ST. LOUIS, MO - Earlier this month the SLSG MO Girls ECNL Program completed the showcase portion of the ECNL 2017/18 schedule. This season, the program attended both Phoenix events, the Sanford event in Florida; and the Houston event in Texas. “The four showcase events provide the girls with a wonderful soccer and team experience both on and off the field,” said Ralph Richards, ECNL Director. “However, the Phoenix event is by far the players and coaches favorite due to the fields at Reach 11 and of course the weather.”
With the oldest of the six ECNL age groups currently unavailable due to their involvement in high school soccer; it was time for the three youngest groups to compete against some of the best clubs in the country. “It’s always refreshing to play against ‘the best’,” said Richards. “There is no other platform that would afford our players the opportunity to play against the top players and teams from Northern California, Colorado and Texas nonetheless all at the same event. It’s simply awesome.”
For the U13 and U14 teams it was their first showcase event of the season and the second event for the U15 team. “I could not have walked away from the ECNL National Event in Phoenix more pleased with the overall experience for each team,” said coach Scott McDoniel.
Let's take a look at how each team faired;
The U13's (05's) tied San Juan (0-0) on the opening night and beat Mustang SC and Real Colorado in two closely fought matches (1-0). Even though the team collected seven points in three games; coach McDoniel made sure the players and families knew that this event was all about the ‘overall experience’, “The purpose for taking the youngest team so far away was to do just that; get them out of their comfort zones and give them a little preview of what happens a little more regularly as they get older. Also, it's a great opportunity to play new and extremely talented opponents from the west coast and, of course, we needed to have some fun.”
For the U14 (04's) team it was much the same as far as purpose but with extra emphasis on finding competition that we may see in the national playoffs. “The competition was beyond all expectations and it forced the girls to humble themselves,” said coach Scott McDoniel. “It challenged us in ways we cannot replicate in training. We became better as a team tactically, and at the same time, the girls had to push through some physical limits that they had previous to this event due to the Arizona heat.” The team finished with a tough loss on day one versus MVLA and two very positive ties versus San Juan SC and Dallas Sting.
The U15 (03's) team plays most of their ECNL games in the fall and winter. However, with a majority of the team still in middle school (The U15 age group will usually have a roster mix of 8th and 9th graders - a result of the Birth Year Mandate) we have tried to be creative with their schedule, finding games against younger boys team. “The team simply needs ‘real’ games,” said coach McDoniel. “Playing against the boys have been amazing for their development, but there is something just a little bit energizing, special, and exciting about playing meaningful games against girls the same age”.
In Phoenix, the team was scheduled to play three quality clubs from Northern California conferences. “The Northern Cal teams posed threats both physically and tactically,” said coach McDoniel. “At the end of the day, this helps both Ralph and I identify some of the main concepts we need to work on before going into a huge final ECNL weekend with MTA at the end of April.”
“I could not be more pleased with the overall experience,” said McDoniel, summarizing the final event of the season. “From the team lunch on the bumper boats and go-karts, to the competition, to the amazing weather, and great facility, it was simply a first class and memorable event.”
The SLSG MO ECNL Program (05's and 04's) returns to Midwest Regional conference games with Eclipse Select SC, FC Wisconsin, Michigan Hawks and Vardar coming to town before all three groups (05, 04, & 03) hit the road and travel to Minneapolis the weekend of April 28th and 29th to square off against Minnesota Thunder “The trip to Phoenix highlighted our dynamic attacking qualities in each group, but for one of the first times this year the groups were exposed on the defensive side of the ball. One of the purposes behind these trips is to match us, as a club, up against the best and help us determine what we need to work on in training to get better as a whole. “The good news is we get right back to it with some regional match ups that should determine the ECNL playoffs births for the U14 and U15 teams.”