ORLANDO, Fla. (July 23, 2022) — An early goal and 75 minutes of strong defending helped CUP 06 Gold (OH) advance to the 16U Boys final at the 2022 US Youth Soccer National Championship.
After celebrating a 1-0 win against KCA Academy Elite 06B Galacticos (KS) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., the CUP coaches and players praised the defensive effort of the team — a squad they believe has the best defense in the country. In the end, their composure helped to achieve victory in a game many were anxious to play.
“I was super excited. I could barely fall asleep last night,” CUP goalkeeper Max Miller said. “We tried to stay calm. The early goal was a big help, and I just worked to keep our defense in it.”
The difference-making goal came in the sixth minute, courtesy of CUP forward Mason Cooper, who opportunistically volleyed home a loose ball following a cross from Brevin Shinkle to give his team the 1-0 lead.
For Cooper, the meaning of that goal made the tally extra rewarding after working toward that moment all week.
“I think it’s a big confidence booster. I had been waiting to get a goal the whole week and it hadn’t come yet,” Cooper said. “I feel really good about getting it in this game.”
Both sides looked likely to secure the game’s next goal for portions of the game, but the score remained unchanged entering the game’s final minutes — when Miller and the woodwork kept threatening KCA attacks from finishing with the ball in the net.
A 75th-minute KCA corner bounced to Anh-tuan Do at top of the box, and he used excellent form to strike a half volley for the back post, only to see Miller scramble across and make a diving save. Kansas City’s Zachary Adams hit what looked like a goal-bound shot of his own early in stoppage time, only to see the 18-yard effort bounce off the crossbar.
A final diving save by Miller on a shot from close range following a set piece proved to be the last play of the game, as the final whistle blew and CUP successfully completed a game-long defense of its narrow advantage.
The Ohio side, which finished second in National League P.R.O., will meet National League P.R.O. winners Nationals Union 06 Boys Black (MI) on Sunday in the 16U Boys final.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment our whole season. With the stakes and being a semifinal game, it just added so much more to it,” Cooper said. “It took the whole team and the defense was locked in. Communication was the key. I think we have the best defense in the country, and we were really locked in.”