LAKE BUENA VISTA – The Clearwater Chargers boys under-16 team completed a strong week of performances in the Disney Soccer Showcase under-17 Copa Division, as three goals in a little under 10 minutes gave them a fourth victory for the event with a 3-0 win against Hillsborough County United’s under-17 team on Wednesday afternoon.
“We have been trying to learn how to win games,” Chargers coach Garth Pollonais said. “Now this weekend really put a positive spin on the things we have been trying to do.”
HCU started well, but once Clearwater found its stride it was able to control the pace and the rhythm of the game well, passing the ball sharply and making HCU chase. The Chargers took the lead in the 22nd minute after a good moment of awareness by Zack Shriver, who when lining up a free kick from close to 40 yards out spotted HCU’s goalkeeper cheating off his line in anticipation of a cross into the penalty area. Shriver fired a well-struck shot into the top left corner of the net, catching the goalkeeper off guard.
“It was originally going to be a cross,” Shriver said. “But then they came across and said have a shot, so I just went for it.”
The Chargers doubled their lead a minute later when Nikolai Hammer was brought down in the penalty area, and Shriver converted from the penalty spot. The Chargers added a third in the 29th minute, a good long ball down the right from full back Cameron Coughlin allowing Hammer to beat his marker for pace, and after he cut into the penalty area, he crossed low to the far post where Anthony Lucido was on hand to score.
Hammer was excellent leading the Chargers forward line, holding up possession when needed and making dangerous runs to put pressure on the HCU defense. Pollonais said that was something Hammer had been working on in training.
“That’s something we have been working on with him,” Pollonais said. “If he can hold the ball up, it keeps our flow of the game going better, and I thought he did a fantastic job doing that."
HCU had its opportunities to get back into the game but was unable to take advantage, particularly in the second half as numerous efforts missed the target. HCU coach Eric Sims was disappointed with the way his side had closed out what had been a good week to that point.
“Today defensively, (Hammer) was giving us a lot of problems,” Sims said. “The first goal, giving up a soft goal like that deflated us I think, and to give up a penalty and go down 2-0 is tough to come back from.”
While the Chargers under-16s appeared to take a big step forward as far as learning how to win games, the Chargers under-18s suffered a disappointing loss, losing a two-goal lead on the way to a dramatic 4-3 defeat in overtime against Alliance FC from Tennessee in their final.
Shane Wixted and Wes Sever had given the Chargers a 2-0 lead, but that quickly slipped away early in the second half as Alliance took a 3-2 lead. Down to 10 men, the Chargers tried to rally, and were aided by a moment of ill-discipline by the Alliance goalkeeper, who was sent off for foul language with less than 10 minutes to play in the second half, evening the numbers to 10-on-10.
Clearwater couldn’t find a way to score from the indirect free kick given after the red card, the shot being blocked by a charging Alliance wall, but after forcing a pair of corner kicks, Bruno da Silva’s volley from a half-cleared cross was blocked by a hand, giving the Chargers a penalty. da Silva himself stepped up to slot home from the spot, appearing to give Clearwater momentum as overtime began.
Alliance’s David Geno swung momentum back to his team’s side early in the first overtime period with a brilliant first touch off a long pass and a curling left-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the net to give his side a 4-3 lead. Clearwater was unable to respond a second time.
Pollonais was disappointed that after a strong first half his side wasn’t able to protect its 2-0 lead better.
“The first half, we played brilliant, we controlled the game, we went two goals up,” Pollonais said. “We’ve got to learn to manage games when we are in the lead. In a game like this, where we are a better team, we’ve got to put teams away, it’s as simple as that.”