U18 team enjoys experience at U.S. Youth Soccer Nationals
FRISCO, Texas – The Lyons Township Soccer Club Union U18 team headed to the U.S. Youth Soccer Nationals with dreams of hoisting the championship.
Winning the hardware eluded LTSC, but it still was a trip unlike any other.
“It was a great experience,” LTSC head coach Paul Murphy said. “The complex was part of where the MLS team [FC Dallas] plays, so you go there and it really was neat the way they do the games because it was almost like how they do a pro game.”
LTSC’s first trip to Nationals came on the heels of it winning the U.S. Youth Soccer Midwest regional in late June.
Lyons was held scoreless over the course of three pool play games, but thanks to Eric Gradilla, Owen Allen and Tate Riordan on the back line and Matt Vear in net it held the opposition to just three goals in those three games.
“In the regionals we couldn’t stop scoring,” Murphy said. “Then we didn’t have much luck in the national tournament.
“Defensively we were solid, but you need both [defense and scoring]. Eric Gradilla was probably our best defender. He really took it on his shoulders to lead back there, and with Owen Allen and Tate Riordan, those three guys were huge for us, and Vear was solid as usual for us.”
Vear posted a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw in the tourney opener against BRYC Elite 99 (Va.) on July 25. BRYC went on to win the title, and the game against LTSC was the only time BRYC was held without a goal.
In a match that could have gone either way, LTSC was locked in a scoreless draw against Cincinnati United Premier on July 26 before CUP notched a goal late in the second half.
“The first two games we played quite well,” Murphy said. “The first game was a game of two halves. We were better in the first half and in the second half they took control.”
In the third pool play game July 27, West Coast 99 Wyss scored an early goal then added one midway through the second half. It was the one game Murphy thought his team truly struggled, especially offensively.
“It got harder [offensively],” Murphy said. “The first couple chances we had in the first game, if we got one, then we’d have something to build on. The second game we had a couple really good chances and hit the post and had a goal disallowed.
“The boys worked hard. It’s just when we had our chances we couldn’t execute.”
Allen, Gradilla, Riordan and Vear figure to form the base of a solid defensive unit for Lyons Township High School this fall, while Jack Richards (Downers Grove North) and Christian Waldschmidt (York), a member of the team who did not travel to Nationals, figure to be key pieces for their respective high school teams this season.
The trip to Nationals – and the sweltering summer heat of Texas – capped the season for LTSC. A return trip isn’t out of the question as a large portion of the roster will return – after Murphy gives them some time to recover.
“Once high school [soccer] finishes in early November, we’ll give them a few weeks off and pick it up after the holidays with some tournaments in February or March,” Murphy said. “Next year we pretty much have the starting 11 coming back and we’ll add a few new players.
“We’ve got one more year with them. Now they have a taste of, will they be hungrier next year? We’ll have to wait and find out.”