We started the weekend down JK to illness and Chase to injury. It is very tough to replace a keeper with Chase's size, reach, and skills, but we had another step up and have an outstanding tourney. We also missed JK's nose for creating goals, but we were thankful to have a White team player ready to step in.
It would be hard to imagine more tension and pressure added to one tournament than Red fought through this weekend. The first game against BFC from Belleville, Il. (St. Louis suburb) was already a must tie or win scenario because of the bracket setup. BFC had defeated the Thoroughbreds from Louisville, KY. (current state champion) 2-1 earlier in the day. A quick check to the BFC website picture hinted that their best defender and forward may be guesting with them. Red controlled the first half with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. BFC managed to ping pong a ball around the box that found a way in late in the first half. Late in the second half, BFC started kicking the ball as far into the next field as they could until the ref announced to the benches that he was adding 3 minutes to the game. At the extreme end of the extra minutes, we shank a corner kick, but get another as the ball bounced off their player. Now, with no time left and our tournament life flickering out, we get one last corner kick. There are literally 20 players in the box (only our keeper and the kicker excluded) as the ball is centered perfectly and met with the thump of a tieing header goal as time expires. Red escapes tourney death to much jubilation!
The Thoroughbreds played much better soccer and were a more balanced team. To move on, we had to win 1-0 or else by more than one goal. A 2-1 win would leave us exactly tied with BFC and force a shootout to decide the bracket. The Thoroughbreds got all the way underneath our defense on the end line and centered for the goal. Their keeper did a great job of stopping two good 1 v 1 looks we had. Now we were in the 2nd half and had to score 2 goals just to get to a shootout. The boys came through. Calmly possessing and moving the ball well across the field brought us two good looks at the goal, and we finished both of them to give us the 2-1 final. After the game we spent 45 minutes getting ready for the next day's shootout. Turned out to be time well spent...
The shootout with BFC went well as they missed their first badly and went on to hit two and have two others blocked. We hit 3 of our first 4 and did not need our 5th shot to advance. Now we faced FC America from Orlando, Fl. They were a talented team that beat their opponents 6-0 and 3-1 in bracket play. Notable for their team was that they had no parents on the trip. Just players and coaches. Wonder what those hotel rooms look like.
What a fun semi to watch as a fan! 4 goals scored in the first half (shortened to 30 minutes b/c of the rain), 2 by each team. They scored first with a strong cross and one touch redirect that banged home early. We came back with our own to tie it 1-1. It became obvious early that their 6-2 left forward was very fast and talented and would be the dominant player to watch. Soon he received at the top of the bubble with too much room and he turned and laced an upper 90. Red came right back and scored again with strong teamwork and precision shooting of our own. Both teams adjusted well defensively at the half and a 2nd half and two overtime periods netted zero for both squads. We had one good look with a clear shot at the keeper that went just high of the bar.
Now we must again shoot PK's to move on. We've seen enough shootouts this year to feel comfortable, but I'm sure a bit nervous. However, you might watch 100 shootouts and not see one go to the 10th shooter. If the teams are tied after the 5 mandatory shots, the first unanswered goal wins the game. We ended up making 6 out of 10 and they won it making their 7th. To FC America's credit, every ball they shot either went in or was blocked-no ball hit out of the frame.
Congratulations on a strong tournament against great regional competition. Great job, Red!!