Formerly Strikers Cup
Sunday, June 8, 2014
As the sun crested the Tirolian mountains this morning, tension was already building for the final day of the Cordial Cup. The eight remaining girls teams vying for “The Cup” knew that the day would require skill, focus, teammanship, and endurance.
The Strikers FC quarter-final match against Verb. Ostschewiez began late in the morning under the relentless heat from the Austrian sun. Team USA struck first by a brilliant strike from Katie Gath from the right side of the pitch, but within minutes was quickly equalized by the stubborn Swiss team. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, making penalty kicks from each team eminent. The Swiss were up first and had their initial volley blocked by Strikers FC keeper, Rachel Harris. Unfortunately, Team USA could not convert on their first two PK shots and found themselves down 1-0 going into the final PK round. Another huge block by Rachel kept the Strikers in the game with one final PK shot left. Calm and collected, Mickey Buscaino punched the final ball wide right out of the keeper’s reach to equalize the PK score at 1-1. Another huge block by Rachel and a game winning PK from Jenn Rose sealed the victory for the USA team and sent them onto the semi-finals.
With no relief from the blazing sun, Team USA took the field at Hopfgarten against the dreaded and annoying French Olympique Lyon team. The French team scored early and carried their 1-0 lead deep into the second half. As the French Lyon team stalled for time, the USA team kept pressing the pace of play, looking for the equalizer. Time was short, and with less than a minute to play, Abby Bivens drilled a shot off the left post but just not good enough to find the net. The ball rebounded and was shot again by Jenn Rose, but again was denied the net by the French goalkeeper. However a strong follow by Alexa Wagner allowed her to quickly punch the blocked ball off the keepers hands into the net with only seconds remaining. Like the first one of the day, the game would end in a tie and PK’s again were eminent.
For this round of PK’s, however, the USA team was ready. The first two PK shots from the Strikers team immediately found the net, followed by two blocks from Rachel Harris, rewarding the Strikers FC team with their second victory of the day and headed into the Girls U15 finals.
The scene in the stadium in Soll, Austria for the Cordial Cup finals was electrifying. With the Austrian Alps as the backdrop and 5,000 plus fans cheering on, the Strikers FC took the pitch against the TSG Hoffenheim team from Germany who had just knocked off last year’s champions to also reach the girls U15 finals. As the game began, exhaustion and heat were clearly going to be a game factor. The Austrian Fire Brigade was providing relief to fans by spraying water into the air from a long fire hose. Unfortunately, for the German and USA team, relief from the heat would only come after an intense battle on the stadium pitch. The game played for the full duration to a scoreless 0-0 tie. Even though there was no score in regulation, the crowd was not disappointed. Great passing and excellent defense skill sent the Strikers FC team into their 3rd game of the day that would end with PK’s and decide the champion of the Cordial Cup.
First up for PK’s was Mickey Buscaino, who rolled the ball nicely into the right side of the net against the extremely tall Hoffenheim goalie. The Germans responded by making their PK, leaving the PK score at 1-1 after the first round. A miss by the USA team left the door open for the Germans to take the advantage, but a huge block by Rachel Harris kept the PK score at 1-1 after two rounds. On the third and final round, without hesitation, Emma Nichols defied the German keeper’s height, and rocketed the ball into the left upper corner of the net, leaving the Germans with one final shot to try and equalize the PK score. However, an amazing block by Rachel denied the Germans the equalizer, and Team USA won the Cordial Cup by a final score of 2-1.
After the victory celebration on the field and conclusion of the boys U15 Finals games in Soll, Austria, closing ceremonies took place on the field. Rachel Harris was awarded the Best Keeper of the tournament for the girls U15 with an amazing 7 blocks from 10 PK’s taken in the final day of play. The Strikers FC team was presented with the Cordial Cup trophy and was granted automatic entry into the Cordial Cup for 2015 as the reigning Cordial Cup Girls U15 champions.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
The Action Begins!
It was a sun soaked Saturday in the Tirolian mountains, rivaling even the best weather in the OC. By the first Strikers FC match of the day, the mercury was well into 80's making it a day that required good hydration and an even pace of play.
With four pool play matches slated for the day, the Strikers FC took the pitch in the first game against the German Karlsruher SC team. The Striker girls appeared tentative as they adjusted to the 25 minute match play format for Cordial Cup. Within minutes, the Strikers were back on their game, out-shooting their opponents 9-4 on shots on goal and dominating the field of play. However, in the end, neither team could find the back of the net with the game ending in a Nil-Nil tie.
The Strikers found their rhythm against the Swiss in game 2 with a 2-0 shutout against the FC Blue Stars of Zurich. A long strike from 25 yards out by Bryanna Avina in the 5th minute put the Strikers FC on the board. Three minutes later, an enormous punt from keeper Rachel Harris led to a one bounce score from Madison Louderback putting the game safely away for the Striker girls. The Strikers defense for the day was also outstanding. The crux of the defense consisting of Emma Nichols, Abby Bivens, Hannah Cardenas, Alex Saldana, and Alexa Wagner smothered the opponents offense, allowing not a single goal in all four pool play games.
Game three was against the Austrian home country team, Puntigamer Sturm Graz. Before the crowd had time to settle in and get comfortable, Katie Gath struck from the right side outside the 18 with a solid shot past the Austrian goalie. With the assist from Jenn Rose, the Strikers were quickly on top 1-0. But Katie Gath wasn't done yet. Roughly six minutes later with a precise pass from Madison Kline into the right side, Katie drilled a shot towards the far post for her second goal of the game. The 2-0 score was enough to seal the second victory of the day for the USA Strikers team.
Fatigue became a factor in game 4 as the temperature peeked at 85 degrees in the Austrian alps. The Striker girls where pitted against a very well respected FC Nurnberg team from Germany who knew very well that the outcome of this game would decide the winner of their bracket. It was a must win for the Germans if they wanted to clinch the top seed going into elimination play . Good solid play from both sides prevailed, and in the end, the game ended in a 0-0 tie, awarding the Strikers FC first place in their bracket as they head to the quarter finals .
Friday, June 6, 2014
Opening Ceremonies - Unforgettable Day
One more day until the tournament begins and as the start of the games draw near, the excitement amongst the girls and the town is getting stronger by the minute. More teams are arriving to our hotel. We met up with a young South African boys team from Johannesburg today. They are a U11 boys team and immediately connected with our beautiful South Coast Striker girls. We all headed out together by bus to a nearby gondola which we rode to the top of the Alps. There we shared a the breathtaking view of the surrounding Alps and the beautiful valley below us. The mountains were so green and many parts were filled with beautiful yellow and violet flowers. Suddenly we heard church bells and it was as if we were transplanted into a scene from The Sound of Music.
We returned to the hotel for a fish and risotto dinner, changed into our USA gear and headed into town for opening ceremonies. Much to our surprise, Marissa Peña, had arranged for our girls to be interviewed by the local news. We thought that was the highlight of the night but it was merely the beginning. We had no idea what was waiting for us at opening ceremonies. The streets were filled with players from all around the world. Our girls were taking photos with teams from Germany, Hungary, France, Italy and the list goes on. The teams paraded down cobblestone streets chanting their team songs, while our girls sang out as loud as they could "there's only one USA". Locals hung out of their windows chanting "USA, USA"! It was an amazing experience, one I'm sure the girls will never forget. (view slide show of parade here:) Nor will they forget their 2.5 mile walk back to the hotel along the trail.
Once we all returned safely back to the hotel it was lights out. Games begin and the competition is fierce.