After the disappointment of being eliminated on goal difference in the opening round last season, RSL Florida’s girls under-17 team is looking forward to making one final attempt to win a championship at the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals, which begin on Friday afternoon.
“We’ve had a really good summer and fall together,” RSL coach Jim Cote said. “Scored a lot of goals and given up very few, and they’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
Last year, the opening game of the tournament proved critical for RSL as they fell 1-0 to the Cal Odyssey. As with any tournament that features pool play, a positive result in the opening game is going to be critical if the side is to advance. Cote, though is optimistic for his team’s chances, as his players have continued to play well to start the high school season, boosting their confidence ahead of the weekend.
“The high school is great because our kids are scoring a lot of goals, and they have a different level of confidence,” Cote said. “I think we have seven or eight players on our team who are already over the 10-goal mark for their high school teams, and that builds confidence.”
What should also help the team is its familiarity with one another. In previous season’s the sides RSL sent to the Super-Y Finals were often an amalgam of two, or more, teams. This season, all 22 players have been together for close to a year, with 18 of them having played together for two years. While the side will be missing defenders Kara Buono and Linsdey DiLeonardo to injury, Cote believes the team has the depth to where the incoming players won’t miss a beat.
“This group of 22 have played together all year, trained together, know each other inside and out,” Cote said. “18 of the 22 have been together for two years now, so they feel good about themselves, they have a little bit of arrogance about them, not cocky, but arrogance. They feel they’re a good team, and that they can compete with anybody.”
That’s an attitude they’ll need to maintain as they face a tough opening group. With the three group winners and one wild card second placed team advancing to the semifinals, RSL will need to be at its sharpest to move on.
“We open on Friday at 3 against Princeton which, you’re playing out of New York, New Jersey, that northeast region, you’ve got to be pretty good to get out of that, that’s the first task,” Cote said. “Then we get Chicago and then MPS renegades, which I believe lost in the final last year, so we have three good teams in our group, we’re going to have to let the chips fall where they may and get after them.”