Stealing a page from the San Francisco Giants "MO", the SF Seals Pyros U16 Boys opened their EuroTour V with a series of PK shoot-out and drama-strewn victories in their run through the 2011 Dana Cup "B" Bracket Championship Playoffs - and grabbed Champions Silverware in their first-ever International Tournament.
The squad arrived in Frederickshavn, Denmark in the late evening, after 25 hours of flying, lay-overs and bus rides, worn and exhausted. They started the tournament the next morning faced with 2 games! Jet lag and fatigued contributed to a slow start against teams the boys and coaches felt they should have handled. This put them into the "B" bracket Championship Playoffs ... but by this time they were rested, oriented and ready to redeem and make a statement.
After sweeping by an Indian team in the first sudden-death round, the Seals awoke with intent, playing for each other, playing ball control and taking the game to a solid Bjarg team from Norway in the Quarter Final match. Consistent pressure put on the Norwegians resulted in an Alex Voorhees to Sam Scarffenberger feed, with Sam slotting the ball into the net. A defensive breakdown allowed the Bjarg squad an equalizer off a corner kick, yet the Seals Pyros eleven kept plugging away and pushing the game into the Bjarg final third. With the sustained effort, Teo Nugent found Alex Voorhees with a beautiful through-ball and Alex finished decisively for a dramatic 2-1 victory.
The Semi-Finals pitted the Seals against a "La Academia" squad from Guatemala, whom just the day before had demolished a team 7-0. But the Seals came out unintimidated and played one of their best-ever games as a Seals squad. They dominated the Guatemalans in every aspect of the game: First to ball, hard disruptive challenges, controlling the midfield, and creating shooting chance after chance. But the ball was just not going into the net. Finally, Seth Rosner picked up the ball with an overlapping run and nailed his shot for a 1-0 lead. But with only three minutes left in the game, keeper Connor Anderson came off his line to punch away an incoming air ball, but the Ref saw something no one else saw, and awarded La Academia a PK for colliding with the oncoming attacker, even though Anderson clearly got to the ball first. With his usual mix of composure and grit, Connor dove and blocked the PK, but the deflection was knocked in: 1-1.
Though the Seals-Pyros continued to control the pitch, no one could score in the ensuing 2 extra periods: It was shoot-out time.
Here composure won the game for the Seals-Pyros. Peter Harrington, John Halifax and Seth Rosner coolly and deliberately took their turns, resolutely drilling the ball past the Guatemalan keeper. While the 1st two La Academia shooters let their nerves get to them - and perhaps were a bit intimidated by keeper Anderson's bullish game performance - and over-hit the ball, each sending it high over the crossbar. The third La Academia player did his job, but now, if Alex Voorhees could convert on his turn, it would be all over.
Here the Seals-Pyros need for "SF Giants-like" drama resurfaced. Voorhees showed some anxiousness and drilled his shot over the bar. But the Ref had not yet whistled to resume play, so Voorhees got a second chance. Putting power to ball, here again this second shot sailed too high. But now the Referee called the La Academia keeper for coming off his line too soon! ... so Alex had a third chance. This time - with teammates behind him yelling for control, not power, Alex slotted the winning shot into net.
The Seals-Pyros were into the Championship game!
Saturday's Championship game had a 9:10AM start time ... this after a drawn out overtime, PK shoot-out victory the evening before. They were facing a collectively very tall, "Viking-like", Førde squad from Norway. Once again the Seals- now playing well in sync and with visible spirit - came out composed, intent on playing their game, at their pace. The center backs Aidan Weir and Johnny Klyver shut out the towering Norwegian attackers with resolve and intolerance. Robert Wagner and Alex Warren directed and set the tone for the midfield. The Seals dominated again, resulting in a sublime goal by Peter Harrington off of a finely directed cross . But as in the last game, the plethora of chances beautifully created were not racking up finished goals. Up 1-0, the Seals-Pyros came out in the second half a different team, more lethargic ... perhaps the long game the evening before was now taking its toll. And though the Førde team managed perhaps two shots on goal the whole game, in the second half one went in: 1-1.
It was as if the Seals-Pyros would be ashamed to let a game go by without the requisite 11th hour drama. Two overtime periods again - again still 1-1. Førde's first shooter missed his shot. That was the only miss of the shoot-out, but it was all the Seals needed. Each Seal stepped up and buried his shot in net, until Doctor Drama himself - Alex Voorhess - came up to the spot with the fifth and deciding chance. Poetic justice? Karma? Sick Humor? Would he reprise the previous night's 3-chance drama? Again drill it over the net? No - Alex knew what he wanted to do this time. Ball in net. Game over. Dog-pile on the pitch. Bringing their home-grown "SF Giants" sense of drama across the pond, the SF Seals Pyros U16 now had a Dana Cup Champions Trophy to add to their travel retinue.
The Dana Cup wrapped up in exhilarating style, the boys are off to the prestigious "world stage" of the Gothia Cup in Sweden, featuring teams from 72 different nations! ... First team up for the Seals squad Monday in group play is a Brazilian team ... and this tournament "drama" yet to be written!
If you would like to contact the SF Seals U16/U17 Boys squads, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org