After needing overtime and penalties in their semifinal win, Sean Fitzgerald and Manhattan SC PSG 96 (NY-E) wanted to end their Under-17 Boys National Championship final in regulation.
Fitzgerald made sure to do just that.
On an 84th-minute corner kick, the tall defender hit a glancing header inside the left post to give Manhattan a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas Youth 97 Premier (TX-N) and the Under-17 Boys title at the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by the National Guard.
“It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life,” Fitzgerald said of the goal. “I’ve always trained, since I’m a big guy, to get that header. It all paid off just for today.”
PSG and FC Dallas, which each went 120 minutes in their semifinal wins, played an evenly matched first half on Sunday in which neither side managed to grab an advantage.
The New York side was able to generate some consistent pressure as the game entered its final half-hour, as a few half chances threatened the FC Dallas goal. After a couple of failed set pieces, PSG earned another chance when Jack Harrison made a speedy run down the right sideline before crossing the ball off a defender for a corner kick.
Fitzgerald made sure to take advantage of the ensuing corner, as he used his size to beat the Dallas defenders to the ball and flick it into the side netting.
The Manhattan players displayed their quick learning abilities, as they used a lesson learned in their semifinal shootout win against Fullerton Rangers 96 White (CA-S) to clinch the title.
“Yesterday, we scored against Fullerton with maybe five minutes to go in extra time,” Fitzgerald said. “They came back to tie it with a PK. Luckily, we won on PKs, but it taught us a lesson on how to hold down in the back. It was harder for that final five minutes than at any point in the entire game.”
Wilson Egidio, the PSG coach, said it’s hard to believe they accomplished the feat after the long road through the US Youth Soccer State Cup and US Youth Soccer Region I Championships. Egidio said he woke up Sunday knowing his team had a 50 percent chance to become National Champions, and he was thrilled their hard work paid off with the 1-0 result.
The victory was a long time coming for the group of PSG players, with some having been together since their Under-9 year. With a roster full of players with differing backgrounds and nationalities, the PSG championship is truly a story of how the game can bring people together for a common goal.
“People look at that as a handicap. I don’t think of it that way,” Egidio said of his team’s diversity. “This work started 10 years ago. We’re all in here for the same goal. It’s a beautiful combination. We’ve got the Upper West Side guys who get driven to work with a driver and other guys who need $2.50 to get on the train. We all come together in the name of soccer — beautiful soccer.”