(July 27, 2013) Not since 1996 has a girls’ soccer team from Washington taken the US Youth Soccer National Championship title, but today 15 girls from the Seattle metro area did just that. They earned the right to claim the number one spot in US U14 girls’ soccer.
Through social media, Eastside FC friends and family have been following one of their new favorite teams through Regionals, team-building antics and their run at Nationals, responding enthusiastically with their support. Afterall, the girls were the only Washington team at any age this year to have a shot at the US Youth Soccer National Championships.
The Championship Match
In the championship match, Eastside FC G98 Red faced a team they’d defeated in the earlier round robin, YMS Xplosion from Pennsylvania: it had been a fierce 1-0 test of wills. Today, as the teams arrived at the field at 6:00 pm in Overland Park, the weather cooperated, overcast but warm; parents were anxious; players excited.
The pace of the game was fast from the get-go: both teams had early opportunites, but it was Eastside FC that first found the back of the net. Under pressure, a YMS Xplosion defender passed back to the keeper, who bobbled the ball, giving EFC’s Jojo Harber an opportunity she couldn’t resist – or miss. Stealing the ball, she sent it goalward, making it 1-0, which stayed on the scoreboard for the rest of the half, even though both sides continued to create opportunities. Almost five minutes into the second half, Ellie Bryant earned a corner for EFC, then found a spot at the top of the box, received great service from Catie Buck, then proceeded to head in a second EFC goal. EFC fans paced or sat on the edge of their seats when Xplosion sneaked a goal past the defense at the 60th minute. Then, as any true soccer fan can relate, time moved ever-so-slowly as the game clock wound down.
After 70 minutes and stoppage time, the whistle finally signaled the end of the match, and Eastside FC had earned the national US Youth Soccer National Championship title!
Great US Youth Soccer video of championships. EFC G98 Red coverage starts at 2:05.
From the Coaches, Past and Present
Michelle French, a former US Women’s National Team player who coached the girls until she got the call to coach the US U20 Women’s National Team in February, knew what the girls were feeling, “This entire experience will have such a positive impact on the players moving forward. What they have been working so incredibly hard for over the years is now a reality! The players will remember making it to Nationals during their young soccer careers forever! And no doubt the memories are that much sweeter having won the National Championship!”
The Eastside FC G’98 Red team is currently coached by Tom Bialek, who also serves as the club’s Director of Coaching. "We played for the national title as a culmination of five years of hard work. Michelle did a great job creating a foundation that is fundamentally very sound and allowed them to grow into the team they are." Tom, himself, played at the UW, and went on to play professionally, including with the 1996 champion A-League Seattle Sounders, and has coached high school and club teams to state titles.
According to Bialek, "The girls played inspired soccer the whole week. Every game has been difficult, and there have been moments in each where we have really been put to the test. We have been successful because of our team unity and spirit. When adversity has hit, they have stuck together and encouraged each other and found the positives instead of getting frustrated."
The single goal scored against them in the finals was the only goal scored against them at the tournament; goalkeeper Molly Monroe kept a clean sheet the first three matches. According to Tom, "Our team defending, starting with our forwards up top, all the way through the midfield and into the back line and goalkeeper, has been excellent. When players have been beaten individually, there has been a teammate in position to cover."
In all, EFC G98 Red scored five goals, four by Joanna “Jojo” Harber, the top scorer in the age group. "Opportunities on goal are hard to come by because of the quality of the other teams. In each game we have generated 3-5 great situations, which have led to the goals we have scored. It has been a team effort to create the situations and then Jojo has been special in the final moments to convert."
French, who was able to attend the tournament, pointed out that the team’s performance on the field requires an abundance of support off the field. “You cannot have this level of success without every family being on board and buying in to what it truly takes to succeed at this level. Every chocolate milk handed to a player after a game, every ice bath, every video/text/phone call, every stretch, every team meal, every hug and high-five over the years has played a part in the success of this team!”
Chance Fry, Director of Operations at Eastside FC, expanded on the same theme, “This National Championship represents the culmination of a lot of fantastic work by coaches, volunteers, players and parents over the years at Eastside FC. To be the only club in the country to have a girls’ team in the President’s Cup National final and a girls’ team to capture a US Youth National title in the same year is amazing! As a club, we are so proud of this historic achievement.”
But, wait! There’s more...
In addition to the national championship title, the Eastside FC team will also be bringing home the US Youth Soccer Fair Play Award for sportsmanship, the same award given our EFC B94 Red team from their competing in Nationals the year before. “I am proud we won and how we won. Winning the sportsmanship award is something our club places great value in,” said Bialek.
Two Eastside FC players were named to the tournament’s "Best 11" in the U14 age group: Joanna Harber, forward; and Kaylene Pang, defender. Joanna Harber also received the Golden Ball award, for being the most prolific U14 goal-scorer.