FRISCO, Texas (July 28, 2016) — The outcome of Under-17 Boys Group A could have gone in several different directions, but it ended with Pipeline Black (MD) atop the group and on its way to the semifinals.
The Maryland side used a pair of second-half goals to defeat Sporting St. Croix (MN), 2-0, in a win-or-go-home matchup Thursday at the 2016 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas.
Entering Tuesday’s games, each of the teams in the group were tied at three points apiece, with all to play for on the final day of group play. Pipeline coach Santino Quaranta, an 11-year veteran of MLS and former U.S. Men’s National Team player, said the scenario within the team’s group didn’t affect how it approached the game but did indicate what it means to win the group.
“It shows how great the competition is. It’s been a great event so far,” Quaranta said. “We’ve been fortunate to play against such great players. But going into this game, we’ve had the mantra all year that we feel we are built for a national championship in the way we play.”
After a back-and-forth opening half that saw each team have its moments of controlling the game, Pipeline came out strong following halftime and managed to grab an important lead in the 48th minute.
The Maryland side managed to build up an attack, which led to a cross that found Mario Carneiro inside the six-yard box. Carneiro calmly converted the chance to put Pipeline in front in the game and the group standings.
“We knew we wanted to start fast in the second half and try to get an early goal,” Pipeline forward Ben Alexander said. “We ended up doing that, and from there we just took off. All year we thought this was our goal, ‘We’re going to make it to the National final.’ We just got one step closer today.”
Quaranta said aside from giving his side the lead, the goal played to their advantage in opening up the game, as Sporting St. Croix needed to push players forward in search of an equalizer.
Pipeline managed to absorb the St. Croix pressure and continued to generate opportunities of its own. In the 79th minute, one of those opportunities turned into an insurance goal when the Maryland side earned a penalty kick. Jake Dengler stepped up to the spot and powered his shot past the diving keeper to double his side’s advantage.
Despite going down to 10 men, Sporting continued to threaten the Pipeline goal but couldn’t manage to cut into the lead. With the result of the other game in the group, Pipeline’s victory helped it secure first place in Group A and earn a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
Quaranta called Saturday a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the team and club. And despite his past as a player, this week marks something special for the Pipeline coach.
“This is one of the highlights of my career,” Quaranta said. “As a player, I was in complete control. Here, you’re managing a group of young men. This is my first time here. I played a lot of Regionals as a player but was never fortunate enough to get to a National Championship. To be here and to guide these kids is really something I’ll never forget.”