Four area teams were part of divisional championship games at the 30th anniversary of the Schwan’s USA Cup tournament Saturday.
Finalists included under-16 boys gold division champion Blaine Soccer Club’s Scorpions, who scored a 1-0 win against Bekkelaget Sportsklubb of Oslo, Norway.
Blaine opened the tournament with a 2-0 win against Bekkelaget Tuesday and followed with a 4-1 win against Tonka United and beat Lakes United FC Blue 7-0 to complete pool play, outscoring the opposition 13-1.
They would need every bit of scoring to move along in the playoffs, scoring a 1-0 win against TRSA Inferno Friday, before a 3-2 shoot out win against Lakes United in the semifinal at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Blaine regrouped for the final, six hours later, where Daniel Chelbeck scored only seconds from the final whistle with help from Sawyer Johnson and Jeremy Ceollo. The ball hit the crossbar and fell to Chelbeck’s feet where he instinctively buried the rare scoring chance.
Blaine goalie Austin Gunkel preserved the clean sheet with a phenominal save in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
“It was a tight game that went both ways but it was the last game of the week so the legs were tired but it was a well-fought battle and both keepers made some nice saves,” Scorpions coach Hollister Struck said. “We’re really playing the best soccer of the season right now and we need to keep rolling in that direction and what I told the guys was to do the opposite of what your body tells you what to do.”
Being able to face unfamiliar opponents was definitely a highlight for Struck’s squad. “It’s a great experience for the boys just because the culture of the team they are playing is so different but playing a Norwegian team twice was great and those memories made are life-lasting.”
Only two days after winning USA Cup, Blaine found itself back in action at the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association state tournament in Shakopee which began Monday.
Bombers can’t hold lead
Another Blaine Soccer Club team reached the final as the under-17 gold division Bombers led Euro FC Heat (Rochester) early on a goal from Abbey Wohlers in the first half.
Physical play continued in the second half and Euro FC scored in the 83rd minute on a single-handed effort to move around defenders by Kayley Joseph.
The game was sent into extra time where Isabel Erickson curled a direct free kick into the Blaine goal in the 98th minute.
To reach the finals, Blaine opened pool play with a 3-1 win against Maplebrooke before a 5-0 shutout against Edina Sting and a 7-1 blowout of Minneapolis United Blue.
The Bombers scored a 3-0 shutout against TRSA Red Bulls in the playoff opener Friday. Ottawa Internationals SC stood in the way in the semifinal, but again, the Bombers prevailed in a 2-0 result Saturday morning.
Gunners downed by Icelandic team
Blaine’s U16 girls silver division squad, the Gunners, reached the championship game of Flight 1 only to lose to FLYKIR (Iceland) 4-0.
The two teams met in the tournament opener which also went for the Icelandic side 4-1.
After that game, coach Berry Arrowsmith’s squad won four straight games, including an 8-1 score against Minneapolis United and 2-0 score against St. Croix Stallions.
Blaine won twice during Friday’s playoff matches including a 4-0 win against Tracy Futbol Crossfire (California) before a 1-0 shoot out win against Centennial in the afternoon session on the Handshake for Peace field.
Blaine goalkeeper Haley Crosby came up huge with three saves in the quarterfinal penalty shutout. “Defenders played well,” Arrowsmith said, pointing out the play of Kaitlin Hennen from Spring Lake Park and forwards Renya Binondo and Legacy Academy’s Sophie Kendall.
“We’ve had them for three years now and in the championship game without five players because of injuries and hockey camp,” he said.
By the end of the state tournament, Arrowsmith’s squad will have played 13 games (40 minute halves) in 10 days.
Blaine won another match against Minneapolis United, this time against the Blues 4-1 in the semifinals to set the tone for the championship rematch against FLYKIR.
“We figured at the beginning that the Iceland team would be the team to beat but it was nice to see our girls work so hard to win the rest of the way through to meet them again in the championship,” Arrowsmith said about the team going on to MYSA state with no real break in play between the tournaments.
Hurricanes come up short
North Metro SA’s Hurricanes reached the under-14 girls gold division final before falling to North London (Ontario, Canada) Galaxy 1-0. The lone goal came 10 minutes into the second half after hitting the woodwork multiple times in the first half.
The Galaxy opened the tournament with back-to-back 3-0 shutouts against Cottage Grove United and Prior Lake Typhoon before drawing 1-1 against Shakopee SA.
North Metro scored a 1-0 win in the playoff opener against another Canadian opponent, SWU Millennium (Alberta, Canada) and made it to the finals after a 2-0 shutout of Lakeville Spurs Saturday morning.
Overall, USA Cup yielded nine Minnesota champions, led by Minneapolis United with four championships. Canada earned two titles and Japan earned one title.
Illinois, Maryland and Wisconsin also earned one title each among the record-setting 1,060 teams from 21 states and 19 countries that took part in the 30th anniversary tournament.
Jason Olson is at