SLSG Metro earned their invitation to the US Club Soccer NPL Champions Cup through hard work and a special invitation. They used that second chance to great advantage, going 2-0-1 in group play to advance to a semifinal date with the New York Red Bulls 98 squad. A 2-1 win, it attracted the attention of Top Drawer soccer
Two red cards and nearly two hours after the start of the game, forward Riley Patterson touched the ball into the net from 4-yards out in overtime to help St. Louis stun the New York Red Bulls 2-1 and grab a spot in Monday’s NPL Championship Game.
They followed that hard-earned result with a solid 3-1 win Monday over the FC Dallas pre-Academy squad, earning their second straight win over fully-funded MLS squads. More as the details become available. Congratulations boys!
For Coach Blake Decker, it was the third straight year he’s taken a U14 squad to the Finals. In 2011, the U14 Pre-Academy defeated Southern California opponent Olimpica FC 3-2 to win the US Club National Championship. In 2012, a 2-4 loss in overtime to Manchester United Academy was followed by this year’s even more successful run.
Thursday July 18 – WIN 4-0 – SLSG Metro vs Wenatchee Fire FC (WA)
Friday July 19 – DRAW 1-1 – SLSG Metro vs Weston FC Pre-Academy (FL)
Saturday July 20 – WIN 2-1 – SLSG Metro vs Colorado Rush (CO)
Sunday July 21 – WIN 2-1 – SLSG Metro vs Red Bull NY SEMI-FINAL
Monday July 22 – WIN 3-1 – SLSG Metro vs FC Dallas FINAL
Key players on the squad include Kuzain Wan Kamal (Attacking Midfielder), Orlando Arreola (Holding midfielder/center back), Austin Toby (Holding midfielder), Jordan Blasingame (center back) and Jack Maher, who participated in National ODP Tournament in November 2012.
The Top three scorers during the regular season were Clayton Pearson, Kuzain Wan Kamal and Riley Patterson. Gage Steiner is the GK.
Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal
Press Release from SLSG Metro below
Wild card they said, National Championship Title they never said, but that is exactly what the SLSG Metro 14 Pre-Academy team attained on Monday, July 22nd. Making the most of their late entry as a wild card into the US Club National Premier League Champions Cup in Denver, Colorado this past week, the team faced opponents from Washington, Florida, Colorado, New York and Texas on their run to secure a second National Championship title for the Collinsville, Illinois based division of St. Louis Scott Gallagher.
After losing 4 players to illness the night before the Regional Championship match on July 1st, a late penalty and 2-3 loss to the Michigan Wolves of Detroit seemed to signal the end of a very promising season for the group of boys who hail from communities in the Metro East like Collinsville, Edwardsville, Alton, Belleville and Waterloo as well as communities across Southern and Central Illinois like Carbondale, Marshall and Anna-Jonesboro. A last minute wild card berth, however, signaled a reprieve and the team set out to the task of making the most of their second chance.
According the coach, Blake Decker, “It is difficult to put into words the emotional highs and lows surrounding our defeat in the Regional Championship match and then the subsequent awarding of a wild card berth. We trained 120 times over 10 months preparing for Regional’s and when it ended the way it did, it was heart breaking; however, I think that experience provided the players with an unique perspective that contributed significantly to the teams’ eventual National Championship title. Unlike all the other teams at the event, the guys knew exactly what it felt like for the season to be over because we experienced it. They set their minds and hearts to ensuring we made the most of our second chance together.”
And that is exactly what they did in Colorado. After a 4-0 opening over Wenatchee (WA) the team fought to comeback from an early deficit to drew 1-1 versus Weston (Miami, FL). Sitting on 4 points from 2 matches, the team entered its’ third and final group match needing a victory to secure advancement to the Championship rounds. The challenge was significant as they would face off against Colorado State and Mountain Developmental League Champions, Rush Colorado. The 3rd match in three days at altitude against a local team, however, did not faze the group of Southern Illinois players. After going down 0-1 in the first 12 minutes, the team rallied with a goal before half time. The game winner came with just 8 minutes remaining in the match after Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (Carbondale) picked up the ball in midfield made an individual run and then slipped in an overlapping Clayton Pearson (Edwardsville) who bent the ball around the onrushing goal keeper. With that goal and the final whistle, the team became the 3rd SLSG Metro team to advance out of the group stages in a national championship tournament in three years.
According to attacking midfielder player Wan Kamal Wan Kuzain, “That comeback was a key moment for us. We have always been a very tight group, we enjoy being with each other on and off the field, but the ability to come from behind on the third day after conceding the lead early to a local team who was not affected by the altitude made us believe that together we had a chance to beat anybody.”
SLSG Metro would need that sense of collective belief in the semi-final where they faced their most difficult opponent thus far in the form of fully funded MLS Youth Academy, New York Red Bull (NYRB). Coming into the event, NYRB was heavily favored to win the title. The team comprised of players from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania had compiled an unmatched record of 34-1-1 in the North East Pre-Academy League and outscored opponents 13-1 in the group stages of the event.
Said Decker of the Red Bulls, “We recognized the immense quality of our opponent and knew that we would have to remain extremely organized and disciplined defensively against such an athletic and talented opponent if we were to have a chance. It was one of the most committed and hardest working performances I’ve ever seen against one of the most talented teams I’ve ever seen. The boys defended for long periods of the game, but never lost their nerve and when we were able create chances on the break, they took them.”
After a scoreless first half, SLSG Metro shocked NYRB in the 4 minute of the second half when Clayton Pearson was taken down in the penalty box and buried the subsequent penalty in the back of the net.
SLSG Metro would hold the lead until just 7 minutes before the end of regulation when a corner kick scrum ended with a Dantae Greer finish through a crowd of players. The score would remain tied as the two teams entered two 10 minute overtime periods. Just as it looked as though the matter would have to be settled via penalties, Hunter Mudd (Edwardsville) picked up a ball in midfield after a sliding tackle on the NYRB left back, passed it to Clayton Pearson who beat a defender and served the ball into the box. After a deflection by the goalkeeper the ball fell to Hunter Mudd’s feet and he applied the final touch to secure the victory at the death.
On the significance of his goal, Hunter Mudd explained, “Even if I was not there Riley (Patterson) was right there with me and he would have gotten it if I did not. I think that shows how committed we all were to each other. They had so much of the ball, but even after defending hard for nearly all of the 90 minutes, we had three players in the box to Red Bulls one. We wanted it so badly.”
This sentiment was shared by New Red Bull striker and goal scorer Dante Greer who told a Top Drawer Soccer Reporter after the match, ““It was a war. They put us through a war out there.”
A 3-1 victory for FC Dallas over Weston in the other semi-final meant that SLSG Metro would again face a fully funded MLS Youth Program in the National Championship match. It would not take SLSG Metro long to find the lead as Clayton Pearson once again found the back on the net from a Riley Patterson cross in the 8th minute of the match. Minutes later SLSG Metro had a chance to go up by two, but the chance was put just over the cross bar. FC Dallas responded with a just 30 seconds remaining in the first half to go even just before the break.
On giving up the equalizer, Decker explained, “That was a difficult time to give up a goal. The momentum going into half is ours if we keep them at zero. We acknowledged it was a disappointment but reiterated the message we had followed all weekend: it’s not what happens, but what you do when it happens. We gave up the goal, that was done; what was important now was how we responded.”
The desired response came 7 minutes after the start of the break. After a long punt by goalkeeper Gage Steiner (Alton), Riley Patterson challenged for the ball with the FC Dallas center back and the ball popped free for striker Ben Huels (Waterloo) who beat the final defender and then the goalkeeper to score. The FC Dallas response was extremely strong pushing SLSG Metro back into their own half for much of the next 15 minutes; however, with just over 5 minutes remaining in the match attacking midfielder Ryan Stites (Waterloo) picked up a ball about 25 yards from goal, ran inside with it and found Clayton Pearson running in behind the FC Dallas back line. Pearson notched his 5th goal of the tournament and sealed a National Title for SLSG Metro.
The impact of a National Title will not be short-lived nor will it be exclusive to those who participated in Denver this past week according to Director of Coaching, Jeremy Alumbaugh, “The achievement of a U14 NPL National Championship is a great one for not only this team but the younger teams coming up through the club. For our younger players, being able to look across a practice field and see players that just won a National Title by knocking off two MLS Youth Teams is a tremendous motivator and will inspire them to strive for similar heights.”
The National Title won in Colorado is the second in 3 years for SLSG Metro and marks the 3rd consecutive year an SLSG Metro team has appeared in a national championship final. In 2011, SLSG Metro defeated Olimpica FC (CA) to claim the clubs first US Club National Championship in Boise, Idaho and, in 2012, SLSG Metro was a National Finalist losing to Manchester United Academy (CA) 2-4 in double overtime at the US Club National Championships in Waukegan, Illinois.
On the significance of the National Championship to the Southern Illinois soccer community, 20-year Program Director, Dale Schilly commented, “The U14’s have achieved the most difficult of National Championships and what an incredible reward it is for a group of players who have invested so much of themselves. They’ve sacrificed weeknights and weekends over the past 11 months training in stifling heat, torrential rains and snowstorms for the slim chance that this moment would arrive and when it did they represented themselves, their families, their club and their communities with a level of character and quality that they can look back on with pride for years to come. Our mission as a club is very clear, to build the best club in the country. Some have questioned the clubs motives and means in achieving this or even whether a club from such a small market can really attain such a goal, but now others will surely see what is possible when the most talented players in the Metro East come together in order to commit themselves to frequent, intense and purposeful practice. Future opportunities are going to result because of what this amazing group of young men achieved in Denver this past week and the community will witness more National Championship appearances and more Division I college opportunities for kids in the Metro East. We are extremely excited about the future of our young players.”
SLSG Illinois, based out of Collinsville, Illinois was created to raise soccer in southern Illinois to a new level by providing a thorough and professional level of training for boys and girls of all ages and abilities. For more information regarding the club please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information regarding the recent National Championship contact Blake Decker at email@example.com.