A large South Carolina state flag rose above the fans and blew in the breeze, as USA/MP 2003 Premier (SC) celebrated a win that lifted it to the top of the 14U Boys standings.
With a 2-0 victory over FC Wisconsin WDA (WI) — USA/MP’s second straight to start the week — the South Carolina side secured a place in Saturday night’s 14U Boys final at the 2017 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas. However, that end result was anything but a certainty entering Wednesday’s game, after the first day’s matches in the group each ended in close, 1-0, finals.
“The message was to come out firing and get an early goal, so we were able to do that,” USA/MP coach Sachin Patel said. “Getting the second goal was icing on the cake.”
While the second goal may have been the icing, the first strike was one impressive cake. It came in the 11th minute, when Lance Friedrich played a lofted ball into the FC Wisconsin penalty area. That’s where Ted Van Thullenar dropped his shoulders back and flung up his foot to send a bicycle kick under the crossbar and into the back of the net.
The goal sent the USA/MP fans into a frenzy, as Van Thullenar threw his arms in the air while running back to midfield for the restart.
“That’s probably one of the best goals I’ve ever scored,” Van Thullenar said. “I’ve scored some pretty good goals, but that one is definitely No. 1. It means a lot more to score it at Nationals with so many people watching.”
FC Wisconsin tried to respond quickly, but USA/MP made sure to add some cushion to its advantage with a 26th-minute strike. Once again, Friedrich provided the service, as his cross from the right wing to the back post found Pedro Andrade, who headed it down and past the keeper to double the lead.
The South Carolina side did well to see out the game and prevent FC Wisconsin from having many clean looks at goal. Wisconsin’s best chance came late, when John Corbett ran onto a bouncing ball behind the USA/MP back line. However, goalkeeper Jakob Jorgensen came off his line to cut down the angle and make the save.
With its second straight clean sheet, USA/MP moved to six points in the standings to secure its spot in the National Championship final. Thursday’s matchups will determine whether second-place Beadling 2003 (PA-W) or third-place CDA Slammers FC HB 03 Godinez Black (CA-S) will be the opponent.
Patel knows his team can’t have a letdown in the next few days. He said from State Cup to Regionals to this week, there has not been one game that has felt comfortable and each has presented his team with a new challenge.
With one more major hurdle left, Patel said the team is excited to have a shot to represent their city and bring back a National title.
“We’re a small town, but we have a big town support,” Patel said. “We’re from Charleston, S.C., and we have a few clubs and a USL team. It’s a really great soccer community. It takes that whole village to support us. We’re proud and happy to have the opportunity to represent them.”