The St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club recently concluded one of the most successful seasons in its 40-year history.
Four boys’ and two girls’ teams qualified for national tournaments. The club was well-represented throughout the various levels of national youth soccer:
U.S. Soccer Development Academy (boys): SLSG’s U-15/U-16 team advanced all the way to the finals at the premier level of U.S. soccer for boys, losing 1-0 to the Academy team from Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls.
U.S. Club Soccer National Premier League Champions Cup (boys): SLSG’s Elite teams won the inaugural NPL Champions Cup in the U-16 division and qualified for the national Champions Cup in the U-17/18 division.
U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships (girls): SLSG’s Green team qualified for the national tournament in the U-19 division and came within one goal of advancing to the national championship game.
U.S. Club Soccer National Cup (boys): SLSG’s Metro Pre-Academy team qualified for the USCS National Cup for the second consecutive season, and advanced all the way to the U-14 Super Group national final, losing in overtime to finish second.
U.S. Youth Soccer National President’s Cup (girls): SLSG’s U-14 Black team was one of just four clubs to qualify for the USYS National President’s Cup.
“Up until a few years ago, there was just one national competition in each age group, so very few teams had the chance to experience that,” said Steve Pecher, SLSG’s director of youth program development for Missouri boys and girls, a former professional player and captain of the U.S. National Team. “The various levels that have been added give more kids the opportunity to play in national competitions.
“This meshes well with SLSG’s commitment to the long-term development of the youth soccer players as well-rounded athletes who have full opportunities to reach their goals.”
St. Louis Scott Gallagher fields more than 250 teams throughout the St. Louis and Metro East areas with more than 3,400 boys and girls in all age groups and skill levels, from recreational to the boys’ Development Academy and girls’ Elite Clubs National League. SLSG is headquartered at its St. Louis Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo., and also operates playing facilities in Creve Coeur, Mo., and Collinsville, Ill. SLSG teams have won 27 national age-group championships during its 40-year history.
Here is a more detailed look at each of SLSG’s six national tournament qualifiers in 2012:
U-19 Girls Green: USYS National Championships qualifiers
Brought together in early June, the team jelled quickly. Only a single goal kept them from going to the USYS national final in Rock Hill, S.C., in late July.
Playing without injured center midfielder Molly Huber at nationals, the team split its first two matches, including a victory over eventual national champ CCSC Sol. Needing a tie in the third game to reach the final, SLSG yielded a second-half goal to lose 3-2.
“We combined players from three teams, and we went for depth with 22 players not just to win state cup, but to get through the regionals and make it to the nationals,” Coach Kirk Moser said.
The team often scored early, locked down on defense, and capitalized on quick counterattacks. They outscored five opponents 16-2 in the regionals behind six goals from Abby Stock and five from Rachel Tejada. Bolstering the defense were stopper Lydia Harlan, backs Molly Bush, Maritza Hayes, Kelsey Fouch and Julia Merlo, and goalkeeper Meghan Dolan.
“We asked the girls to give up their summer, and they bought into what we were trying to do,” Moser said. “They had a heck of a ride for the two months we were together.”
U-17/18 Boys Elite: USCS NPL Champions Cup qualifiers
Hollywood could not have written a better script than the one followed by the U-17/18 boys. Losers of their first three league games by a combined score of 12-0, the boys went 6-1-1 in their next eight league matches, qualified for and won the Midwest Development League playoffs, and earned a berth in the NPL Champions’ Cup in Waukegan, Ill., late July.
“After those first three games, we decided to focus on two things we could control: our fitness and our defense,” Coach Andy Cooper said. “We wanted to be come so tough to play against that our opponents never wanted to see us again.”
Although they did not advance from their flight at the Champions Cup, the boys scored some impressive victories to reach the national tournament. They defeated two of the clubs that had beaten them by 4-0 scores, and topped the Chicago Fire, the eventual NPL Champions Cup winner, 2-1 in the regional championship.
Led by goalkeeper Nate Griffin, defenders Mitch Morris, Scott Ladi, Tony Bright and Mike Heffernan and forwards Derek Merry and Jordan Bay, almost all of the boys on the team were U-17s playing against mostly U-18 opponents.
U-16 Boys Elite: USCS NPL Champions Cup winners
Coach Pat Barry called this team “disciplined and determined,” and there was no better example than in the U-16 boys’ final of the inaugural NPL Champions Cup in Waukegan, Ill., July 31.
Wing midfielder Hayden Sparrow, who had missed much of the season with an injury, scored 3 minutes into the match against Massapequa (N.Y.). That was all the boys needed to win the game 1-0.
Further testament to the team’s discipline and determination was the defense. The team was unscored upon in four Champions Cup matches, and gave up only a single goal in the three-game Midwest Division playoffs. Goalkeeper Guillaume Delabar and center backs Sal Caruso and Tommy Lee led the defense and center midfielders Adam Michael and Tommy Hill linked the backs with forwards Connor Clasby and Keegan Fouch.
“The boys had an exceptionally good year, and it was well-deserved,” Barry said.
U-15/16 Boys: Development Academy national runners-up
This team put everything together at just the right time. There was no looking back after opening the Development Academy playoffs with a 2-2 tie. The team rolled to five consecutive victories, including an exceptional performance in finals week in Houston. The boys won their three finals week matches by a combined score of 8-1 to make SLSG’s first appearance in any Academy national championship game.
Although the final ended with a 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on July 23, the team can look back on a season to remember. They finished in the top two among the 78 teams playing at the highest level of U.S. U-15/16 boys’ soccer.
“It’s an honor to be one of the last two left,” Coach Tim Leonard said during the Academy finals.
Key contributors included Tommy Barlow, who scored 13 goals in 28 games; midfielder Austin Panchot; winger Mark Segbers; defender Jordan Klipsch; and goalkeeper Jake Leeker.
U-14 Boys Metro Pre-Academy: USCS National Cup runners-up
This was a team on a mission after going out in group play as U-13s in the 2011 USCS National Cup. “They were driven by what happened last year,” said Coach Blake Decker.
The team outscored their group opponents by a combined 15-1 in the Midwest Regionals, then edged Libertyville FC 3-2 in the final for a second consecutive trip to the nationals in Waukegan, Ill., in late July. This time, they advanced out of group play and gained a 1-0 victory over the Juventus Heat in the semifinals. The team, captained by center back Justin Schmidt, held Manchester Academy, an extremely potent attacking team, to a 1-1 score at the end of regulation in the National Cup final. However, the game opened up in overtime with SLSG eventually losing 4-2.
Eric Ferenbach (3 goals) and Sheridan Smith (2 goals) led the team in scoring at nationals with Zach Becker and David Viox providing 2 assists each. Also of note was the contribution of Kuzain Wan Kamal, who was a major factor in the team’s success at regionals and nationals even though he is a U-13 player.
“Getting to nationals two years in a row is a huge accomplishment,” Decker said. “As a club, we are extremely proud of the quality and commitment demonstrated by this team of young men.”
U-14 Girls Black: USYS National President’s Cup qualifiers
In just their second year together, the U-14 girls had a season to remember: They reached the four-team USYS National President’s Cup.
“Only two or three of the girls had played together before they were U-13s,” said Coach Kelly Scarborough. “Our focus wasn’t so much on winning, but to play as a team, to recognize formations that our opponents use, and how to attack those formations. It was not about one player being more important than another.”
The girls learned quickly, qualifying from Region II for the President’s Cup in Sacarmaneto, Calif., in mid-July. “The girls were extremely nervous at the regionals, but that helped them to handle the experience of being at nationals,” Scarborough said.
They gave a good account of themselves at nationals, earning a tie and losing by 1-0 and 2-0 scores in the preliminaries and losing 2-0 in the consolation match.
“As our season went on, the girls slowly but surely became successful in terms of winning,” Scarborough said. “They are a very tight-knit group that plays unselfishly.”