After starting day one off with a loss, OP Eagles (OH-S) have rallied back with two straight wins including a 2-0 victory over FC Golden State (CA-S) today to punch a ticket to the semifinals of the Under-16 Boys group at the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by the National Guard.
With Baltimore Celtic (MD) sitting atop Group B, OP Eagles and FC Golden State entered the match as the only teams in contention for the second semifinals spot. Thanks to a tie breaker, FC Golden State only needed a tie while OP Eagles’ only hope to advance was with a win.
“This match was a challenge considering we put ourselves in a tough position with losing the first game,” OP Eagles head coach Mike Lawrence said. “We were able to get a good result yesterday and knew we had to win today while they only had to tie, so we had to chase a bit.”
Emmanuel Dapaa, who was second in the US Youth Soccer National League with six goals and also scored a hat trick in a 5-0 victory yesterday against Houstonians FC 98 Red (S-TX), was picking apart yet another defense as he was vital in both of the goals OP Eagles scored today.
In the 32nd minute Dapaa broke free down the left side of the box before being taken out by FC Golden State’s Saul Reyes. Jack Holland’s penalty was initially saved by Golden State keeper Alfredo Cortez, but it bounced right back to Holland, who converted on his second attempt to give the Ohio squad a 1-0 lead.
“This is a group of kids with fantastic resolve and character who have been together for a long time and it is unbelievable that they are heading to the semifinals right now,” Lawrence said. “This is our first trip to nationals and as a small team from Ohio to be going to the semifinals is a great feeling. I just can’t say enough about these kids.”
OP Eagles was able to hold off FC Golden State for a majority of the second half before it was Dapaa again who sealed the deal with a breakaway that ended with him chipping the keeper for his group leading fourth goal of the tournament. Dappa, who is known for his acrobatic goal celebrations, performed a makeshift swan dive onto the grass after his goal today.
OP Eagles will have their hands full in the semifinals as they take on two-time defending national champs, Santa Barbara SC (CA-S) on Saturday, July 26.
“There is no other competition in the US, I don’t care if it is development academy or anything else, nothing compares to the Region Championships, National League or especially the National Championships,” Lawrence said. “This is the best competition in the country for youth soccer. Every team and player is great and we love attending these events and are looking forward to our next challenge.”
The Under-16 games will be streamed online and can be seen here: http://championships.usyouthsoccer.org/live/