Vélez at US Youth Nationals
See Photos. The Vélez boys competed in the US Youth Nationals held in Little Rock, AR between July 21 - 27th. The combination of key injuries and the heat proved to be too much for the boys. Vélez opened the competition against the Dallas Texan Reds (winners of National League). The Reds were coming home from a European swing and looked ready to roll. The game was competetitve and even for the first fifteen minutes. Then, like lightening, three goals were scored in a span of 10 minutes resulting in a 3-0 halftime lead (and 1 red card ejection for a Vélez player for last man tackle). Final result:5-1 with Kevin scoring an honor goal late in the game (and a man down).
Game 2 saw Triangle come out and struggle early against Vélez. Apparently they were trying to manage their player rotations as to rest key starters for the third game against Dallas. Instead Triangle found themselves down 1-0 at the half with some chances on goal but most of the play being held by Vélez. It could have easily been much more than 1-0 but we shot wide on our chances. In the second half, with the sun now above the trees and the heat and humidity started kicking in, Triangle took over the game as the Vélez boys were finding it tough to breath in the soupy humidity. Two second half goals by Triangle ended the game 2-1.
In Game 3, a more sensible substitution approach was used against Javanon and it seemed to pay off quite well. For once, the entire team was not dead early in the second half. Instead we were able to compete against Javanon in ironically the hottest day of the tournament. The score did not go our way, 2-1 final, but we got most of the clear cut opportunities and on a lucky day, would have won convincingly. Hitting the post twice and missing wide on two other 1 v 1 against the keepers made it clear that it would not be our day.
There were significant lessons learned from the experience by players and coaches alike. From a coach's perspective, allowing players to attend soccer camps the two weeks prior to Nationals was a killer as many of them returned injured and unable to train the days prior to nationals, better understanding of how to prepare (fitness) for hot and humid southern weather, and finally the need to sub early and often to ensure that the team, as a whole, is as fit at all times in the game given the overwhelming heat.
A great experience nonetheless. Our goal is to return next year.