FRISCO, Texas (July, 30 2016) – Raphael Leslau’s last-minute goal propelled McLean 00 Green (VA) to a 1-0 win over Sparta 01 JK (UT) in the semifinals of the 2016 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas.
McLean was the lone returning team in the age group to the National Championships, and the 2015-16 US Youth Soccer National League runner-up failed to advance out of the group stage in 2015, but advanced to the semifinals with a 2-1 record. Sparta earned its first trip to the National Championships after finishing second in the National League Red Division and secured a spot in the semifinals by winning Group B.
“I’m so proud of the boys and really happy for them,” McLean head coach Jamil Walker said. “Our goal was to get to the National Championships finals, and I am so happy for them now that they get a chance to play for the National Championship.”
McLean controlled possession in the first half with center midfielders Jack Rosener and 2015 National Championships Best XI selection Garrett Socas dictating the tempo in the match between US Youth Soccer National League runners-up.
“All the teams here are awesome. These are top-level athletes and are well prepared. Sparta was a very well-disciplined team,” Walker said. “Both teams had their chances throughout the game.”
The second half was more of a back-and-forth affair with both teams recording chances, but the opposing keepers were up to the task. Sparta captain Brandon Cervantes was in the middle of every Sparta chance, and things looked to be heading to extra time, but just before extra time Yassine Elkahloun’s free kick bounced off the crossbar and right to the feat of Leslau, who one-timed his shot into the back of the net.
“I’ve been working with this team for four years, and now it has culminated with a trip to the finals and the opportunity to win a national title,” Walker said. “All of this work we have done in these last four years – this is what we are doing it for.”
McLean will take on CFA Raiders (IL) in the finals of the National Championships in a rematch of day two, where Raiders defeated McLean, 2-1.