Titles elude area squads
None of the eight central Ohio club soccer teams that competed in the Midwest Regional Cup held June 22-26 at the Cownie Soccer Complex and Hidden Valley Soccer Park in Des Moines, Iowa, returned home with a championship.
It marks just the second time in the last five years that Columbus-area teams failed to win a title in the event. The Crew Juniors U19 boys team won titles in 2010 and 2012 and the Blast F.C. U15 boys won in 2009.
Competing in this year's event from central Ohio were the Crew Juniors U19 boys, the Blast F.C. U18 boys, the Blast F.C. U18 girls, the Ohio Premier Eagles U15 boys, the Blast F.C. U14 boys, the Ohio Premier Eagles U13 boys, the Ohio Premier Eagles U13 girls and the Classics Eagles U13 girls.
Only the champion of each age bracket advanced to the U.S. Youth Soccer Association National Championships, which will be held July 23-28 in Overland Park, Kan.
The Ohio Premier Eagles U13 boys team came the closet to advancing, as it was runner-up in its age bracket. Also advancing to a semifinal were the Ohio Premier Eagles U15 boys and the Classics Eagles U13 girls.
"It's not easy to advance to this tournament to begin with and, once you're in, it's even more difficult to win your (four-team) pool to reach the semifinals," Ohio Premier Eagles U13 and U15 boys coach Mike Lawrence said. "Once you get to the semifinals, the teams are usually pretty evenly-matched so anything can happen. I think the teams that competed in the Regional Cup represented Columbus well, and it was nice that we were able to have three teams make it past pool play.
"Once you get that far, some years you catch a break and win and other years you don't. None of us won this year, but some of us came pretty close and we hope to build off this experience and come back stronger next year."
Ohio Premier Eagles
The U13 boys team went 2-1 in pool play to tie Ace Milwaukee and the Fort Wayne Fever for first with six points each but won the goal-differential tiebreaker to advance to a semifinal.
The Eagles took a 2-0 lead on Ace Milwaukee in their opener June 22 behind goals by forward Ryan Kayalar and forward Luke Kiley but lost 4-2. They bounced back to defeat Sporting Blue Valley from Kansas 7-1 on June 23 behind two goals each from Kayalar and Kiley and one goal apiece from midfielders Braden Johnson, Matt Marsh and Ashton Pullie and then beat the Fort Wayne 4-0 as Kiley had three goals and forward Matthew Walters scored one.
"We knew we had to win our third game by four goals to win our pool and that was a tough task," Lawrence said. "Luke had another big game and our (goalkeeper), Bryant Pratt, had some fantastic saves to earn the shutout."
The Eagles then beat Minnesota Thunder Academy 3-2 in overtime in a semifinal June 25. Kiley scored all three goals, including the winner with 13 minutes remaining in overtime.
"Luke is one of the better players in our region and we told him we needed him to make an impact in this tournament for us to be successful, and he really came through for us," Lawrence said.
The Eagles then lost to the Raiders F.C. from Illinois 4-1 in the final June 26, with defender Ryan Burke scoring their lone goal.
Marsh missed the game with a hip injury and Kiley, who had nine goals in the team's first four games in the event, played only 10 minutes before sitting out the reminder of the game with a back injury.
Goalie Jacob Pastor also missed the game because of a heel injury.
"It was going to be hard for us to beat the Raiders anyway, but we couldn't do it without those three guys," Lawrence said. "Give all the credit to the Raiders because they are the biggest reason we didn't win. But if Luke and Matt were healthy, they could have made a big difference."
The U15 boys team reached a semifinal, where it lost to eventual champion Vardar from Michigan 6-0 on June 25.
"That Vardar team is outstanding and they have a serious shot to win a national title," Lawrence said. "They normally aren't six goals better than us, but we didn't play our best game. We were a man down for the last 20 minutes because of a red card and they scored three goals during that time to blow the game open."
The Eagles went 3-0 in pool play. They opened with a 2-0 win over Sporting Blue Valley on June 22 behind goals from forward Emmanuel Dapaa and midfielder Bryce Johnson and beat Javanon from Kentucky 3-1 on June 23 behind goals by Dapaa, Johnson and midfielder Everett Canepa. They then defeated Nebraska F.C. 3-1 on June 24 behind goals from forwards Kingsley Amoakohene and Brady Whittekind and midfielder Jack Holland.
"(Sporting Blue Valley) had reached the regional semifinals the last two years, so that was a big win for us," Lawrence said."We wanted to go 3-0 to get out of our group and it was awesome to do it."
The U13 girls team went 1-2 in pool play, opening with a 1-0 loss to the Michigan Hawks on June 22 and falling to Eclipse Select from Illinois 2-1 on June 23 before defeating the Minneapolis United Inferno 3-2 on June 24.
"We played well enough to win each game, but we were in a really tough group and we didn't catch many breaks," coach Kevin Dougherty said. "Against the Michigan Hawks, we hit a crossbar, a post and we missed on three clear breakaways. This group doesn't have a true goalkeeper and we gave up a soft goal off a corner kick against the Eclipse before we finally beat Minnesota.
"Overall, we went there to play good competition and we had that opportunity. We just didn't reach our goals in this tournament."
The U13 girls team went 3-0 in pool play before losing to Carmel (Ind.) United S.C. 4-2 in a semifinal June 25.
The Eagles fell behind Carmel 2-0 in the first 13 minutes, but forward Hannah Hotchkiss scored with a minute remaining in the first half to cut the deficit to 2-1 heading into halftime.
The Eagles tied the game at 2 on a goal by forward Delaney Earl with 20 minutes left, but Carmel scored two goals in the final three minutes.
"Carmel played very direct and they have two very good athletes up top who were able to get behind us a couple of times to score early in the game," coach Mike Lentz said. "But our girls did a great job of battling back and we gave them a tough game. Carmel scored on a cross late in the game and they scored again while we were trying to push for the equalizer."
The Eagles opened pool play with a 4-0 win over Sporting Blue Valley on June 22 behind goals from Earl and forwards Abby Townsend and Leah Wunsch and an own goal.
They then beat Cleveland F.C. 1-0 on June 23 behind a first-half goal by Earl and several key saves by goalie Katie Luce and defeated Lexington (Ky.) F.C. White 4-1 on June 24 behind goals from Townsend, defender Megan Cochran and midfielders Camila Hall and Toni Kuhns.
"This is the first year our club has made it to a Regional Cup semifinal, so I'm very proud of our team for breaking new ground this year," Lentz said. "We handled our other two opponents, so Cleveland F.C. was the key game for us in pool play. We defended a lot in the second half and Cleveland F.C. had some good chances, but Katie Luce had an outstanding game with a lot of fantastic saves and we defended well overall."
The U18 boys team went 1-2 in pool play in its Regional Cup debut.
The Blast opened pool play with a 1-0 win over Carmel (Ind.) United on June 22, with midfielder Jacob Pulliam scoring on a header off a free kick by midfielder Jack Flora, before losing to Springfield (Mo.) S.C. 3-0 on June 23 and Omaha (Neb.) F.C. Elite 5-0 on June 24.
"We had only 14 guys while the rest of the teams had 18 players, and we wilted in the sun a little bit as we went deeper into the tournament," coach Brian Stoddard said. "But this was a great experience for our guys, and (forward Andres Isea) had a super weekend and played as well as I've seen him play.
"Everyone thought they were going to roll over us since we didn't win our State Cup, but the first two games were good games. Starting off with a win was very exciting. Our goalie (Stephen Banick) made a ton of great saves to preserve our win over Carmel."
The U18 girls team went 2-1 in pool play, opening with a 4-2 win over Sporting Blue Valley on June 22 before losing to F.C. United Select from Illinois 4-1 on June 23.
"We dominated most of the first game and we went ahead 1-0 at halftime in the second game," defender Brittany Maisano said. "In the second half of the second game, we lost focus and crumbled. It's sad because that game was a lot closer than the score reflected."
The Blast then defeated Iowa Rush S.C. 4-2 on June 24.
"It was nice to go out with a win," Maisano said. "(Forward) Maggie Mayo, (forward) Taylor Ross and (midfielder) Kari Weinland were our main scorers, and Heather Lauefer did a good job as our goalie.
"We didn't accomplish what we were hoping for, but we did a lot of team bonding and had a lot of fun together."
The U14 boys team went 0-1-2 in pool play, opening with a scoreless tie against the Cleveland Internationals on June 22 and losing to Carmel United 2-1 on June 23 before playing the Milwaukee Bavarians to a scoreless tie June 24.
Forward River Allbaugh scored the goal against Carmel United off an assist from midfielder Hector Gomez.
The U19 boys team went 2-1 in pool play and fell short of reaching a semifinal.
"This is certainly disappointing because we set out to win our region and to make a similar run at nationals as we made last year," coach Jeremy Parkins said. "This group has a lot of talent and high expectations, but we didn't reach them."
The Crew Juniors opened with a 4-1 victory over Westside United Finbloom S.C. of Avon, Ind., on June 22 behind three goals by midfielder Connor Klekota and lost to Eastern Iowa United 4-1 on June 23 before beating Detroit WAZA F.C. East 94 Black 8-2 on June 24.
"We played really well in five of the six halves we played in this tournament, but we had a couple of breakdowns as a group in the second half against Iowa and they took advantage of them while outscoring us 3-0 in the second half," Parkins said. "After that, we won our third game by six goals, but it was too little too late.
"(Forward) Tommy Thompson, Connor Klekota and (midfielder) Louis Berra were our leading goal-scorers, but the nice thing about this group is when we score goals, there's usually five or six players involved."