FRISCO, Texas (July 26, 2016) – Dallas Kicks SC 01 (TX-N) is back at the US Youth Soccer National Championships for its third straight appearance. In its first trip as Under-13 in 2014, Kicks didn’t advance out of group play going 0-2-1. Last year, Kicks advanced to the Under-14 Girls National Championships final after going 3-0-0 in group play but fell just short as they lost to Legends FC Gold (CA-S) 2-1.
This year, Kicks earned the right to play in front of its home crowd at the 2016 US Youth Soccer National Championships by advancing through the US Youth Soccer North Texas State Cup and then winning Region III Championships.
“It’s a blessing to be back at the National Championships,” said Dallas Kicks head coach Juan Martinez. “This year we had to go the long way, and that was advancing through State and Regionals to get here. The most important thing is that the girls wanted to play at home. We have a great fan base, and for them to come and watch and support, it’s great. That’s all they wanted, to play at home.”
The Kicks didn’t let down the many fans who filled the sidelines on day one of the 2016 National Championships as the North Texas side defeated Sunrise Sting 00/01 (FL) 1-0 on the opening day of play.
Dallas rocketed out of the gates early as 2015 National Championships Golden Ball Award winner Jaida Thomas broke down the left flank and then knocked a ball across the goal to U.S. Youth National Team player Taylor Tufts for an easy tap-in. Thomas found Tufts again just a bit later, but Tufts’ header just glanced wide.
Sunrise played compressed and absorbed the Kicks pressure. Madison Grushoff almost leveled the game on a counter, but her shot hit the post and bounced out of play.
Both teams came out with energy in the second half, with each teams’ keepers making huge saves. Kicks had a plethora of chances to add to their lead but saw all its second half chances sail wide, high or denied by the Sunrise keeper. Sunrise pushed for an equalizer in the final minutes and saw a great opportunity kick-saved away by the Kicks keeper. Sunrise had another great chance late as a ball floated into the box. The Kicks keeper couldn’t punch the ball away, and a mad scramble happened in the box. The ball bounced around between players of both sides and after deflected shot attempts and missed clearances, the ball eventually ended up smothered by the Kicks keeper.
“Here at Nationals every possession is important,” Martinez continued. “If you lose a 50-50 ball it can turn into a goal. In the last 30 seconds they could have ended up tying the game on a 50-50 ball. If you don’t capitalize on your chances you leave the door wide open since all these teams are so competitive and evenly matched.”
The final whistle blew, and the game ended 1-0 as the Kicks pick up a crucial three points on the road back to the National Championship final.
Martinez stressed how important it was, even with a day one win, to take it game by game.
“Anything can change with the competition here being so even. You can win your first, and lose the next two. That’s something we’ve learned from experience. You can’t think ahead, you have to concentrate on the moment and on that game."