Legends FC 99 (CA-S) (NL-B2) 0-2 (OT) NEFC Elite (MA) (RI-C)
NEFC Elite (MA) won the Under-14 Girls US Youth Soccer National Championship after beating defending champs Legends FC 99 (CA-S) 2-0 with two overtime goals. Both teams played a grueling 70 minutes, but after regulation time the match remained scoreless. NEFC ultimately pulled ahead with a goal in each overtime period to claim the US Youth Soccer Elmer Ehlers Cup.
“It feels unbelievable,” said NEFC Head Coach Kerry Baldwin. “Every game we’ve played leading up to this has prepared us for this moment. This was a goal of ours, we’ve been working towards it, and I’m so incredibly proud of this team.”
NEFC had a few opportunities in the first half by Marykate McGuire, but two of her shots on goal were denied by Legends’ keeper. The second half was more back and forth. Legends FC got an open shot on goal but the ball went high and flew over the crossbar. Ash Baird almost put NEFC in the lead in the 61st minute after Legends’ keeper came out of the box for a play and left the net unattended. Legends responded with a combo play with two forwards and a midfielder but this time NEFC’s keeper came out and her pressure worked to prevent any scoring. NEFC had one last shot in the final seconds of regulation when Marykate McGuire broke through three defenders, but the play was stopped by Legends’ backline leading to overtime.
NEFC reentered the field focused and produced quick results a minute after the start of overtime. Taylor Kofton attacked through the midfield, went around Legends’ defense to the right side of the field, and crossed to Taylor Sherman who put it away in the back of the net. The goal lifted NEFC’s spirits and they used the energy in the second overtime period to score again. In the 82nd minute, Makenna Hunt won a tackle and passed the ball to Marykate McGuire on the left side of the pitch. McGuire worked her way around the keeper and tapped it in to get her seventh tournament goal – outnumbering everyone else in the age group.
The win didn’t come easy and as the only other returning team in the U-14 age group NEFC knew the challenges they would incur at Nationals. NEFC was in the same preliminary group as Legends and had lost to them 2-1 in their first round robin match. Another hurdle was that last year as U-13’s NEFC only had to compete against four teams, but after moving up an age group this year they were fighting for the title against eight contenders. NEFC overcame it all and in the end denied Legends FC to get back-to-back titles.
“It was very challenging,” said Baldwin. “Legends are an incredible team. I give them a lot of credit because they played and there were a few chances where we got a little bit lucky. But these guys believed. We were up against great competition all week here, so the competition really prepared us for this game.”
NEFC concludes the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championship Series with a State Championship, back-to-back Region I Championships, and now an Under-14 Girls National Championship that they’ve earned by being the best.
“They’re an incredible group,” said Baldwin. “I talked to them this morning and the one thing I said to them is that they have something special. They really do have something that no other team has at this age group. They knew that they could do it if they put the will and effort into it, and that’s what they did today and I’m so proud of them.”
For complete match statistics on the Under-14 Girls final, click here. For all updates of the 2014 National Championships visit http://tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2014-National-Championships/, and remember to share your moments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.