In a rematch of last year’s US Youth Soccer National Championship final, Legends FC 94 (CA-S) defeated returning champs VSA Heat Blue (VA), with a 2-1 win. The Under-17 match appeared as if it would end in a scoreless draw until VSA scored in dramatic fashion with two minutes remaining. Legends produced an even more shocking ending though, and came back with two immediate goals for the victory.
"This is an emotional high right now," said Legends FC head coach Josh Hodges. "Obviously to go down late with two minutes left to go is not good, but you’ve got to give credit to the kids for coming back right away, scoring to tie it up and then getting a game winner with no time left."
The late excitement began when Victoria Burress got past Legends’ keeper and put VSA up in the 88th minute. Seconds later Legends gained possession of the ball, and played it in to Meilessah Rangel who ran through the defense and got the equalizer in the 89th minute.
"Rangel had just missed a real easy one before that, and she came over and told us that she was going to get it back," said Hodges. "She got her opportunity and she did it."
Despite producing a notable effort to quickly tie, Legends FC was determined to get the win. Legends drew a foul in the last minute of the match, and Coach Hodges decided to send his entire team up for the free kick. Legends FC’s left back sent a precise service into the area, and after a little commotion in the box, Christina Tucker – a U-16 Legends player playing two age groups up – knocked in the game winner.
The match contained even more motivation to win for Legends, as they were attempting to avenge a 6-0 loss from the 2012 National Championship game.
"Things didn’t go our way last year, so this was a very emotional game for that - to have the opportunity to come back and play them again and respond in a different way," said Hodges. "I think they’ve had a whole year to think about that game and to kind of live with that final result, being that close, so when they saw that they were in our group the kids were extremely motivated.
"They wanted to get that second chance again to show that 6-0 may have been a fair result on the day, but that we’re a better team than that."
The win currently puts Legends FC at the top of their pool. They face Region II Champion FC United Select (IL) in their last preliminary match on Friday.
"Our job’s not done yet, we’ve still got one more game," said Hodges. "For these kids, who have been with me eight years, to be in the National Championships as seniors, as their last event, would be very special.
"This is my home town, so to get to the National Championship and have the chance to win it in my hometown would be an unbelievable thing too. But it’s not about me it’s about them, and I want them to have this be their last memory."