Crew Juniors open with a crucial three points
Crew Juniors (OH-S) 1-0 West Coast FC (CA-S)
In an Under-19 Boys group filled with talent, it was important to notch a victory in the opening game. Region II champions Crew Juniors (OH-S) got the crucial three points on opening day as they defeated Region IV champs West Coast FC (CA-S) 1-0. Both teams put on an attractive game to watch as the two looked to control the ball and weave passes forward in attack. Both teams created scoring opportunities but the goalkeepers were equally impressive with some standout saves. In the end, it was Cole Denormandie’s (Cincinnati) goal four minutes into the second half that made the difference.
After a scoreless first half, Crew Juniors made some tactical adjustments, moving from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 to combat West Coast’s five technical midfielders. Looking to attack from the center to the flanks in the opposing half to open up space, the move paid off immediately as Will Walker (Xavier) checked into the gap, spun and played Denormandie into the channel behind the West Coast backline. Denormandie finished the chance for the game winner.
"I thought in the first half West Coast was very good at playing low pressure and I figured they would start to come out in the second half, which they did. They were defensively organized and everyone on their team is technical and reads the game well," said Crew Juniors coach Ian Gordona. "We were looking for moments we could break down their back four and we did pretty solid. I think we caught them on the counter in the second half to put the game away for us."
U.S. Youth International Jeffrey Gal was forced into action between the posts for Crew, coming up with some clutch saves in the second half to keep the clean sheet. "Coming out with three points to start is big, keeping a clean sheet is big. If we come out tomorrow bringing what we brought today, we’ll be fine."
GSA 93 Phoenix Red one step closer to first final appearance
GSA 93 Phoenix Red (GA) 3-0 Empire United SA Syracuse (NY-W)
GSA 93 Phoenix Red (GA) grabbed an important three points to open their third trip to the National Championships, 3-0, over Empire United SA Syracuse (NY-W). Empire enforced their will in the opening half of play, but a tactical shift with multiple midfield substitutions led to an opportunistic goal in the 42nd minute to turn the tide for GSA.
"The midfield we had in there is a finesse midfield and at times we would take too many touches and turn the ball over," said GSA Phoenix Head Coach and Boys Director Nuno Piteira. "You gotta give them credit, they were doing a good job at staying organized. They knew we were a possession team and sat back. They sat in and gave space and when we were unsure of ourselves we’d turn the ball over. The goals certainly helped, but the guys that came off the bench and saw what we were doing or not doing made a difference. If we played the ball quick and got into the attacking third it was going to be the difference. If we got ahead they’d have to gamble and push guys up and I think that made the difference."
"We had a really good second half. I thought we did a good job of regaining our composure. The guys on the bench gave us a great boost and that was the difference."
After struggling to progress the ball initially, GSA earned a corner kick with minutes left in the opening period. Chase Park (Georgia Southern) served in the cross which was flicked to the far post by Tyler Peoples (Furman) and Tucker Coons (College of Charleston) connected on a diving header to put GSA in the lead going into the break.
In the second half, Empire turned up the pressure in search of an equalizer and GSA’s team speed took advantage with several counter attacks.
With seven minutes left to play, GSA finally took advantage on the counter as Hugh Pringle (Syracuse) was sent into the box and brought down for a penalty kick. Pringle stepped up to hit it and although Empire keeper Daniel Debottis (Oneonta State) got a hand on it, the ball ricocheted off the post and into the net for GSA’s insurance goal.
In stoppage time, GSA again countered in behind the Empire defense as Adnan Junuzovic (Clayton State) was sent in alone and clipped a nice, outside of the foot shot over and around Debottis to finish the scoring.
Through state and regional competition, Empire had only given up one goal, which came in State Cup play.
"We’ve started out well," said GSA Phoenix midfielder Tyler Peoples. "Empire started getting the upper hand on us and they had the majority of the chances in the first half. In the second half, we got some chances and put them away as rest of the game kind of played out."