Day 1 of the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series ended on a bit of a low for Loudoun Soccer.
Despite solid performances from both the 98 Girls Red and the 98 Boys Red, neither team could overcome two goal deficits in their respective games.
The first match took place bright and early at 8 AM on Field 5 to cool weather, cloud cover, and the threat of rain. For the spectator and player, it was a rather pleasant atmosphere. Still, tension was in the air for the 98 Girls Red as they took the field. The opposition was a late addition to the group, who three days prior had no idea they were even going to participate in the tournament. The original opposition, Tophat from Georgia, were ruled uneligible for unspecified reasons and forced out. Jacksonville FC took their place.
Nerves clung to faces as the opening whistle blew, yet Loudoun started off the match with a golden chance to put one in the net. The keeper from JFC had to come out strong to force the ball away off a clumsy back pass. Loudoun latched onto the ball and took a shot, but it was saved. The first ten minutes continued in this fashion, all Loudoun, but Jacksonville slowly grew into the match after that. On 17', a Jacksonville cross into the box found its (woman) for the simple finish into the back of the net.
Shortly thereafter, a Jacksonville corner was cleared by Loudoun to the top of the box. Jacksonville settled the ball, shot it, and the score became 2-0 in the 24'.
Thirty minutes in Loudoun was fouled just outside the eighteen yard box, which set up a good free kick opportunity. The kick was taken and sailed just over the crossbar. The effort was inches away, and that would be the last solid effort on goal for Loudoun until the second half.
After halftime, the 98's started the second period much as they did in the first, applying good pressure and creating chances. In the 68', Loudoun was brought down in the box for a penalty. With a chance to get back into the game, the subsequent spot kick was saved. Solid pressure by Loudoun continued, with no breakthrough. The match ended 2-0 to Jacksonville.
Loudoun 98 Boys Red went up against the toughest opponent in their group today as well - Pateadores from San Diego. There was definite home crowd advantage for boys in white as the Loudoun Soccer family came out in spectacular numbers to support the team.
Both teams started strong right from the whistle, but it was Pateadores who got on the score sheet first. After creating space down their right (our left), the ball was crossed into the box to the feet of a wide open Pats player who made the easy finish for the lead in the 12'.
Set pieces were a strong advantage for Loudoun, but luck was not on our side today. In the 22', a half bicycle kick missed the top right corner by inches. A wide open header in the 23' by our boys in white sailed over. In the 36', a beautiful curling effort from outside the box was barely saved by the Pats keeper. The half ended 1-0 in favor of the team from San Diego.
After the half, the boys came out strong - connecting passes, finding space, and creating chances as they were bolstered by the crowd. This continued for the entire second half, but it couldn't stop Pateadores from getting onto the scoresheet once again in the 69' to make it 2-0. Changes were made to bring on fresh legs, and they added energy to the side. Loudoun took control of the game and began to push forward with gusto.
With minutes left in the match, Loudoun scored a beautiful goal as Emin Karic nailed one into the top corner to cut the deficit in half. The team continued to charge but couldn't find the desired goal and the match ended 2-1 to Pateadores.
We would like to extend a special thank you to all those who joined us at both matches today. Your presence was felt and created a special atmosphere.
Games continue tomorrow as Day 2 gets underway with the girls playing the Pride Predators from Colorado on Field 9 at 8 AM. The boys face the Michigan Wolves on Field 7 at 2 PM.