Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Youth: Washington earns redemption, RSL boys earn Super-Y title

TAMPA – Penalty shootouts usually lead to a pair of emotions: Joy for the winners, and disappointment for the losers.

For RSL Florida’s Raeshaun Washington, the biggest emotion was a sense of redemption.

Washington’s low shot into the right corner of the net gave RSL Florida's boys under-15 side a 5-3 shootout victory against Mountain WFC from Vancouver, B.C. in a shootout after the two sides had played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and overtime at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon.

“I started off real, real tough,” Washington said. “I was struggling throughout the game, but then I managed to put the ball in the net. It’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Washington’s error in the 30th minute, losing possession to Mountain's Mike Jasinski who proceded to move in on goal and tie the game, proved a pivotal moment in the game. After RSL had held control over the contest, taking the lead when Nathan Dalton seized upon an opportunity in the 18th minute after Rheese Wiltshire’s centering pass had been deflected to a defender, the equalizer, and the first goal RSL had conceded all tournament, appeared to throw the team out of its rhythm.

That continued into the second half, where tired legs and minds started to play a role. Neither side was able to create any real opening, a low free kick by RSL's Jean Cenoble just before full time flashing through the 6-yard box and behind for a goal kick.

After 20 minutes of overtime went scoreless, the game went to a shootout. There, RSL’s Zach Higgins, Travis Jehs, Jacob Frahm and Kody Thomas each scored, and Kody Parker’s save on Mountain’s third shot of the shootout left the game on Washington’s foot. After a false start caused by a lightning warning siren, the referee, who had begun to take the teams off the field, was told by tournament officials to complete the shootout, and Washington, undeterred by the brief delay, slotted his shot home.

“That says a lot about his character,” RSL coach Steve Wolf said. “He knew he made that mistake, and good players know when they make a mistake they’ll admit it, they’ll take responsibility for it, and they’ll move on, and that’s what Raeshaun did today. He had a great tournament.”

Washington’s shot at redemption, though, wouldn’t have come about if not for a brilliant save by Parker, who read the shooter perfectly, taking off to his left before the ball had been struck to push it aside.

“I was watching him, and he was looking in the opposite corner, and whenever somebody does that, I always dive the other way,” Parker said. “He was looking the other way, so I just went for it.”

The title is the first Super-Y championship in RSL's history, and Wolf said he was very proud of the way his side had battled through, playing their fifth game in as many days.

“Extremely proud,” Wolf said. “I think when you get to this stage in this type of tournament where you’ve played five games over a stretch of four or five days, I think it’s more about the heart and the mind. The legs are gone, it’s all about your mind and your heart, and your willingness to get through it and to win.”

Mountain coach Andrea Agnolani said he was also proud of his side.

“I think overall it was a good game,” Agnolani said. “Everybody had to give out whatever they had left in their engine, and it was a fair game in the end. After the goal was scored, we had a great chance at the end of the first half, but then in the second half, neither team had any close chances to capitalize, so a fair game, and then the penalty shots are just a lottery.”

A lottery to which Washington held the winning ticket. Already having won the Sparta Cup and Region III Premier League this season, Washington said this title, in addition to the others, meant a great deal to him and his teammates after they had come close but fallen short in previous events.

“We usually are used to silver,” Washington said. “Now we have the gold, and it’s a big thing for us. We had a monkey on our back, and it just finally came off.”

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