The race for the Under-19 Girls Ross Stewart Cup began today in Overland Park, Kan., at the 2013 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by the National Guard. Four teams, consisting mostly of current college soccer players, have come back to their clubs in hopes of becoming the National Champions. The four U-19 girls teams competing are NASA 12 Elite II (GA), LSC EGA Bravo (NE), So Cal Blues-Dido (CA-S) and defending champs FC Pennsylvania Strikers (E-PA). Each of teams have played in the National Championships before, and all have played each other previously in the National League, but all will be looking to leave as the National Champion in their final year of club soccer.
FC Pennsylvania Strikers came to the US Youth Soccer National Championships, not for their first title, but for a chance to repeat as champions. Their road will be a longer one as they lost their opening match 1-0 to NASA 12 Elite II. NASA is also a team who has National Championship experience, finishing fourth in 2010, and will be looking to improve on their pervious performance. The game seemed to be a chess match between the two veteran teams as it was back and forth with neither team able to figure out the other’s defense.
The second half looked to be more of the same until NASA’s Elizabeth Johnson found the answer in the 78th minute of play. Johnson received the ball, got to just outside of the 18 yard box and floated a shot just over Striker’s goalkeeper for what would be the game winner.
Strikers tried to rally in the last 12 minutes of play, but could not find an equalizer and NASA earned an important three points. Strikers will look to rebound tomorrow in their match against So Cal Blues Dido, while NASA will look to continue their success against LSC EGA Bravo.
So Cal Blues Dido and LSC EGA Bravo are both looking to find a better result than their previous outings at the National Championships. Bravo looked ready to be back at the big show as first half substitute Chelsi Rholoff found the back of the net midway through the first half to put Bravo up 1-0. The half finished 1-0 with both defenses holding tight, stifling each other’s attacks.
The second half kicked off with a bang as Blues grabbed the equalizer with a goal from Jessica White just a minute into the second half. The response was swift as Bravo answered a minute later and once again took the advantage when Caroline Flynn slotted home a penalty kick to put Bravo on top 2-1.
Bravo’s defense almost held the victory, but Blues’ Kodi Lavrusky found the equalizing goal in the 84th minute to tie the game 2-2. The score would hold and both teams will leave their first game with one point. Blues will continue their tournament against FC Pennsylvania Strikers while Bravo will face off against NASA 12 Elite II.
LSC EGA Bravo’s Head Coach Marcus Kelcher explained the competiveness of the group.
"All four teams are not only familiar with each other through National League, but all four teams are Regional Champions," said Kelcher. "It’s a super tight group. All the teams are experienced, all have been here before and all these players play at big schools. It’s just a matter of who comes out and who can execute at this level."
"It really comes down to playing a full 90 minutes. If you play 85 minutes and aren’t completely disciplined, even in a five minute span, you’ll lose here. It’s a different level, you’ve got to play all 90 minutes."