Lehigh Valley United 93 (E-PA) assumed the group lead after the first day of play in the Under-19 Boys with their victory over Plantation Copa (FL), and a draw between Pateadores ANA (CA-S) and Chicago Fire Academy (IL).
"The game was pretty much as we expected at this level," said Lehigh Valley head coach and Director of Coaching, Greg Ramos. "All the teams here can play. Plantation were technical, pressured from the front and made it difficult for us to play I thought. With the amount that they pushed forward it gave us some opportunities to get in behind them.
"Once we got the early goal, with them pushing and then having to push even more, some spaces were opening up and we were hitting them on the counter which seemed effective, and we went with that. Overall, my general thoughts about our efforts; I’m very pleased."
LVU took the initiative early when they converted a set piece just nine minutes into the game. After a foul in Plantation’s half, near midfield, Timothy Lazorko (St. Joseph’s) drove the ensuing direct kick into the box and Joseph Farrell (La Salle) rose above everyone and nodded in the opening goal to give LVU the 1-0 lead.
That score remained until the 60th minute when Jared Martinelli (Temple) added a cushion. LVU picked off a Plantation pass in their own half and fed forward Melvin Snoh (Georgetown), who quickly transitioned downfield. With Plantation caught on the counter, Thomas Shiiba (Navy) and Martinelli flanked Snoh to create a 3v2 against what was left of Plantation’s backline. Snoh drove at the defenders, committed one and then slid the ball right to Martinelli, who finished from inside the box.
"Getting a victory in the first game means we are in it for the entire week. It allows us to be in this tournament until all games are played. We have a couple matches now that we have to manage and get through, and that just feels really good at the front end of this to know that with this result the possibility of playing in the final is there. And that’s exciting."
Another twist to the Lehigh victory was the absence of starting goalkeeper Logan Keys (LIU Brooklyn). Logan Keys was red carded during the penalty shootout of the Region I Championship final, where Farrell stepped in to make two saves for the victory. Starting in place of Logan in today’s game was his younger brother Cameron, a member of the LVU Under-16 team which competes in the US Youth Soccer National League. Also seeing action was Cameron’s twin brother Garrett, as the three brothers hope to make history and claim the 78th McGuire Cup.
"Cameron’s mature beyond his years. He’s really disciplined, really professional for a 16-year-old, and very sound technically. He’s been at a lot of levels in the youth game and with the National Teams. So for him to come in as a U-16 into a U-19 National Championship game of consequence, we knew he’d be okay in his mindset, but he’s come up tremendous for us. He did fantastic."
GK – Cameron Keys
D – Timothy Lazorko, Joseph Farrell, Alexander Murphy, Matthew Ross
M – Jared Martinelli, Colton Storm, Colton Amidon, Thomas Shiiba, Colin Phillips
F – Melvin Snoh
GK – Cedric Guichard
D – Jose Santana, Allan Kuhne, Gonzalo Gelso, Michael Fernandez
M – Alejandro Garcia, Armando Acosta, Jeffrey Michaud, Richard Monteagudo
F – Darwin Espinal, Santiago Unigarro
In an evenly played match between two solid teams, Pateadores ANA came back to level the score on a late equalizer, and almost grabbed a stoppage time winner versus Chicago Fire Academy.
"I thought it was very good opposition. It was a really solid game by both teams," said Pateadores head coach Michael Lussier. "I thought we had a decent hold on the match, managing the ball and playing really well. Midway through that second half we made a poor pass coming out of the middle and they capitalized off that. That’s going to happen when you play at this level and teams of their caliber. You make mistakes like that and they got a guy on goal and buried it to put us behind, which I thought was unfortunate for us. But I think our team has shown on our path here how resilient and tough they are. Even being down to a team like Chicago Fire I still thought our guys showed their character and they really fought through all the way to the end and got that late equalizer, and almost the winner."
With both teams stalling each other, a 72nd minute mistake out of the back allowed Chicago the lead as they intercepted a ball from the Pats defense and immediately fed Daniel Lojek (Notre Dame) streaking into the box. Lojek finished nicely for the 1-0 Fire lead and what looked like the game winner.
Pateadores showed their character, something that has carried the team through to the National Championships, and leveled in the 89th. Defensive captain Andrew Sanders moved up top to give Pats some size against the tall Chicago center backs as they searched for the equalizer. The move paid off as Sanders was fed a ball into the box and he finished to make it 1-1.
Pats weren’t done however, and almost stole the game two minutes into stoppage time which required a goal line clearance from the Fire. Conner Bevans slipped Lester Hayes into the box where Fire keeper Zachary Allen (Northwestern) came out to stuff the shot. The ball rebounded to Bevans, whose second attempt was blocked and bounced back to his feet. Bevens slid past the remaining defender and fired a shot on goal, but a recovering Fire defender headed the ball out of play to preserve the point.
"I think we’re pleased," said Lussier. "That was a big point and I think Chicago is a very strong team. Like we’ve been telling the boys, there’s three games here. You can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. We just have to stay steady and take each one as it comes, so tomorrow we’re just going to go out there and try to get three points. We have to. If we do that then we’re sitting in a good spot. Just take each day as it comes."
GK – David Elias
D – Christopher Adriano, Mitchell Bell, Andrew Sanders, Jack Birkenbeuel
M – Carlos Barrios, Caleb Candelaria, Carlos Moreno
F – Conner Bevans, Lester Hayes, Daniel Gonzalez
GK – Zachary Allen
D – Michael Frasca, Benjamin Kucera, Tanner Witsken, Joel Salmeron
M – Michael Kozielek, Manuel Chavez, Chisom Ogbanna, Andrew Conner, Daniel Lojek
F – Joseph Calistri