LAND O’ LAKES – Hillsborough County United's boys under-16 side couldn’t hold a two-goal halftime lead, and saw their hopes for a title take a serious hit as they fell 3-2 to Coastal WFC from Vancouver, Canada in their opening game of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Center on Friday.
HCU had taken the lead into the break with a pair of goals four minutes apart by Nick Patterson. Patterson, who had earlier hit the crossbar, opened the scoring in the 36th minute as he beat his defender in a challenge on the left side of the penalty area after a through-ball by Jake Peterson, and shot home into the right corner of the net.
Peterson almost added a second a minute later, stealing possession from a defender, but his shot went over the cross bar. He made up for that miss right before halftime, though, firing home from the edge of the penalty area after losing his marker on another long through-ball from the HCU midfield.
Despite being up 2-0, HCU coach Eric Sims was not happy with the way his side was playing, giving away possession cheaply in midfield, failing to control possession in an effort to make Coastal work harder to chase the ball and win possession back. Coastal made HCU pay for that slackness early in the second half, as Coastal picked up the ball in midfield on a giveaway, and quickly went on the attack. Isaac Jacobson’s run from midfield beat the offside trap, and he finished well to make the score 2-1.
After Patterson had seen a tame free kick easily saved as he tried to restore HCU’s two-goal advantage, Coastal struck again in the 55th minute, Caleb Clarke starting and finishing a well-worked move to make the score 2-2.
HCU goalkeeper John Nardozzi did well to deny Coastal twice as it threatened to take the lead, saving from Clarke and Declan Rodriguez, but he was unable to deny Isaacson his second in the 78th minute as Isaacson knifed through the HCU defense to finish left-footed.
Isaacson said the high pressure his side applied in the second half was important to turning the game around.
“Throughout the season we’ve been a high-scoring team, and the more we press, the more we score,” Isaacson said. “We’re not a very selfish team, we like to create each other goals, and that’s how we scored all our goals today, not in 1-on-1 battles.”
Sims said he felt this was the most important game for HCU in the opening round, and acknowledged that his side would need a break or two to go his side’s way if they were to advance, but he expected his side to give their all in their remaining two pool play games.
“I told them at the beginning that I thought this was the game that we needed to win,” Sims said. ”If we wanted to win the tournament, we needed to win this game. I don’t really know much about the other teams, but I don’t imagine that they’re going to beat that team, but you never know, soccer’s a funny game, so we’ll come out tomorrow and try to put together a win.”