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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.
See Photos. The Vélez boys won the Region 1 Championship tournament by beating Maine (Coastal) in PK's 4-2 after five rounds.
It was a character performance all week as a virus spread quickly through the team claiming fifteen victims through the finals. Thanks to Delsym and some clever substituting, the boys were able to struggle through the group stages before finding their game in the semis. The finals were a tough event with both teams running out of gas through 110 minutes of play.
Below is a recap of the tournament from our assistant coach, Peter:
The real story from this tournament is the fortitude displayed by these young men as they overcame adversity and sacrificed themselves for the team. They continually picked up the other. Each and every one of them contributed to this championship. I believe about 15 of the 18 boys were sick.
There were fevers, chills, lower GI attacks, upper GI attacks, persistent coughs, deep fatigue. Evan played the entire tournament sick. On top of the ailments, there were the injuries; Momadu’s ankle, Milton’s ankle, Kevin’s ankle, Julien’s ankle, Archie’s impaired vision, Petey’s knee, Aiden’s back (after a hit). Kevin suffered a severe cramp in the last game. We started stuffing relish down his throat to try and stop the cramp.
One of my favorite moments occurred when Petey was elbowed to the nose after a headball…..it was gushing….We took him to the sideline, washed the blood out of his jersey, stuffed his nostrils with Gauze and sent him right back in. Witness Patrick O’ Neil barely able to hold his head up…..sleeping during warm ups so he could play the game. He wasn’t the only one. Julien was telling Miguel and Ian “ I have nothing left”…yet he returned the next day to play the entire game. Momadu was clipped hard on his ankle. The trainer took him to the tent and taped him. He came back to play.
Story after story…time after time…They are too numerous to list. In the overtime of the last game, Miguel and Ian were simply asking “ Who can play”…..No one was saying no if they could walk. Brendan’s performance at the end was inspirational. The boy was very sick [puked twice on the way home]. He played one of his best games. They truly became men at this tournament and have earned respect. I’ll never forget it !