Monday, November 23, 2009

Youth: RSL girls rally, advance to Super-Y Final

LAND O’ LAKES – RSL Florida’s girls under-17 team rallied from a two-goal deficit, scoring twice in the final five minutes to earn a 3-2 victory against the Fort Wayne Fever and advance to the final of the United Soccer League’s Super-Y North American Finals on Monday afternoon.

RSL trailed 2-0 early in the second half, but got back into the game on the hour-mark. Connor Zwetsch’s pass towards the top of the penalty area was picked up by Jessica Giblin, who ran at her defender. Giblin lost possession briefly, but regained it and turned to her right, where Thea Linkfield was on hand to shoot low into the right corner of the net.

The goal appeared to energize RSL, as the mid-eighties temperature appeared to begin to take a toll on the Indiana-based squad, and Giblin, Zoe Lombard and Linkfield each had chances shortly after to tie the game.

Fort Wayne did have an opportunity to restore its two-goal advantage with just over 10 minutes to play as Jordan Pawlick knifed through the RSL defense, but in alone she shot wide of the target.

That miss would come back to haunt Fort Wayne in the 86th minute when Jessica Jagielski sent an angled pass into the penalty area looking for Linkfield. Linkfield wasn’t able to get to the ball first, but the pressure she placed on the retreating defender caused a miscommunication between the defender and her goalkeeper, and the defender redirected the pass into her own net.

Linkfield then found the game-winner in the 89th minute, flicking a long clearance to Niki Carter before making a run forward. Carter took the ball, and sent it back to Linkfield, who ran into the left side of the penalty area and shot low into the right corner to complete the comeback.

“Thea and Zoe, the work they did up front for the first 25 minutes was incredible,” RSL coach Jim Cote said. “Then here at the end with Thea, who was relentless, and Niki and those girls just battling. None of those goals were pretty, but the crossed the line, so we’ll take it.”

Fort Wayne had taken the lead in the 29th minute as Marlee Disher capitalized when RSL goalkeeper Jordan Hatton mishandled a header back to her by Amy Werdine, Disher stealing the ball and finishing into an empty net. The Fever then doubled their lead in the 52th minute as Pawlick scored in a sharp first-time finish after a good through-ball had set her up. Cote, though, thought the warm conditions would take a toll on the Fort Wayne players and was proved correct as RSL carried most of the game from the 60th minute.

“I said at the beginning of the tournament, on day one, you’re never going to be out of a game here,” Cote said. “You play in this arena, and the heat, and all these teams are coming from the colder climate, so you’re never going to be out of a game.

“You could see late in the first half their kids were getting tired, and were asking to come off, so I knew if I kept rotating the (players), which is why it’s important to have 18 here who can play, that someone is going to make a difference.”

RSL will face the Cleveland Internationals in the final on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Ed Radice Sports Complex. RSL defeated Cleveland 3-2 in group play at last year’s championship, but the Internationals were impressive in a 5-0 semifinal with against Seacoast.

“They’re very deep, so we’re going to have our hands full,” Cote said. “We took one away from them last year, and I’m sure they’ll want to get one back on us.”

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