Under-18 Girls: Cleveland United White (OH-N) (NL-B2) 2-0 Match Fit Beat (NJ) (NL-R2)
A late stoppage time goal helped Cleveland United White (OH-N) secure a 2-0 win against Match Fit Beat (NJ) in a rematch of last year’s National Championship final. The semifinal win allows the Under-18 Girls to advance to the final for a shot at back-to-back titles at the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by the National Guard.
“I’m very proud of the girls,” said Cleveland United Head Coach Mark Raduka. “They’re pure heart and they worked for 90 minutes. They showed a lot of discipline, especially in how we finished the game with that last minute goal.”
After being up 1-0 at halftime, Cleveland United sealed the win just moments before the final whistle. A clearance off a corner kick prompted Sydney Elinsky to run from nearly 25 yards into her own half, past all other players, to the left side of the 18 yard box where she crossed it to Cleveland teammate Katherine Zalar. Zalar sprinted up to meet her right in front of the goal and finished the play to put the game away.
“The second goal was just pure grit,” said Raduka. “Just had the heart to do it and that pretty much is the team.”
Although Cleveland United bested Match Fit 2-1 last year, in a finals match that went into overtime, they still knew it would be challenging to get past the first ever U-18 semifinal round in Nationals history to defend their 2013 championship title.
“We knew coming into it that it was going to be a very difficult game, being that it was Match Fit and we’ve played them four times in the last two years, and every game has been very, very close,” said Raduka. “Just like last year we knew they were going to give us everything. It’s been difficult for us. Everybody wants to knock us off.”
Cleveland United gave themselves a good cushion getting the lead in the 25th minute of play. Cleveland midfielder Jaycie Brown made a quick run up the right wing and sent a cross to left forward Sydney Elinsky who positioned herself well in the center of the box to score.
Although Match Fit had a couple close chances to level the match in regulation time they couldn’t find the back of the net. Both teams remained competitive throughout the majority of the game but ultimately Cleveland came out victorious.
Cleveland United will face Beach FC Ingrassia (CA-S) in the Under-18 Girls final on Sunday – a National League adversary and the only team that beat them on the season’s final day. Both Cleveland United and Beach FC possess perfect records in all tournament matches heading into the championship game.
“You always lean on experience,” said Raduka. “We’ve played Beach FC so we know what to expect. It’s just a matter of which team is more focused and can sustain for 90 minutes. It’s going to be one heck of a final, can’t wait.”
Catch all updates of the 2014 National Championships at http://tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2014-National-Championships/, and remember to share your moments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.