Fierce competition featured at ECNL National Selection Games in Florida
The National Selection Games are some of the best games in every ECNL National Event. All-star teams compete against each other and showcase the talents of each player.
It was much the same at ECNL Florida – Club Competition, where the two National Selection Games had very different results and yet did a fantastic job in highlighting the high level of play of each athlete and what makes these types of games so special.
The U16 / 17 national selection match was packed with action from the opening whistle. Right from the start, Team East took him to Team West, and it didn’t take long for the East to find the back of the net. Swinging out, Izzy Engle of the Minnesota Thunder Academy opened the scoring for Team East, and it was quickly followed by World Class FC’s Claire Hutton, giving his team a 2-0 lead after 15 minutes of the game.
“There’s a reason some of them thrive in this type of environment,” said Team East coach Santino Quarantine. “Our midfielders Claire Hutton and Izzy Engle were very confident all night and when it comes to big stages sometimes a player can be nervous. But they thrived in those times.
Despite falling into a 2-0 hole, Team West refused to be discouraged and began to reduce their deficit. Midway through half-time, the team were rewarded for their efforts, reducing their opponent’s lead to a 2-1 game.
At the end of the half, Team East regained their control of the game, scoring two goals in the dying minutes of the half to take a 4-1 lead into the break.
“I think our group tonight was really good in their approach,” Quaranta said. “The way they approached the game, they were aggressive and confident from the start and scoring four goals in the first half was really impressive.”
This 4-1 lead was short lived, however. Making halftime adjustments, Team West exploded for three goals in the first 15 minutes of half-time, completely erasing Team East’s lead and setting up a very exciting end to the game.
Both teams continued to trade punches and counter-punches, looking for the decisive goal that would keep their respective teams in the lead for good. And each team had its moments, where it seemed like victory was imminent. However, it was Team East who ultimately managed to take the lead for good, scoring two late-half goals to give Team East the 6-4 victory.
“Before the game we talked about enjoying those moments, but these girls are also competitors,” Quaranta said. “We wanted to perform well, but the girls also wanted to win the game. After these goals, Keri (Sarver, co-coach of the East team) made a few changes and the girls responded. They found a way to win and I thought they deserved to win.
Meanwhile, in the U18 / 19 game, it was a battle between the NSG roster and FC Stars. Both teams were fully engaged in defense throughout the game. Throughout the game, every attack encountered stifling defense, doing just enough to keep the ball out of the net.
During the first half, both teams felt each other, trying to find weaknesses in every backline. But as the half progressed it became evident that it would be difficult to find those weaknesses. The NSG team and FC Stars each had a good chance to break through, but eventually both teams headed towards a half-dead 0-0 stalemate.
The defensive battle continued into the second half, and it appeared the game was destined for a scoreless draw until Shae o’rourke (WNY Flash) found the net for the U18 / 19 NSG team halfway through the second.
“Scoring that goal was amazing and such a rewarding experience,” said O’Rourke. “Without the team, it wouldn’t have been possible. Our squad were amazing and I couldn’t have played as well as I did without their support and the support of my WNY Flash teammates who have been cheering me on from the sidelines.
Now armed with a lead, the NSG squad reaffirmed their commitment to keeping the ball out of the net, while already looking for a scoring FC Stars to put forward more numbers in the hope of equalize. However, the NSG’s backline was solid and at the final whistle the NSG team were off to a difficult 1-0 victory.
“Playing this game was an incredible experience,” said O’Rourke. “The general atmosphere was intense but so much fun to play. Playing with and against some of the best players in ECNL is something I will never forget.”
To view full ECNL Florida scores and schedules, click here.