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The National Soccer Tournament
“Out of the many teams from Wisconsin, Mequon United moves on to the National Soccer Tournament.” This was the headline in the newspaper all over the state. Our team had beaten every team in the state tournament to move on to the National Soccer Tournament. I had even scored the game-winning goal to win the state tournament. It was a great goal off of a cross (pass from one side of the field to the other side of the field) to put it into the back of the net to win as time expired. We were the champions of Wisconsin!
Our first game was against the champions of Illinois, the Chicago Magic. The National Tournament was to be played in Miami, Florida. Our game was at noon on Sunday, June 21st. I scored our first goal on a cross from Elan. I celebrated after scoring my goal by airplaning around the field. The Magic got two goals to lead two to one at half. Our team was pretty bummed out because we all thought we were going to take an early exit from the tournament. Right away after the half the Magic scored a goal to go up three to one. Then with fifteen minutes remaining our team started turning things around. Arturo scored on a penalty kick and Juan dribbled, faked right and went left and fired a shot into the top right corner to tie it at three all with five minutes left. One more goal and we moved on! The other team was all pushed up trying to score a goal. One of their players fired a shot but our goalie, Brandon, saved the shot! He threw the ball out to me and I started a counterattack. Me, Arturo, Carlos, Juan and Kay were going on a five versus three. I passed the ball to Kay. Kay passed the ball to Carlos. Carlos gave the ball to Arturo who did a give and go and Carlos one-touch-shot the ball into the back of the net. GOAL! We were celebrating as the referee blew the final whistle. We were moving onto the second round!
In the second round we were playing the Jacksonville Jumping Beans. They had gotten a bye in the first round since they were from the host state. They were not very good so we destroyed them five to nothing. I had a beastly hat trick, which is three goals. We were heading into the third round with some confidence, and we needed some too, because we were playing one of the best teams in the tournament. They had won all of their games five to nothing, which was pretty impressive.
The next team was from California. They were the Los Angeles Galaxy U-14 team. The Galaxy are one of the best teams in the Major League Soccer, or MLS. Landon Donovan, who is the star player for the Galaxy, was coaching them. They were favorites heading into the tournament. This might be our team’s toughest foe, and it was only the quarterfinals!
The game started with a quick goal for LA. Not the best way to start for our team. Then they scored another goal to go up two to nothing. Next they scored one more goal to go up three to zero. We were down three to zero in the first fifteen minutes! We started playing better in the last twenty minutes, but they scored two more goals to go up five to zero at halftime.
Our team wasn’t depressed, and somehow, we still thought we could win. We showed up in the second half ready to win. We scored a quick goal to start off the half. Juan did a give and go with Arturo to score a goal. Then, I scored two more awesome goals to be down five to three with fifteen minutes to go. Later, Arturo scored to be within one goal with five minutes remaining. With not much time remaining, we got a corner kick off of a blocked shot. I asked the referee how much time was left and he said, “After this corner kick, I am going to end the game.” My coach, Mike Stoy, called everybody on our team into the penalty box to try to score a goal to send the game to overtime. The cross was coming in right to where I was. I timed my jump just right and did a bicycle kick to score a goal. All of my teammates jumped on me as the referee blew the final whistle. We had somehow tied the other team to send the game to overtime.
Both teams tightened up their defense to send the game to penalty kicks at the end of overtime. The goalies from each team were amazing, even though the score was five to five. The goals we scored were almost impossible to stop. Through four penalty kicks for both teams, the game was tied two to two. Then, the player before me missed the shot. The pressure was on me to score. Either I make the shot and we advance to the next round, or I miss the shot and the shootout continues. I took a deep breath, ran up to the ball, and shot the ball to the top right corner of the goal. The goalie guessed the correct side of the goal and jumped up to save the shot. The goalie barely tipped the ball and the ball ricocheted into the net. GOAL!
Although we had been projected to lose our first game, our team was in the semi-finals of the tournament. Next up for our team was the Oklahoma Twisters, a team that had won all of their games by one goal or on penalty kicks. We felt confident that we would win the game.
The game kicked off and I scored a goal off of a cross from Josh to take the lead one to zero. Then, I scored two more goals to get a hat-trick and we went into halftime with a three to zero lead. In the second half, our team locked down defensively to complete the shutout. Our team was now in the finals of the tournament.
The finals featured a showdown between our team and the Houston Hammers in the Orange Bowl. The game would be televised nationally on ESPN. Our team was pumped up for the game. There was no way were we losing the game. Although, at the start of the game, it looked like we were going to lose. Houston took the lead five to zero in the first twenty minutes. Our team shut down the Hammers the rest of the first half and trailed at halftime five to zero.
At the start of the second half, I scored a quick goal to lower the lead to four goals. The goal was a small spark but it was all we needed to get motivated to win. I scored two more goals to cut the lead to two goals. With fifteen minutes remaining, I scored another goal to be within one goal of tying the game. There were five minutes remaining in the game. All of a sudden, I scored a fifth goal to tie the game. Then, with little time remaining, I had a breakaway. When I dribbled into the penalty box, I was slide tackled by the goalie to stop the breakaway. The referee blew his whistle and signaled for a penalty kick. I chose to shoot the ball to the right side of the goal. The goalie guessed wrong and I nailed the ball into the upper right corner of the goal to win the game. We were the champions of the National Soccer Tournament and in two weeks we would be playing in the World Championship.