LAKE BUENA VISTA – Alejandro Pena keyed a spell of three goals in three minutes as Hillsborough County United’s boys under-18 team took control of its group at the Disney Soccer Showcase with a 5-2 victory against the Potomac Soccer Academy on Monday evening at the Wide World of Sports Complex.
HCU had taken the lead in the sixth minute, Keith Sierra and T.J. East combining well to set up Sierra for a fine finish. Potomac hit back in the 30th minute, but HCU retook the lead in the 39th minute as Pena and Andrew Buckley worked a nice give and go. Buckley’s shot was blocked, but the ball rebounded to Pena who curled his shot from the left side of the penalty area into the right corner of the net.
The goal seemed to throw Potomac’s players, and within a minute HCU had made it 3-1, Pena flicking on a pass to Buckley, who finished beautifully, lobbing the advancing goalkeeper with a well-controlled volley. A minute later, Pena broke into the penalty area and was brought down, Sierra stepping up to convert from the penalty spot and giving HCU a 4-1 halftime lead.
Pena had only come entered the game in the 35th minute, with HCU coach Kelvin Jones wanting to make sure he could keep him as fresh as possible.
“(Ali) played 90 minutes yesterday, and I was concerned about letting him play the full 90 today,” Jones said. “T.J. was here today, so we decided to bring Ali on a little bit later, and he had an immediate impact. His pace and power was a difference right away.”
Matt Moore added a fifth in the 68th minute, turning his defender inside-out before firing a low shot into the right corner of the net. Potomac pulled a goal back late, but HCU posted an impressive win that put it top of the Group D. A win against Commack SC from New York on Tuesday would advance the side through to face the winner of Group C for a final game.
The Clearewater Chargers played a better overall game than in their opener, but needed a slice of luck to earn a 2-1 win against the TSF Academy Celtic.
TSF opened the game well, pressuring the Chargers as they tried to find a rhythm, and having a goal ruled out for offside early, one of three such instances where TSF was denied due to an assistant referee’s flag.
The Chargers took the lead in the 32nd minute, however, as Anthony Baumann mad a run in from the right flank, and delivered a beautiful through-ball to Charles Lynch who was brought down in the penalty area. Bruno da Silva stepped up and converted from the penalty spot low into the left corner.
“We got some good feeds, and we got some good movement off the ball,” Chargers coach Garth Pollonais said. “I think at the beginning, we didn’t figure out how to get behind them, but once we started to get our rhythm and movement it was a lot better.”
TSF tied the game in the 56th minute, a low curling free kick by Chris Benedict finding its way around the wall into the left side of the Chargers’ net, but the Chargers bounced back well, controlling possession and making TSF chase the game and give away possession cheaply.
That came to fruition in the 70th minute as Ben Sweat made a surging run down the left, and was found by a long ball over the top of the TSF defense by Jayson Lopaciuk. Sweat controlled the ball by the goal line and centered, and his cross went through the TSF goalkeeper’s hands, and into his own net.
“It was a great combination play coming around the outside,” Pollonais said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be lucky in this game, so we’ll take it.”
Clearwater will look to close out group play with a perfect record when it faces the Forsyth Fusion on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, HCU’s under-17s earned a second victory with a 2-1 win against Norcross, Ga., as did the Chargers under-16s, playing in the under-17 division, with a 3-1 victory against the Tennessee Rush that guaranteed them victory in their group.
Strictly Soccer’s under-15s earned their second win in as many games with a 1-0 win against Space Coast, but their under-16 counterparts fell 2-1 to Cobb FC. RSL Florida’s under-17s bounced back from an opening defeat with a 1-0 win against Campton United, while their under-16s drew 0-0 with Tulsa SC. Fusion Futbol Club’s under-17s couldn’t build on their opening victory, falling 3-1 to the Lonestar Academy from Texas, while HCU’s under-15s fell 1-0 to North Atlanta.