Over the last couple of years Raiders FC Premier (IL) and Galaxy 94/95 Blue (IL) have engaged in a battle for supremacy in Illinois. Their back and forth rivalry has exceeded the state lines of Illinois, and has overflowed into the regional, and ultimately the US Youth Soccer National Championship stage.
"It’s a shame that only one of us can advance to the finals. All teams deserve to be here, but we are partial to Galaxy because we are rivals from the same state," Raiders head coach, Minos Vlamakis said. "It’s always a great showcase of soccer when these teams play, and they got on us in the first half, but we were able to get a goal late in the first half and that turned the tides."
Patrick Flynn, who scored two goals in the National finals last year, kicked things off in the 33rd minute after Eric Osika made a diagonal run across the edge of the box before flicking a pass to Flynn, who struck it home to give Galaxy the lead. Chi Bertrand evened things up in extra time of the first half when he received a rebound off the post and buried it home.
"I thought we came out strong in the first half, and probably should have had more than one goal," Galaxy head coach, Brett Strang said. "That first half goal really changed the momentum, and it carried over in the second half. It was a tale of two halves, and I wish them the best of luck."
Raiders controlled possession in the second half, and in the 84th minute, Bertrand scored the game winner after his shot from the top of the box was deflected by a Galaxy defender, and found the side netting. Galaxy brought everything they had in the final minutes in hopes of netting an equalizer, but their effort was to no avail.
"One little slip can affect the rest of the way, and you have to be fortunate to advance, but at the same time I think you make your own luck," Vlamakis said. "Going forward we want to celebrate this win, but we have business to do tomorrow. We aren’t taking anything for granted, and we want to be back on the stage this year."
While the rivalry between the two is as intense as any on the field, Strang explains that each team has a mutual respect for each other.
"No one wants friendship on the field considering these are two great teams who have accomplished a lot," Strang said. "But we will be rooting for them moving forward not only because they beat us, but because they are from Illinois and we know they go about their business the right way."
Raiders can clinch a spot in the finals with a win or tie over PDA Harkes (NJ) tomorrow while Galaxy will take on Team Boca (FL). Both games will take place at 7:30 p.m. with Raiders playing on field seven and Galaxy playing on field eight.