up its defensive game and battled to keep the ball out of its own net.
“For years with this group, we’ve been kind of known as a team that defends. We’re not really known as a team that attacks,” Jay Konrad said. “We more typically win games 1-0 and we try to find a goal. As of late, we’ve done a much better job of finding creative ways to get goals, but once we got the lead, I think our boys actually gained confidence knowing this is what we do. We can defend, we can sit in and try to make the game ugly. We kind of sat in and they took it to us. They had some pretty good chances, but credit to the boys for holding on.”
With a frantic last few minutes of the match, Galaxy was able to last until the final whistle.
“It got pretty gritty towards the end,” Strang said. “I think everybody got pretty heated, but we kept our cool in the end. We knew that we didn’t have much time, and we trusted each other. We knew that with our talent and our work rate, we could win.”
Galaxy has had to fight its way to the National Championships final as it made it to the Midwest Regional Championships off of a Midwest Regional League wildcard and to the National Championships after losing in the regional final, but received the opportunity to come to Frisco as the Midwest Regional Representative. Therefore, Saturday’s semifinal was a perfect example of the effort that Galaxy has had to put in this year.
Galaxy will face Tampa Bay United (FL) in the championship final, making it the teams’ second meeting this week as Tampa Bay defeated Galaxy, 3-1, in group play.
Strang noted that for the second meeting, Galaxy will have to outwork Tampa Bay.
“We did lose 3-1, but we didn’t feel like it was a 3-1 game,” Strang said. “We feel like we definitely could have won that game, and we want to prove that, so we’re going to come out with everything we got. It’s the most important game of the year, so we’re going to try to go all out.”