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17U Girls Philadelphia Coppa earns return to championship game

17U Girls Semifinals
(Click image for more game photos)

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 23, 2022) — After coming up one game short of the pinnacle of youth soccer a year ago, Philadelphia SC Coppa 05 Rage (PA-E) fought back to earn another shot at securing the US Youth Soccer National Championship.

The Eastern Pennsylvania side came back from a goal down to secure a 2-1 win over Avalanche 05 Black DW (UT) in Saturday’s 17U Girls semifinal at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla. For the Philadelphia side, the win was a result of a year’s worth of hard work and experience gained while playing on the national stage.

“As soon as the game ended last year, we all set a goal. The whole team — we all got together, and we were like, ‘We’re going to win this,’” Philadelphia forward Taylor Mays said. “All year, we worked. We’d have practices. We’d find each other and meet up on certain days. We’d prepare ourselves for the heat. We really prepared ourselves this time, and we’re really ready to win this and bring it back home.”

Philadelphia will play Tonka Fusion Elite 05 Girls (MN) in the final, as the Minnesota side won a thrilling back-and-forth matchup, 3-2, in its semifinal against Chicago Inter 2005 Red (IL).

Both Philadelphia and Avalanche entered the National Championships having finished second in their National League P.R.O. groups. The quality of both sides was evident, as the sides traded chances before Utah’s Brynn Reese powered a shot inside the right post to give Avalanche a 1-0 lead after 15 minutes.

Philadelphia responded seven minutes later, as Mays made a strong run with the ball from the right wing, getting around a defender on the end line before cutting into the box. She slipped a ball into the path of Gianna Rivera, who showed composure to place her shot into the far-side netting.

“It was really important to get that tying goal,” Rivera said. “We knew if we kept our heads down and sulked about that goal against us that we wouldn’t be able to come back, so we just pushed ourselves.”

Philadelphia began to generate the most attacking pressure as the game pushed into the second half, but Avalanche keeper McKenna Steiner made some athletic saves to keep the game level. That changed when Coppa earned a penalty kick in the 76th minute, which Isabella Brown blasted inside the left post to put Philadelphia in front, 2-1.

Last year’s national finalists showed their experience in high-stakes games, as they did well over the final 15 minutes to prevent any major chances for Utah. When the final whistle blew, the Philadelphia players celebrated on the field — knowing their year’s worth of work had helped them earn another shot at the title. Now, they’re ready to try to take the final step to the top.

“It’s amazing. We worked so hard after last year in the final when we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Rivera said. “That pushed us further to get us here to where we are. The competition around here — everyone wants to win, everyone wants to be the best — so we just push each other on and off the field to be the best we can.”