A field of 238 teams was narrowed to 118 after three days of pool play at the US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships at Simplot Sports Complex.
Five Idaho squads remain in contention to win the state’s first Far West title, and competition continues Friday with quarterfinal matches in the under-12 through under-18 age groups.
NATIONALS ADVANCE ON PENALTY-KICK TIE-BREAKER
The Boise Nationals U-18 girls survived an odd shootout Thursday morning to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Nationals beat LA Galaxy 3-1 in a tie-breaker staged on the tournament’s off-day. The teams reported to the complex for a brief encounter — a penalty-kick shootout.
The tie-breaker was necessary because of a three-way tie in a three-team pool in the U-18 event. Eastside (Wash.) advanced based on goals allowed, leaving the Nationals and Galaxy tied with 1-1 records, zero goal differentials and two goals allowed. The Galaxy beat the Nationals head-to-head, but that advantage was nullified by the three-way tie.
Emilie Eckhart made a diving save, and Jenny De Boer buried the winning shot for the Nationals.
“It’s the best feeling ever seeing the ball ripple in the back of the net and knowing you got the win,” De Boer said.
This Nationals team earned its first ever regional win Wednesday to force the tie. Now the group will play New Mexico Rush 97 in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m. on Field 10.
“That’s been our goal the whole season,” Eckhart said. “It’s good to accomplish our goal, but we want to get further.”
NOVA-NATIONALS U-19 GIRLS ON CUSP OF TITLE
The rival Idaho clubs joined forces to better their chances of winning the state’s first regional championship, and they are one victory away from accomplishing that goal.
The Nova-Nationals — comprised of players from the Boise Nationals and Meridian-based FC Nova — defeated Southern California’s OVC Vejar 6-1 on Wednesday to earn a rematch against Southern California’s FRAM in Friday’s title game.
The championship starts at 8 a.m. on Field 1.
FRAM edged the Nova-Nationals 2-1 on Tuesday, but the Idaho squad had several chances to earn a draw or the win.
“Tuesday’s game against them was the first real test we have had, and I thought we handled it well,” Nova-Nationals’ Grace Hancock said. “Coming out of that game, we have a tremendous amount of respect for the Cal South side because they really gave us a run for our money.
“But we kept it tight the entire game, and I know our performance was just a glimpse of our potential as a team.”
The last time the two clubs combined forces, they lost 4-3 in double overtime in the title game in 2011. That team included current pro Sofia Huerta, a Centennial High graduate.
BOISE NATIONALS LIVERPOOL U-17 BOYS FACE FAMILIAR FOE
After winning their pool, the Nationals have a tough draw in the quarterfinals against two-time national champion Santa Barbara SC White.
Santa Barbara won national titles in 2012 and 2013 and has won the past three regional titles.
The Nationals lost to Santa Barbara in the quarterfinals three years ago in Phoenix.
The two teams square off at noon on Field 7.
FC NOVA U-14 GIRLS SEEK TO CONTINUE UNBEATEN RUN
Nova dominated the first three days of competition, going 3-0 in pool play and outscoring their opponents 10-1.
“We didn’t expect it to be like this,” Nova’s Madison Carter said. “We expected it to be closer games.”
Nova plays Southern California’s CUFC Elite at noon on field 15A for a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
“We all just get along really well with each other, and that’s really important for a team,” Nova’s Tara Brennan said.
“If you don’t have trust in each other, then you can’t really do anything and you can’t go anywhere.”
COEUR D’ALENE GIRLS MAKE HISTORY
With Wednesday’s 1-1 tie with Santa Clara Sporting, the U-18 girls became the first Sting team to win its group, according to the Coeur d’Alene Press.
The String play a quarterfinal match against La Roca PO of Utah at 10 a.m. on Field 2.
DEFENDING FAR WEST CHAMPIONS
Of the six returning champions in the field, five advanced out of group play:
• So Cal Blues Baker U-13 girls
• Colorado’s Pride Predators 99 U-16 girls
• Santa Barbara SC White U-17 boys
• Nevada’s LVSA 97 Red U-18 boys
• Santa Barbara SC White U-19 boys
• The Real Colorado National 99/00 U-15 boys finished third in group play and were eliminated despite outscoring their opponents 11-2.
The Santa Barbara SC White U-19 boys, who are the defending national champions, feature some of the top players in this year’s tournament.
Midfielder Geoffrey Acheampong (No. 10) was the 2014 National Championships Golden Ball winner, an award that goes to the top player in the national tournament.
Teammate Abu Danladi (No. 9), a forward, was named the Top Drawer Soccer Freshman of the Year after his first season at UCLA. Danladi also was selected as the 2013-14 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Two other teams still alive in the tournament have national titles under their belt: The Santa Barbara SC White U-17 boys won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, and Washington’s Eastside FC 98 Red U-16 girls won a title in 2013.