Only two of the nine central Ohio boys and girls soccer teams competing in the Midwest Regional Cup, held June 25-29 in Fox Cities, Wis., won their four-team pool to advance to a semifinal.
Only two of the nine central Ohio boys and girls soccer teams competing in the Midwest Regional Cup, held June 25-29 in Fox Cities, Wis., won their four-team pool to advance to a semifinal. Four of seven local squads reached a semifinal in 2009 and three of eight area teams made it to a semifinal last year.
However, Crew Juniors Under-19 boys coach Brian Bliss said the decrease in central Ohio pool-play winners probably was because of bad luck and not a lack of talent or effort.
Bliss led the Crew Juniors U-19 boys squad to regional and national titles last year. This year's Crew Juniors U-19 boys team, which didn't retain any of last year's players, went 1-0-2 to finish second in its pool.
"There's some luck involved in being able to win this tournament, and in our case, it ended up being the bad luck of getting a tough draw," Bliss said. "This team has as much or more talent than we had last year, but we drew into a tougher group where every game was tough. If we would have drawn into a different group we may have gone on to win this again, but we had to spend a ton of energy in the three games we played here and we didn't even make it out of our pool. The (blind draw for pool play) is one of the biggest reasons you rarely see a club win this tournament two or three years in a row."
The one local club that did fare well this year was the Ohio Premier Eagles, which advanced two of its four teams to semifinals.
The Ohio Premier Eagles' four girls teams combined to go 10-2 in pool play. Its U-13 squad went 3-0 to win its pool and its U-16 team advanced on a tiebreaker by beating Eclipse Select of Illinois 1-0 on penalty kicks.
In semifinals played June 28, the U-13 team played Eclipse Select and the U-16 team played KCFC Force from Kansas. The finals were held June 29.
Regional champions in the U-14 through U-19 age groups advanced to the U.S. Youth Soccer Association National Championships on July 27-31 in Phoenix.
The Ohio Premier Eagles' U-18 and U-19 teams each went 2-1 to finish second in their pools.
Ohio Premier Eagles U-13 coach Kevin Dougherty was surprised to see his squad outscore its three pool play opponents 12-1.
"It's pretty unusual to win three games here the way we did because all the teams competing here are very good," Dougherty said. "The way our U-16 team made it is more typical of this kind of tournament because there isn't much separating most teams from a win or loss here."
All five local boys teams fell short of qualifying for the semifinals. The Crew Juniors U-19 and Team Ohio F.C. Blast U-18 (1-1-1 in pool play) each finished second in their pools, and the Classics Eagles U-13 (1-1-1), Team Ohio F.C. Green U-17 (0-1-2) and Team Ohio F.C. Juventus U-16 (1-2) each placed third.
Classics Eagles U-13 boys coach Mike Lentz said most teams were just a couple favorable bounces or calls away from winning an extra game to advance.
"There's a lot of parity at this level," Lentz said. "Looking at our bracket, three of the four teams could have come out on top on any given weekend. We had an untimely call go against us in our first game and it ended up completely changing our destiny for the tournament. If we would have caught a lucky break or two who knows how far we could have made it."