Despite Ohio Premier boys teams going a combined 1-2-3 in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships last week, their coaches were not all that disappointed.
OP Green Under-18 went 1-1-1 and OP Green U19/20 was 0-1-2 in group play, which concluded July 28 in Frisco, Texas.
Despite their losses, both teams came up a goal shy of advancing to the national semifinals.
"All the coaches said they didn't feel like their teams left anything on the field," OP Green U19/20 coach Billy Thompson said. "Make no mistake about it, we were definitely disappointed. Everybody played well and they were engaged. We just came up short."
The top two teams from each group in each age bracket advanced to the semifinals July 29. The finals were July 30.
OP Green U18, one of only two teams in the age group making its second consecutive appearance at nationals, opened with a 2-0 win over Tacoma, Washington-based Washington Premier FC Black on July 25. It then lost to United Futbol Academy 99 Premier, from Cummins, Georgia, 1-0 on July 26 before a 2-all tie against Baltimore Celtics SC Christos on July 27.
Trevor Johnson had two goals, and Chris Dowling and Jason Fleischman added one each.
Dowling scored in the final two minutes against Baltimore Celtics SC to forge a tie.
"It was a good week, and I am not sure looking back that I'd do anything differently," coach Travis Wall said, calling the defense his team's strength. "I could probably count on one hand the number of times we gave up more than one goal this year. Usually, it was one or none, but I also want to emphasize it was not just our back line that played well. We were gritty, tough and disciplined. We're a tough out for anybody. ...
"Getting back here for the second year in a row was important for us. We proved we are not just a flash in the pan."
OP Green U19/20 tied West Chester (Pennsylvania) Penn Fusion 98 2-all on July 25 and lost to San Juan Capistrano (California) West Coast Haney 3-0 the next day, but still entered its final game July 27 against Medina-based Challenger Crew Juniors Gold with a chance to advance.
Goals from Jarrod Ferstl and Jack Holland staked OP Green U19/20 to a 2-0 lead by halftime, and based on the results of other games, Thompson learned his team needed to win by two goals to advance. Challenger Crew Juniors Gold got within 2-1 with 25 minutes to play, and after OP Green U19/20 narrowly missed scoring a goal in the final moments, it allowed a score from Vincent Wormer as time expired as the game ended in a 2-all tie.
"That was a classic game, even an 'epic' game," Thompson said. "Our guys played well, definitely well enough to earn a positive result. But at this stage, if you give other teams a chance, they will make you pay. The other game we were watching ended in a tie, so we wouldn't have advanced anyway, but it was a tough ending.
"We went into that third game with a chance to advance. That's what you hope for, just to have a chance."
Ferstl had two goals in the three games. Ian Black added one.
Area players spark
DeSales' Reese Elliott and New Albany's Brooklyn Harris helped Cincinnati United Premier's U15 girls finish second in their age group.
Harris scored three goals in five games, and CUP U15 lost to Macomb Township (Michigan) Nationals Union 02 Black 2-1 in the national final July 30.
Harris had two goals in a 7-0 win over Real Colorado 02 Olympico from Centennial, Colorado, in the first round of group play July 25. Her other goal was in a 5-1 win over Sporting Omaha FC 2002 on July 26.
Harris is a forward, and Elliott is a defender.
CUP U15 defeated La Roca Futbol PO 02 from Kaysville, Utah, 2-0 in a national semifinal July 29. The team struck first in the national final, as Lauren Bastian scored two minutes into the second half, but later gave up two goals in a 16-minute span to fall behind.