THE SIDE REPRESENTS AT 2018 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Only a few will pass through the filter that combs most from the opportunity to play in a National Tournament. This past soccer year several WSA teams saw gut wrenching, heartbreaking efforts render their hopes of a national tournament appearance painfully close, but yet in the end, so far. And while most teams in America were in the same boat in late May and early June, six teams from The Side would pass into the final stages of the youth soccer journey, playing through mid-summer when National Champions are crowned.
Through 18 games played on the National Stage against a myriad of some of the best clubs in America, these six teams from The Side would lose 7, they would draw another 4, and win 7! Of the 7 defeats, 3 would be by a goal, and those losses our on-site staff gave a partisan nod to the football played by The Side (wink). Indeed 3 teams from WSA would finish as runner-up in their group stage, two would miss out on goal difference from a National Final-4 Spot, and one would finish 3rd in the Nation (WSA 01B White)!
The Side represented the OPC, Red River NPL, Oklahoma, and of course our community and family at The Side. We are proud of each team who played into the National stage this year. Since the summer of 2017 when the WSA 98 girls conceded a goal in injury time that would put them out of the USYS National Final-4 until today, it has been a journey. We thought it fitting to give a brief wrap up on a great 2017-18 inaugural season with OPC, highlighting in this article specifically the postseason pathway that unfolded and the stories of those teams.
As the 2017-18 season goes into the books, and the final National Champions are crowned across the nation this week, WSA is proud of these teams, their coaches, their parents, and most of all the players, for their achievement, their character, and their resolve. The Side also thanks every opponent for the challenge, every referee for serving to mediate a great game, and for our associates in OPC and Red River NPL, at US Club Soccer, who help us sharpen our competitive edge, and support each other through the community effort we embark on to grow the game, raise the standard, and provide the experience.
WSA 04 GIRLS BLACK - Finish 2nd in Group w/ Chance at National Final-4 On Match Day 3
AURORA, CO: The WSA 04 Girls Black was heartbroken - twice. In the Oklahoma State Final the team suffered a painful 1-0 overtime defeat to OK Celtic. Qualifying for Regionals the team literally danced through first round play unbeaten to the Regional Final where they found themselves leading 2-1 in a second overtime period, and sweet redemption seeming to be singing their number. On the last kick of the game the team would see the 2-1 lead equalized and a 5-round pen shootout which would send the team home with "silver" again. However, when the team received the call up for a wild-card spot at NPL Finals they eagerly accepted (see photo at right when they found out they were qualified).
The girls would prove the National stage was a worthy arena as they grabbed 3 points on match day 1 with a 3-1 win over in-state rival SLSC Cosmos, but would falter on match day 2, losing 1-0 on a goal conceded in the first minute. Most non-partisan on the day would have thought the day belonged to The Side. Needing a win on match day 3 the 04 Girls ran into a team coach Preston acknowledged, "San Juan Spirits ECNL was better on the day, but we competed and belonged." WSA would drop the match 2-0, exiting the tournament, but according to Coach Preston, "...playing some of our best team football of the year".
WSA 03 GIRLS BLUE - Did Not Advance, Big Win on Match Day 3
AURORA CO: The WSA 03 Girls Blue, qualified for Nationals in early June during the OPC State Champions Cup. The team's steady rise up the ranks of Oklahoma soccer began two years ago as the team began to rattle off league and tournament championships. The National stage would be new to the girls, but also a welcome opportunity.
As the team trained for Nationals, preparing for Aurora Colorado altitude, using breathing masks, strict diets, and following the lead of their coaching staff to take advantage of what may be a "once in a lifetime" opportunity, there was excitement around what the team may be able to do on the National stage. However, some severe jitters on match day 1, and the nerves of the event found the team reeling early, losing 5-nil. Now most teams may have called it in at that. But on match day 2 the girls rebounded and put together a great performance in a losing effort. On two losses and mathematically eliminated the girls came into game 3 with what many would have said was "nothing to play for". In a great represenation and reflection of the team's character they put together a top-class performance winning 3-0 and setting what they hope is a stepping stone into the 2018-19 season.
WSA 99 GIRLS WHITE - Go for 2 wins, miss the National Final-4 on Goal Difference, Finish 6th
AURORA CO: The WSA 99 Girls White opened the National Tournament in auspicious fashion conceding a goal in the first ten minutes. But the team responded and in true form grabbed an equalizer, and then took over to come away with a 3-1 victory on match day 1. They would lose themselves some on match day 2 dropping a match and a handful of goals to SAC Showcase. But the girls would grab a determined win on match day 3 over Milan Academy, banging out 3 goals to 1 allowed. This left the team in 2nd in the group and stuck in a tie for the 4th spot in the National Final-4. After goal difference tiebreakers were applied the eventual National Champion, Sporting Omaha, would advance. WSA 99 Girls final place was 6th in the NPL Finals! We wish those on the team who have graduated and are off to start their college careers in just days all the best on their next leg of their journey. We have always been proud of you. And for those returning to join up with the WSA 2000's... we are excited for 2018-19!
WSA 01 Boys White - Reach Quarterfinals & Finish 3rd in National Standings
SAN DIEGO CA: The WSA 01 Boys White would make a sincere push for a National Title during their 2018 postseason campaign. After a fairly straight forward qualification as Red River NPL Champions and Oklahoma State Champions, the teams first game at Nationals required needing to come from a goal behind to level a match with Lonestar ECNL before winning in dramatic fashion in a pen shootout. The next day they would be in familiar territory, as they would once again need to level the score, which they did! Staring at a possible second consecutive pen shootout in the National Quarterfinals the boys turned up the pressure in 2 overtimes, and peppered some chances at the FC Wisconsin goal, but couldn't break through. After only 24 hours earlier celebrating the elation of a pen shootout victory the team would suffer the other side of the sting of a pen shootout defeat. FC Wisonsin would go on to win the National Championship, with their match vs WSA 01B White quite possibly the key to their triumph.
WSA 01 Boys would grab a 3-1 win in their consolation fixture over Houston Dynamo Players Academy on match day 3 which would elevate the team into a final standing of 3rd place of the 16 national finalist! The achievement marked a great end to a great year in which the 01 Boys also triumphed at the Oklahoma State Cup winning a championship there to combine with their Red River NPL Conference Chamionship.
WSA 00 BOYS WHITE - Finish 5th After Two Draws & Match Day 3 Set Back
LANCASTER MA: The 00 Boys White had their sights set on a National title. The team had reached the National Sweet 16 and the National Final 32 in previous seasons with USYS. The national stage was not new to the team, but traveling to Massachusetts was. Playing on synthetic turf fields, and after a 23 hour van trip, the boys sluggishly managed a draw on match day 1 to Lou Fusz. As it would turn out Lou Fusz would be the eventual national champion.
On match day 2 the boys managed another draw after leading 2-nil. The game pivoted on a couple of fatal errors in the second half after The Side looked prepped to qualify for the National Final before even reaching match day 3. As it turned out those fatal moments on Match Day 2 would be the key moments of the national title hopes for 00B White. With the two draws the team would need a win in their final outing against Space Coast United on match day 3. Even as the team put together some decent football, a couple of critical and timely errors would create a hole too large to climb as they lost 2-1 on the day. While the team will set it's sights on 2018-19 soon enough, they still have plenty to be proud of in 2018 as the Oklahoma State Champions and Red River NPL Champions, and as a young U19 team will return most of the squad to the 2018-19 season!
WSA 99 BOYS WHITE - Go 1-1-1 Finish 2nd in Group w/ Match Day 3 Thriller for Final-4 Berth
AURORA CO: The WSA 99 Boys White would get the dream start to Nationals with a big win over Fargo United on match day 1. Picking up 3 points, the team stood poised to grab control of the group on match day 2 but couldn't hold on to a 1-nil lead against ONE7 Academy. In fact as Coach Wes stated, "Once it was level, holy cow, we held on." Going from searching for 3 points to being happy to get out with a point, things elsewhere shaped up nicely as Fargo United picked up a win, putting The Side in the top spot in their group headed to match day 3. And this is when things got exciting at Nationals for the 99B White....
As the 99 Boys seemed to control tempo and rhythm, they began to understand their counterpart Eastern Sparta FC would be content to play on the counter. Just before the turn of the half Sparta would net a goal to take a 1-nil lead. As WSA presseed to get the goal back, opening up counter opportunities to Sparta, the sky opened and a steady rain shower fell in Aurora. After a lightning delay, the teams returned, and with all other score reports known across other matches, it was apparent that WSA would need at least a draw to qualify for the National Final-4. Pushing hard for the equalizer WSA would find itself down 2-nil. And shortly after they would find itself down to 10 men after a referee decision on a second yellow issuance. Even with time dwindling the boys pressed on, and they grabbed a goal back to get things to 2-1 and found 2 more chances inside of injury time to equalize. Heart racing, and breath taking, the game and the careers for many of the 99's came to a close. WSA would finish 2nd in the group to Eastern Sparta, and that close to a National Final-4 berth. The team claimed a Silver Medal at the Oklahoma State Championships ealier this summer, where they fell to clubmates WSA 00 Boys White in the final. Coach Wes reported, "I couldn't be more proud of this team." Nor could we.