Two years ago, Penn Fusion 98 (PA-E) just missed out on a spot in the 2013 National Championship finals on goal differential in a three-way tie following group play. This year the Under-16 Boys are into the knock out rounds and looking to take the next step to the final after a 3-0 win against CESA 98 Premier (SC).
“I think when we were here a couple years ago we didn’t have the depth that we have in the squad now,” said Penn Fusion head coach Jamie Scott. “It was our first time as a team at Nationals. We had a team in Nationals a few years ago and it’s always been our goal with this group of players – can we be the best Penn Fusion team that we’ve ever had?
“We have a hard act to follow with our 93 group that got all the way to the National final, but it’s one of our long term goals and who knows whether it’s this year or next. It’s really up to the boys.”
Penn Fusion and CESA came into the final day of preliminary play both needing a result for a chance to advance to the semifinals. CESA needed a win to advance while Penn Fusion 98 would advance with a win or a tie.
CESA had the best chance in the early moments when Dante Andre got put through on a breakaway. Andre fired a shot that was destined for the top left corner but Penn Fusion’s Matthew Freese dove fully extended to keep the shot out and the score level.
Penn Fusion put all the pressure on the CESA side when Aiden McFadden got to the endline and sent a cross down across the face of the goal. Teammate Samuel Brown was waiting all alone on the far side of the goal and smashed it home for a 1-0 lead.
Just ten minutes later Ramon Gallegos had another Penn Fusion chance on goal. His shot was pushed wide by the CESA keeper but the rebound found its way to Andrew Weir who sent the ball right back in to the far post for a 2-0 Penn Fusion lead.
Just after halftime the game was suspended for a lightning delay. After play resumed, CESA pushed to cut the score but Freese was up to the task of keeping his clean sheet fending off anything CESA could send his way.
A Penn Fusion win was all but guaranteed when Richard Schlentz found himself with the ball on the right flank and drove toward the CESA endline. Schlentz hit a low hard cross in front of goal that deflected off a CESA player and in for an own goal.
CESA continued pushing until the end but Penn Fusion was up to the task and the score finished 3-0.
After the game Coach Scott talked about the competition, “The game today was leaning towards one of our better performances. I think we’ve been poor the first two games and we’re finally starting to move the ball a little better. CESA played really well and battled hard. The score didn’t reflect the game.
“It was back and forth the entire game and they worked extremely hard and caused us to really work for the win. I think as we look forward to the semis there are now four more fantastic teams that really all have a chance of progressing. At this stage it’s really anyone’s game. You show up and see which players perform, so we’re looking forward to the next round.”
The Under-16 Boy’s semifinals tomorrow will feature three Region I teams, two representing the National League. National League Red Champions Penn Fusion will face off against Region IV Champions Seattle United 98 Copa (WA) while the other game will feature Region I Representative Baltimore Celtic (MD) against National League Blue Runner-up Loudoun 98 Red (VA).