RSL-AZ U18’s vs Washington Crossfire
The RSL-AZ Academy took to the field Saturday February 5, 2011 at Lake Washington High School in Seattle Washington to play against cross-conference rival, the Washington Crossfire.
It has been a long break for the academy boys from Arizona as they haven’t had a competitive match since the Winter Academy Showcase during the first week of December.
The RSL-AZ Academy teams left Friday evening from Phoenix International Airport and arrived in Seattle, Washington to rainy, cold and windy conditions. The boys knew the elements were not going to be on their side. When they arrived to the field the next day, the field was also not going to do them any favors.
Lake Washington HS was a high school football field made from old astro-turf . A far difference from the immaculate Bermuda grass that the RSL-AZ boys are used to at Grande Sports World. The field must have been no wider than 60 yards and maybe 100 yards in length.
The U18 boys started the day by quickly trying to impose their style and possession philosophy on the Crossfire. Crossfire was more than happy having the RSL group keep the ball in their half and pretty soon RSL began dominating possession. Crossfire sat deep in their own defensive half and made it very difficult for the RSL midfield to penetrate up the middle of the field. Time and time again RSL began building out of their back with relative ease but once the ball crossed the midfield Crossfire made it very difficult for their central midfielders to play as they made it very compact in the middle of the field.
The next thing you know Crossfire capitalized on a bad turnover by RSL and 20 minutes into the game it was 1-0 Crossfire. RSL began to become visibly frustrated as they were finding it very difficult to break down the opponent. 5 minutes later it was 2-0. A set piece out wide was floated into the box and a Crossfire player found himself wide open and his looping header went right over goalkeeper Matt Bersano who couldn’t do anything about it.
The half ended 2-0 and the RSL players were disappointed in their 1st half performance but there was a calmness about the group. A positive vibe that there was still 45 minutes to play and that if they got an early goal everything would change. The coaching staff talked about the outside wingers staying wide and not coming into the center of the midfield where it was already crowded. They needed as much width as possible to give the center guys more time on the ball. The coaches also discussed the need to stretch the opponent’s lines. There were moments when RSL needed to be a little more direct in order to create more space for the midfield.
As the second half commenced RSL jumped all over the Crossfire and wouldn’t allow them out of the half. Wave after wave of attacks pounded the Crossfire goal and there was a feeling among the group that any moment we were going to get that goal. Five minutes into the second half and RSL-AZ were awarded a fee kick off of the top of the box. Nicolo Muniz stepped up to take the free kick. The coaches at half time had challenged Nico to step up in the second half and not have a quiet game. He is a kid who can change the game at any minute and this was his moment. Nico buried a curling free kick into the upper far corner of the net and all of a sudden it was game on.
In all honestly there was really only going to be one result after that. 20 minutes later the ball got played wide to Ricardo Velasco who was playing on the left. The width provided by the wingers in the second half provided Ricardo a lot of 1v1 situations which he thrives in. Ricardo cut inside and put the ball on his right foot and ripped a cross across the box and found defender Julio Alarcon who smashed the ball with his head hard and low and the comeback was on.
Finally in the last minute of the game Ricardo received the ball wide again cutting the ball onto his right foot. This time his cross got deflected and it was Julien Dragomir who got his head on the ball first. This time however it was a malay in the box and the ball finally popped out to Ari Sanchez who headed the ball first time hard and low. It went between Julien’s legs and then went through the goalkeepers legs and into the back of the net. The RSL-AZ boys went crazy and ran over to the sideline as they had just pulled of an unbelievable comeback. The referee blew the final whistle and it was game over.