The U15, U16 and U17 FC Wisconsin ECNL teams travelled to Houston, TX for the third ECNL National Event of the year from February 15-17. While the weather in Texas was a little colder than desired for the northerners coming south, the quality of competition, college exposure, and overall environment did not disappoint. On a wet and windy weekend, the FC Wisconsin teams went 4-4-1, highlighted by a great final day, some strong individual performances, and plenty of resilient play.
The U15 team began the weekend with 2 losses, before producing one of their best team performances of the season on day 3. After starting the first game well, they eventually fell to 0-3 to a skillful and organized Pacific Northwest SC (WA) team. After addressing some defensive issues in midfield, the second game against FC Dallas (TX) was a lot more competitive. The U15’s were however left to rue some missed chances, after a set piece goal condemned them to a 0-1 defeat.
Determined to finish the weekend on a positive, the final U15 game against North Carolina FC, saw a hugely improved performance from the FC Wisconsin team. Despite going a goal down late in the first half, they dominated possession and chances for most of the game. Two second half goals, both long range efforts after some clever build up play, sealed a deserved 2-1 win. Izzy Arnold scored the equalizing goal to cap of a strong individual weekend anchoring the midfield. Kate Brown’s winner was well deserved for her impressive performance on day 3. Over the weekend, Lucia Englund and Dre Alberts showed composure and quality at center back, while Lilliah Blum caused problems and created chances in each game.
The U16 team finished the event with a 1-1-1 record and three resolute performances. They began the weekend with a 0-2 loss to a strong Crossfire Premier (WA) team, but maintained confidence after defending well for most of the game, causing problems with their own pressing. On day two against Concorde Fire (GA), the U16s were determined to take something away from the game. Even after going a goal down in the second half their determination showed, equalizing almost immediately from the kick-off through a goal from Ava Stelter. They could have won the game late on, but Tyler-Rose Ayudan’s effort was well saved by the Concorde goalkeeper.
Once again on Day 3 the U16 team were determined to come away with a result, and this time they were not to be denied. Against D’Feeters SC (TX) they went ahead early in the game through Ava Stelter, and in a competitive game against a direct opponent they hung on to all 3 points. Ahnna Faust and Anna Franceschi both had impressive weekends in midfield, running tirelessly, winning tackles, and starting attacks. T-Rose Ayudan continued her return from injury and added a much needed spark in attack, constantly breaking through midfield and driving at defenders.
At their final national event of the year, the U17’s were looking to secure a high seed for the ECNL Play-offs in June, and could not have started the weekend better after a 5-0 rout of Pennsylvania’s FC Bucks. Aryssa Mahrt scored all five goals in the standout individual performance of the weekend, however the overall team performance was just as impressive. The partnership of Abi Santana and Jadyn Rupnow down the right side of the field looked dangerous throughout the game, with both players unlucky not to add to the score-line.
Day 2 produced possibly the best the game of the weekend in terms of quality and style. After a scoreless first half where FC Wisconsin would regret a lack of sharpness in finishing, the team gave up 2 late goals in an 0-3 loss to Colorado Rapids (currently 3rd in the ECNL rankings). The FC Wisconsin players pushed their opponents all the way and had many of the game’s best chances but could not capitalize. At the same time, they learned a lesson in ruthlessness with the clinical finishing from Colorado. In a great game to watch, both teams played a high paced attacking style, with the only difference on the day being the Colorado side’s ability the finish the chances they created.
Day 3 at an ECNL National Event is always difficult as teams’ battle fatigue, and this weekend day 3 aslo finally brought some hot weather. A 2-0 win over Boise Thorns (ID) sealed a good weekend for the U17’s and an undefeated day for the club, but the score-line did not reflect the one-sided nature of the game. After taking an early lead through another Mahrt goal, and with the game played almost entirely in the Boise half, it was at times frustrating for the FC Wisconsin players as they could not seem to apply the finishing touch to secure the win. Finally though, the pressure paid off as Annika Quade curled a right footed shot in to the top corner with almost the last kick of the game.
There were many impressive performances from U17 players over the weekend. The back 4 of Rupnow, Maya Alberts, Katrina Patscot, and Jordyn Jeffers defended well and started numerous attacks. Maggie Starker was a constant threat, running tirelessly on and off the ball, while Annika Seem and Tyler Wilson provided balance in midfield. The U17 team now look to the ECNL Play-offs in San Diego, where with similar performances they will hope to progress deep in to the ECNL North American Cup.