Cleveland Downs RSL




Cleveland Downs RSL, 2-1
Internationals claim sixth girls SYL title

TAMPA, FLORIDA – RSL Florida took an early lead on a brilliant effort from Conner Zwetsch in their U17 Girls Championship showdown with the Cleveland Internationals on Tuesday morning at Ed Radice Park in Tampa, Florida. But the goal steemed to awaken an experienced Internationals team, who would go on to claim their second North American Title in three years, 2-1 on the strength of goals by Kate Allen and Megan Gallagher.

The match played evenly until the 15th minute, when a ball played over the back line of the Internationals was run down by RSL forward, Zoe Lombard. The forward collided with Cleveland goalkeeper Rachael Middleman just as she reached the ball and the netminder did well to keep the game level.
The Internationals fought back seconds later with a good ball played into the area by Taylor Miller. Kate Allen fought off a defender and won the ball cleanly, but her header went just over the crossbar.
The first half trickling away, Kate Schmidt had a go from distance, but her well-struck line drive was hit right at RSL keeper, Jordan Hatton ending the first stanza.
“I thought RSL was well organized in the first half,” said Internationals Head Coach, Zdravko Popovic. “They were also dangerous on the counter-attack. We are going to try to play with more energy in the second half. Off of the ball our runs were inadaquate. We need to have better anticipation.”
RSL took the initiative beginning the second half. They nearly scored on a low cross into Amy Werdine, but the forward could not catch up to the pass at the back post, missing out by mere inches.
On the other half of the pitch, Cleveland’s Schmidt pressured hard and stole a backpass between two RSL defenders. She was in alone on goal before Hatton charged off her line to press the issue and her reaction-shot sailed just wide of its intended target.
The first goal of the game came in the 65th minute, when Zwetsch seemed unstoppable, gaining the ball near midfield and manuevering through the entire Internationals defense before finishing low past Middleman for the 1-0 lead.
Cleveland took over the game following the goal. They had multiple chances blocked down by RSL defenders before Allen willed her team back level by winning the ball at the top of the area and firing a shot high to the side netting past Hatton to make it, 1-1.
RSL came back briefly just after the game was tied. Lombard barely missed catching up to a ball played towards the far post. Then Jessica Giblin rang the crossbar in the 76th minute, but that was as close as RSL could get.
Cleveland’s Gallagher scored the game-winner two minutes later. Two times RSL cleared the International’s corner attempts over their own endline but on the third corner kick, Gallagher climbed a mountain of defenders to win a header that struck the bottom of the crossbar before shooting back up and into the net for the 2-1 lead.
RSL did not quit, earning a corner attempt of their own, but it was cleared away by the defense, who held on for the win.
“Last season we lost in the semifinal,” said Popovic. “We wanted to come back and achieve our objective this season. We played well. RSL was a high-quality team. We faced quality competition all week. I am happy for the kids – getting to walk out of here as champions.”
“Taylor Leach, our centerback stood out all week,” added Popovic. “Allen was the most productive and Juliana Libertin was great. It is too hard to pick out just one player. They all depend on each other. They all deserve to be called a MVP.”