Cleveland Downs RSL,
Internationals claim sixth girls SYL title
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
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
“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
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
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.”