Nine teams from Illinois were among the 88 squads that traveled to Overland Park, KS to compete against the best teams in the country for a US Youth Soccer National Championships. Two teams from Illinois, Eclipse Elite Black and Team Chicago Academy Botafogo, proved to be the best of the best, bringing National champion hardware back to the Land of Lincoln.
Under-15 Girls US Youth Soccer National Champions Eclipse Elite Black
Marissa Bosco, Courtney Daugerdas, Abby Dein, Ryan Dudycha, Alissa Gorzak, Gabriella Hart, Emily Hess, Foster Ignoffo, Adi Johnson, Kaitlyn Ko,
Rebecca Koch, Angelina LoDolce,Tatumn Milazzo, Lauren Muzzalupo,
Madison Navarro, Dana O’Boye, Cassidy Privett, Zoe Redei,Breanna Robbins,
Ena Sabanagic, Katie Sadera, Lea Waddle;
Coaches: Rory Dames & Meghan Dames
After tying all three of their matches at the Midwest Regional Championship, US Youth Soccer National League qualifier, Eclipse started the National Championships in familiar fashion, drawing 1-1 with fellow National League qualifier MSC Coyotes Green. This would be the last draw of the tournament for Eclipse, but not the last tie.
Wins over Tennessee SC 16 (2-1) and Boise Nationals Italia (5-0) ended group play with a very unique situation, Eclipse tied with game one opponent and defending National Champions MSC Coyotes Green, resulting in a penalty kick shootout to determine a finalist.
The two sides had to head to kicks from the mark to break the tie in the standings and determine who would move on to the National Championship match. Eclipse keeper Angelina LoDolce saved Coyotes first shot and MSC’s second flew over the crossbar as Eclipse was perfect in their attempts to win 3-1 and move on to face Ambassadors FC in the championship match.
In the National Final, Eclipse defeated Region II champ Ambassadors FC (OH-N) in overtime to earn the Under-15 Girls National Championship. Golden Ball winner and leading scorer Sarah Krause gave Ambassadors the lead in the 15th minute off a cross from Gabrielle Lo Presti on the left flank. With just seven minutes left to play, Eclipse was able to find the equalizer when Zoe Redei scored, taking the match to overtime. The late goal energized Eclipse, and in overtime they got three more goals for a 4-1 victory. Alissa Gorzak scored the game winner for Eclipse five minutes into overtime, and Redei found her second goal after beating an Ambassadors defender to the ball and sliding it under the keeper. Gorzak also got a second goal in the match, finishing the scoring.
For the tournament Gorzak (4 goals), Foster Ignoffo (3), and Redei (3) finished in the top 10 of goal scorers in the Under-15 age group.
"Winning the National Championship was an extraordinary accomplishment for this pool of players," Rory Dames, Eclipse Head Coach said. "The players and staff set goals last August and to see those goals accomplished speaks volumes about the hard-working, dedicated, and extremely talented pool of players Eclipse Select has at this age group. Our kids worked extremely hard for 12 months to be able to call themselves National Champions."
"I will not forget the looks on our players faces when they scored the goal to tie the game, nor the celebration that took place when the game ended," continued Dames. "The physical and mental toughness of our players is remarkable and we could not be more proud of what they have accomplished this year."
Under-18 Girls US Youth Soccer National Champions: Team Chicago Botafogo
Rachel Armand, Bryce Banuelos, Katie Ciesiulka, Hope D’Addario,
Gianna Dal Pozzo, Karla DiJohn, Megan Geldernick, Ashley Handwork,
Heather Handwork,Alexis Jakuszewski, Kaitlin Johnson, Meegan Johnston,
Brooke Ksiazek, Dana Miller, Molly Piech, Danielle Pitaro, Jenna Romano,
Zoe Swift, Kendall Wilde; Coach: Phil Nielsen
Although they were US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Champions, Team Chicago earned their spot at the US Youth Soccer National Championships because of their accomplishments in the US Youth Soccer National League. The National runner-ups last year, Team Chicago started their run at Overland Park with a 2-1 victory over Lou Fusz Wipke, another US Youth Soccer National League Qualifier.
In game two of group play, Connecticut FC and Team Chicago battled it out to a scoreless draw. Although both teams had many chances, with each taking more than 15 shots, a strong defense on both sides prevented any scoring. The 0-0 result made a win in their final match a necessity for Team Chicago to advance.
In the final group play match, Team Chicago took care of business early and often, winning 3-0 over Oklahoma FC 96 to secure a spot in the National Championship match.
In a rematch of the final game of the National League season, Team Chicago once again defeated returning champ VSA Heat Blue (VA) to seize the Under-18 Girls National Championship. The match started with an early lead for Team Chicago when Zoe Swift scored in the 11th minute, but Cassidy Mercier evened the score for VSA when she headed the ball into the net in the 49th minute off a corner kick, and regulation ended 1-1 to force overtime. In the extra period, Zoe Swift stepped up for Team Chicago again, delivering the game winner and the national title for Botafogo.
"It’s obviously a fantastic feeling to win a U18 National Championship," said Phil Nielsen, Team Chicago Head Coach. "It’s the perfect culmination on an amazing youth career for these players. In the very last youth game before embarking on their college careers they got to play at the biggest stage and emerge victoriously.
"As one of my players tweeted late Sunday night: ’Today was so bittersweet. But mostly sweet’. The emotional toll of saying goodbye to your best friends who happens to also be your teammates was a heavy one for players, parents, and me. Our pre-game team meeting was not about tactics and not a rah-rah "let’s win for the Gipper" speech, but rather a very tearful and emotional goodbye and reminder of how lucky we have been to play together for all these years.
"For the girls it was obviously the highlight of their careers and a validation of all their sacrifices as well as their talents," Nielsen said. "A lot of people will take notice of the Team Chicago commitment to attractive soccer with this win."
In addition to the two National champions, Illinois also had two teams finish as US Youth Soccer National Finalists.
West Coast FC (CA-S) and Raiders FC Premier needed kicks from the spot to decide the Under-18 Boys champion. It was no surprise the teams were tightly-matched, after Raiders won, 1-0, in a National League game earlier this year. West Coast looked like it would get payback after Gage Zerboni scored off of a long throw in by Brian Way in the 65th minute. It looked like that goal would hold up after a late bicycle kick by Raiders forward Chi Bertrand was blocked, and the ensuing shot hit the crossbar. However, Kyle Hamann headed a ball from Roberto Torres into the net for a stoppage-time equalizer that sent the game to overtime. West Coast held off a series of Raiders shots in the overtime periods, and the game went to penalties to decide the winner. Each keeper made two superb diving saves, but when Raiders’ fifth attempt was chipped over the bar, West Coast keeper Ricky Brown stepped up to the spot with a chance to win the championship. Brown’s shot flew into the right side of the goal, and his team erupted in celebration, as West Coast won a thrilling Under-18 Boys National Championship. West Coast took home the Under-14 Boys National Championship in 2009.
The 78th McGuire Cup final featured a pair of talented Under-19 Boys teams in Lehigh Valley United 93 (E-PA) and Chicago Fire Academy . The game got off to a quick start, with each team coming within inches of taking the lead. In the early minutes of the game, LVU had a shot roll across the turf before striking the right post and staying out of the goal. Chicago was just as unlucky, as a strike from outside the box beat a diving Logan Keys, but it too hit the post to keep the game scoreless. LVU managed to take the lead when Shane Campbell made a run to the back post and headed in a cross to put his side up, 1-0. Chicago pressured the Pennsylvania side in search of an equalizer, and the Fire were rewarded when they earned a penalty kick with about 15 minutes remaining in the game. However, the shot went just wide to the left and LVU remained in front. Chicago couldn’t find a tying goal in the final minutes, as LVU held on to win the storied McGuire Cup as Under-19 Boys National Champions.