Slow starts hadn't been a problem for the COSA Express under-15 boys soccer team heading into the 2008 Midwest Regional Cup, which was held last Saturday through last Wednesday at Sportscore Soccer Complex in Rockford, Ill.
Thus, coach Marc D'Auteuil was disappointed that his team stumbled early last Sunday on the way to a 2-0 loss to Scott Gallagher from Missouri. That loss was costly as Scott Gallagher went on to win its four-team pool (2-0-1, 7 points) ahead of COSA Express (1-1-1, 4), West Des Moines (Iowa) Fire (0-1-2, 2) and BVSC Stars Cruz Azul from Kansas (0-1-2, 2).
"We came out flat and gave up a goal three minutes into the game, and that's really unusual for this group, especially in a big game like this," D'Auteuil said. "We typically come out flying, and that's what I was expecting against Scott Gallagher, but we were flat and we fell behind early. We played really well after that, but we couldn't get the equalizer."
After giving up the early goal, COSA Express had the better of play for the rest of the first half and most of the second half. In the first half, Trent Smith missed just high over the crossbar on a volley attempt from 18 yards.
Colton Bloecher headed the ball past the goalkeeper in the second half, but a defender was there to stop it from crossing the goal line. Angelo Pagani and Abdullah Mulatawfia also put shots on goal that were stuffed by the goalkeeper.
"Defensively, Scott Gallagher is one of the top teams in the region. They're big, fast and disciplined," D'Auteuil said. "We had some good scoring opportunities, but they were good enough to stop them. We outplayed them for most of the game, but we had to push forward with time running out and we gave up another goal with two minutes left."
COSA Express had beaten Scott Gallagher 2-1 at the 2007 Midwest Regional Cup.
"It's funny how the roles were reversed because last year they had the better of play and we won," D'Auteuil said. "Their coach even said, 'Your team had the better of us this time. We just put our chances away.' But that's all that matters on the scoreboard."
COSA Express opened last Saturday with a 1-0 win over the West Des Moines Fire. Eddie Harper scored on a free kick with five minutes remaining in the first half.
"We came out flying and had opportunity after opportunity to score, but we had issues finishing," D'Auteuil said. "We must have had 25 corner kicks, but we couldn't find the back of the net. Our defense was very strong. We didn't give up a shot on goal in the second, so the game was never in doubt."
Last Monday, COSA Express tied BVSC Stars Cruz Azul at 1. After COSA Express fell behind with 10 minutes left, Zak Grady tied it two minutes later.
"I thought we had the better of play in this game, but we missed a ton of opportunities," D'Auteuil said. "I think we could have won all three games, but we didn't get many breaks."