The ECNL National Event this weekend in San Diego features 38 clubs from across the country competing in southern California over three days. In total, 231 matches from across all five age groups make up the fourth national event of the 2011-2012 season.
In the younger age groups, we’ll see a few first place teams in action, a couple of rivalry games and a long winning streak put to the test. ESPNHS breaks down the featured storylines from this weekend’s games in San Diego.
It’s All About SoCal
Take a look at the ECNL standings. In the SoCal Conference, No. 1 is So Cal Blues and No. 2 is Slammers. In the National Flight A standings, it’s the same two teams in reverse order: Slammers at the top with So Cal Blues in second. Now, beyond the extremely complicated ECNL rankings system that allows for this reversal to happen, it leads us to another reality -- this weekend, it’s all eyes on Southern California. These two clubs both head to San Diego for the event, and both have a lot at stake. Slammers takes on FC Bucks, Albertson Fury and Ohio Elite, while So Cal Blues has a somewhat lighter schedule with Freestate Alliance, FC Bucks, and Colorado Rush. This weekend will undoubtedly have a major impact on ECNL standings and could shake things up in the ESPNHS ECNL U16 Power Rankings.
Mustang Awaits Strong Opponents
One obstacle for Mustang has been its strength of schedule. Just one other team in their conference has Flight A status, and Mustang has not played a single team in the national top 15 all year. But this weekend includes three difficult opponents and a chance for Mustang to really test their mettle. Friday they’ll face Ohio Elite, No. 2 in the ESPNHS Power Rankings and right behind Mustang in the Flight A standings. On Saturday, it’s a solid Freestate Alliance club (who faces three of the top five teams in Flight A), and Saturday Mustang faces Mountain West Conference leader Sereno. A good weekend could result in a ranking for Mustang.
FC Delco Defending the Top
FC Delco sits in first place in both the Mid-Atlantic Conference and the National Flight B standings. The team will be defending those top spots this weekend in three games against TSC Hurricane, Colorado Storm and Las Vegas Premier. Entering the weekend with a 7-1-1 record, FC Delco has been led by the offense of Kayla Smith and the goalkeeping of Doyinsola Ogunsami. The team needs a strong weekend to ward off Ohio Elite, who sits just barely behind them in the Mid-Atlantic and is also in action this weekend.
Making Their Case
Colorado Rush currently sits at No. 2 in the ESPNHS ECNL U15 Power Rankings but this weekend could make a strong case to take the top spot. The Rush has three games this weekend against Flight A top 20 opponents: Slammers, Bethesda and San Diego Surf. At 16-1, Colorado Rush hasn’t played the toughest opponents. But three solid showings this weekend could catapult them to the top of the list. The team is already in first in the Flight A standings, and those are ultimately the ones that translate into tournament seedings.
Flight B Supremacy
Sereno, another Mountain West Conference club, also has a chance to earn a No. 1 spot this weekend. The team currently sits in second place in National Flight B, just behind a Vardar squad that has already finished the regular season. Sereno has two of the age group’s best scorers in Tessa Zaccagnio and Kyle Escobedo, and as a team has averaged better than 2.5 goals per game against Flight B opponents. This weekend they take on Pleasanton Rage, Washington Premier and FC Bucks.
On Their Home Turf
San Diego Surf has a strong U14 squad and sits in second place in the SoCal Conference at 8-1. The club hosts this weekend’s event and will play all of its games at the same site as its regular season home games. The Surf is led in scoring by forward Camille Bassett, who has tallied eight goals in nine games, thanks in part to Olivia Erlbeck’s seven assists in those matches. Surf’s three games this weekend include Utah Avalanche, San Juan and Slammers.
Keeping the Streak Alive
Arsenal’s U14 squad is rolling on a nine-game winning streak coming into the weekend, after opening the season with a 1-0 loss to Surf. It’s a balanced squad with a number of scoring threats, including forward Marissa Everett and midfielder Nicole Leggio, who together have scored 11 goals in 10 matches. Since its one loss came to Surf, Arsenal sits just behind them at No. 5 in the ESPNHS ECNL U14 Power Rankings, but a handful of wins this weekend could serve to move them up. The team plays matches against Eagles SC, Sereno and San Juan.