GREER, S.C. — A two-goal flurry in a span of four minutes and a steady stream of speed from start to finish carried the LV Neon 97 to a 2-1 victory Friday over the Wallingford Warriors on Day 2 of the National Presidents Cup.
Wallingford’s response? Bring it back on.
After battling closely with the team they believe to be the strongest in the U17 boys soccer Final Four, the Warriors are hoping to get a rematch against the Las Vegas squad in Sunday’s championship game.
To get there, the Warriors are going to need to beat the Cape Coral Cyclones of Florida in today’s pool play finale. They’re also going to need Las Vegas to beat the Springfield Spirits of Illinois in today’s other game.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be the stronger team and take care of business on our end,” said Warriors coach Dave Rodriguez. “I think Las Vegas is the toughest team in the bracket. I’d like a second shot at them.”
The Warriors had the best chances in the early going Friday, including putting a ball off the post in the fifth minute.
And even after Vegas landed a one-two punch with goals in the 10th and 14th minute, Wallingford settled down, eventually out-shooting the Nevada squad 16-10. While goalie Joey Slivinski kept the Neon at bay the rest of the way, Gianluca Perotti got the Warriors on the board scoring off an Alex Burr corner kick in the 79th minute.
“It wasn’t looking pretty for a while, but we toughened up,” Rodriguez said.
The second-half insertion of forward John Jacobs, who had tweaked his knee in Thursday’s 2-2 tie with Springfield, helped fuel Wallingford momentum. Also, deep runs by outside midfielders Dylan Hogan and Jeffrey Baksa consistently pressured the Vegas defense.
Vegas, however, possesses excellent team speed, even in the backfield, which neutralized scoring opportunities the Warriors are used to generating. The Neon 97 closed on the ball very quickly and contested most shots on goal.
“We were able to get shots, but they were always under pressure,” Rodriguez noted. “Somebody was on our shoulder; they weren’t open shots. They had fewer shots, but they were able to get their shots off clean. They are a well-skilled team.”
Vegas, coming off a 3-1 win over Cape Coral, is now 2-0 for the tournament and, with four points, has clinched a spot in Sunday’s championship game.
The other spot will go to Springfield or Wallingford. The Warriors, at 0-1-1, must beat Cape Coral today and have the Spirits lose to Vegas.
That would leave both Wallingford and Springfield 1-1-1. Since they tied head to head on the field, the deadlock would be broken by goal differential. Springfield, with five goals for and four against, is +1 heading into today.
Wallingford, with three goals scored and four against, is -1.
Goals against and then goals for would be the next tiebreakers. If that doesn’t settle it, penalty kicks will.
The ideal scenario would be for the Warriors to shut out the Floridians. That would give them the edge in goals allowed.
But, again, all this is predicated on Springfield losing. With a win or even just a tie, the Spirits will go to the championship game and Wallingford to the consolation.
The Warriors came away from the MESA Soccer Complex on Friday knowing the score.
“The boys are still in a really good place psychologically,” Rodriguez said. “They’re ready to go.”