That proved to be the case in the girls under-17 final of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals as the Cleveland Internationals got goals from Kate Allen and Megan Gallagher to rally from a goal down to defeat RSL Florida 2-1 on Tuesday morning.
After Cleveland had the better of the first half, RSL came out sharply to start the second. Zoe Lombard had a cross that shot through the 6-yard area, but Connor Zwetsch wasn’t able to get a decisive touch as the ball went through for a goal kick. Zwetsch also had a pair of chances, one that forced a save from the Internationals goalkeeper and another that she sent wide after stealing possession from a defender.
Zwetsch did finally break the deadlock in the 65th minute, picking the ball up in midfield before beating three defenders on a run into the left side of the penalty area and flicking the ball past the advancing goalkeeper with the outside of her right foot.
“They left a gap open, so I just took the gap and took on the two people in front of me,” Zwetsch said. “I had a good angle, so I just found my around them and tapped it in with the outside of my foot.”
But then, as the RSL players were expecting, Cleveland upped its game. As RSL struggled to find a way out fron its own half, the Internationals we able to build a five-minute spell of pressure. That pressure culminated in a turning shot from 25 yards by Allen that flew into the top left corner of the net.
“I was going to shoot with my left foot,” Allen said. “But then I turned and I had an open shot, so just thought I’d hit it, I was looking far post and luckily it went in.”
As RSL’s opener had spurred on Cleveland, the equalizer led to RSL increasing its intensity, and Niki Carter had a shot well saved as she and her teammates pushed to retake the lead.
RSL’s Jessica Giblin then came inches away from restoring the advantage as she fired a free kick from 30 yards out that came back off the underside of the crossbar and away to safety.
“I thought it looked good,” Giblin said. “It was up in the corner, and I could only hope for the best.”
That near-miss took on even greater meaning shortly after, as Gallagher rose to head home a corner from the left that clipped the underside of the crossbar before dropping into the goal. RSL coach Jim Cote said after the game that he told his team that sometimes, it just wasn’t going to be, and the differences between Giblin’s near-miss and Gallagher’s goal only amplified that sentiment.
“It’s a game of inches,” Cote said. “I’m proud of the girls, I thought Amy Werdine was special all weekend, and obviously Connor showed her worth, and Jordan Johnson, every girl contributed, we got big boosts from kids that normally don’t give us that, (Jessica Jagielski) was fantastic this weekend, and again, they were all fantastic. Hats off to the Internationals, they were great, we’re a little disappointed, but proud as well.”
Allen said after the Internationals had been eliminated in group play a season ago, to return and earn the title was a very special feeling.
“Considering we didn’t do so well last year, to come back left us hungry to win this one,” Allen said. “It’s huge for us, considering what we’ve gone through this past season. We’ve grown a lot as a team, and to come back from last year and win this was really big for us. It feels good.”