The last day of preliminary play in the Under-19 Boys brought plenty of drama as GSA Phoenix 96 Red (GA) and West Coast FC (CA-S) played on adjacent fields for the right to meet Crew Juniors (OH-S) in the final Saturday night live on FOX Soccer.
Crew Juniors had already booked their spot in the final and West Coast needed a win and some help in goal differential to overtake GSA for the second spot. Trailing by three points in the standings and needing a four-point swing in goal differential, West Coast defeated Empire United SA Syracuse (W-NY) 5-0 to do their part. At the same time, GSA, playing Crew, needed a draw or better, or less than a four-point swing in goal differential to move on.
Within 16 minutes, the tables were turned as West Coast rolled off three goals in the first 11 minutes from Mitchell Alvarez (California Irvine), Juan Gutierrez (California Irvine) and Jackson McCracken (Loyola Marymount), while Crew assumed the lead over GSA in the 16th minute from Will Walker (Xavier). With those results, West Coast and GSA would have identical records and goal differentials which would force the teams into a penalty shootout to decide who advanced to the final.
But by the 24th minute West Coast had overtaken GSA in goal differential when Gutierrez netted his second, and the crowd on both sides of the stands spent the rest of the game with their heads on a swivel in nervous anticipation.
Those scores would stand with West Coast looking as if they would jump GSA for the second seed until the 70th minute when GSA’s Dominic Bonilla (North Carolina Charlotte) went on a stunning run, weaving through defenders and into the box where he struck a left footed shot into the net and reassumed GSA’s position in second place with a 1-1 score.
West Coast’s fans then turned to the opposing game to will Crew to a winner, but instead saw GSA grab the win and take the top seed from an Ehiosasele Aburime (Tyler CC) goal on an assist from Bonilla.
West Coast tacked on a fifth in stoppage time on McCracken's second goal, but GSA held on for a 2-1 victory to set up a rematch with Crew in the final.
GSA Phoenix will make their first trip to the championship match in their third, and last, trip to the National Championships. Crew Juniors are looking for their second McGuire Cup in three years after claiming the title in 2010.
The Under-19 Boys McGuire Cup final will be played on Saturday, July 27th at 8 p.m. ET live on FOX Soccer, with the pregame show beginning at 7:30, at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, S.C.