Before I get started with the recaps of the two games I just watched, I want to say how impressed I am overall with the quality of soccer I just watched. While the academy system in the United States is still growing and has room for improvement I'm sure, compared to a lot of the travel and high school soccer I watched, the skill, technique and tactics on display in these two games as far as I was concerned was tremendous and has come a long way since my days as a youth player.
This is a far cry from the youth and some high school games, with unlimited subs and basic formations, etc., that I am accustomed to seeing. Players on both teams, especially defensively, were constantly aware of their formation and communicating with each other. And the passing, while not always accurate, was generally poised and on the ground with both teams willing to pass the ball backwards to maintain possession.
It was a complete joy to watch both of these games earlier today and these academies are laying a good foundation for future generations of MLS and US International players.
New England Revolution U18s 3, Beachside SC 0
Mawolo "Gabriel" Gissie's hat trick stole the show for the Revolution U18s, dominating a rather chippy 3-0 win for the Revs against Beachside in the first game of a doubleheader at University of Bridgeport's Knights Field.
Gissie (who I mistakenly called Jisse on Twitter all afternoon, sorry Gabe!) put in a dominating shift before being subbed off late as his three goals were more than enough offense to lead the Revs to victory.
Gissie converted a penalty (and likely drew it as well, but I can't say for sure) to open the scoring in the first half that was back and forth but lacked a lot of solid chances for either side. It was in the second half that the game started to open up for the Revs U18s.
Despite a strong start to the second half, especially from touted prospect Zachary Herivaux who was noticable absent in the first half with the Revs defense bypassing the midfield too ofthen, the Revs were reduced to 10-men after Federico Ferre was judged to have thrown an elbow at an opponent and was dismissed by the referee.
But being down a man, Beachside's defense could not come up with an answer for Gissie, who slotted home his second shortly after the red card and then finished off his hat trick in the dying minutes, capitalizing on a misplay from Beachside keeper Emmett Witmer.
Witmer (#32, is actually on the U16 roster so I'm assuming he was playing up a division for the game) was actually quite solid in goal even with the error on the final goal, unofficially recording seven saves by my count in the game. Revs keeper Austin Aviza unofficially had three saves in the shutout, including two on partial breakaways to keep BSC off the board.
Gissie however stole the show, manning the lone striker role in a similar 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 formation that the senior team uses. His speed and ability to get around shielding defenders drew the first two yellow cards of the game in the first half, as two Beachside players had to commit tactical fouls to stop his attacks. Gissie showed off not only Dimitry Imbongo like hold up skills, but also the speed and crafty play of a Diego Fagundez at the same time. Really liked what I saw from him today in particular.
Overall, there were seven bookings and dozens of fouls total in the game, four yellows to Beachside and two yellows and the red for New England. Herivaux and a Beachside player were both cautioned for an incident that happened in the second half. By my count, the Revs had ten shots on target to Beachside's three and a decent possession advantage as well in a very solid overall game for New England and a deserved 3-0 scoreline.
Beachside SC 3, New England Revolution U16s 2
The second game of the doubleheader between the U16s also did not disappoint, with Beachside's Andrew Pires scoring twice in BSC's 3-2 victory, including the winner in the final minutes.
Pires opened the scoring in the first half, finishing at close range following a corner kick and the ensuing scramble in the box. The opener came after a few good chances from Beachside, including one that Revs keeper William Sinibaldi had to parry away for the above corner. It was a deserved 1-0 halftime lead for Beachside but the Revs wouldn't go away quietly.
Eddie Venta-Yspes equalized for the Revs U16s in the second half with a brilliant volleyed shot over Beachside keeper Max Levy who was slightly caught off his line. Mike Goulart restored Beachside's lead minutes later with a solid strike from just outside the area. Benjamin Waithe tied the game for New England after a free kick from the right sideline bounced inside the six yard line and was finished from close range.
But it would be another set piece that would undo the Revs, as in similar fashion, a bouncing ball was collected by Beachside in the box and it eventually came to Pires who slotted home the winner with only about a minute left to play and close out a thoroughly entertaining half of soccer.
The bouncing balls off the turf were a theme in this game, as many of the players were left jumping for balls just over their heads and several the goals and other chances were created by them. Both keepers had uncertain moments trying to control their areas and each recorded two saves by my count.
If you're interested in keeping tabs on the New England Revolution and other local academy seasons (U18, U16 and U14 divisions), go to the US Soccer Development Academy sites listed above. There's team pages, rosters, schedules and standings for all the teams and divisions in the US and it's a pretty detailed site too.
Overall, a pretty good way to spend a beautiful afternoon.
More from The Bent Musket:
- USA vs. Scotland 2013: Lineups and Live Thread
- International Friendly - United States vs. Scotland Preview
- Boston-Bound: Breakers Forward Courtney Jones Returns "Home"
- 2014 World Cup Playoff: Mexico vs. New Zealand - Lineups and Open Thread
- How Fair Play Could Affect Jose Goncalves and the 2013 MLS Defender of the Year Race