ECNL Texas is the final regular season showcase that FC Wisconsin attends, and as usual, the event brought hundreds of colleges to watch Wisconsin's best, great competition, fantastic fields, and the exceptional environment the ECNL is known for.
Games began on Saturday, February 17 at Meyer Park in Houston, and FC Wisconsin players at all age groups showed more progress during the winter season, and signs of a bright future.
U15 – Classics Elite 2-0 L
After starting well in the first 15 minutes and creating a few chances, the Texas heat and lack of training in big spaces during the Wisconsin winter started to show as Classics Elite gained momentum. Classics Elite scored first on a corner in the 30th minute, an area of consistent weakness for the U15s. The team found their legs better in the second half, with good moments of sustained possession. FC Wisconsin created several chances, and was unlucky not to score on a goalline scramble in the 70th minute befure a defense error led to the second and final goal for Classics Elite. Throughout the match, goalkeeper Sydney Kallinger was commanding in goal, and made several big saves. Anna Franceschi played her first match as an outside back, and was up and down the sidelines - showing promise for the future.
U16 – Western NY Flash 2-1 L
This match was a back and forth affair for all 80 minutes, and a tie would have been a fair result. Poor individual defending led to the first WNY goal in the 25th minute when a rebound was finished from 6 yards. Jadyn Rupnow scored the equalizer early in second half on a nice solo dribbling run. The athleticism of WNY became more and more of a problem in the final 20 mintues as fatigue set in, and another rebound off a fantastic save by Quinlan Warren was the winner for WNY.
U17 – Carolina Elite SA 1-1
The U17s looked sluggish all game on day 1, and struggled with the athleticism of the South Carolina outfit. CESA was deservedly ahead until the 70th minute when Emma Jaskaniec scored the equalizer from 30 yards in what was easliy the highlight goal of the year for FC Wisconsin, and one of the most impressive strikes in the ECNL all season. Centerbacks Nicole Norfolk and Peighton Steffen played very well under a lot of pressure throughout the game, and were key to the team earning a point.
U15 – Sting Austin 2-0 L
The U15s played very well against Sting Austin, but were unable to convert their possession into enough clear chances, and spurned the chances they did create. Sting scored both goals in the second half, the first very much against the run of play. The second goal was scored on a counter with minutes to play as FC Wisconsin chased the equalizer. Hayley Johnson held the ball up well up front during the match, and Dri Alberts had a good game getting forward from midfield.
U16 – Sting Austin 0-0
Despite controlling possession for most of the game, the U16s failed to score on multiple good opportunities throughout the game. Annika Seem played well in midfield, switching the ball to break pressure and defending well to win possession. Jordyn Jeffers got into the attacking third frequently, and created some good chances.
U17 – Colorado Storm 1-0 L
The match against Northwest Conference club Colorado Storm was possibly the most exciting game of the weekend. After surviving the first half under constant pressure, and fortunate not to be down a goal, halftime marked a big turning point. Changing formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 allowed the team to exploit wide spaces and push the Storm outside backs back and prevent them from getting into the attack. FC Wisconsin dominated possession in the second half from the beginning, pressing high to regain possession, and creating multiple chances from Rachel Dallet, Emma Jaskaniec and Abi Santana. The lack of finishing edge would hurt, as a late Storm goal in the 85th minute was the only score of the day. Despite the result, the tactical adjustment of the team, and ability to change defensive styles at halftime, was a big positive and signs of growing sophistication within the team.
U15 – Albion Hurricane (TX) 1-0 L
Day 3 of any ECNL event is difficult and tiring, and the first half lacked real quality from either team, with neither team creating much. The second half was some of the U15s best play of the season, and despite hitting the crossbar and creating several 1v1s, the team couldn’t apply a finish any of the chances. Albion’s winner came with 15 minutes to go, on a 30 yard well hit strike that went just just beyond Kalinger's hands. Ahnna Faust played well, dominating in the air, defending well, and initiating attack from defensive midfield.
U16 – Colorado Storm 4-2 W
The lack of finishing quality from the day prior must have motivated the U16s on day 3, as they scored early and often. Aryssa Mahrt scored on a great counter from a defensive courner in the 3rd minute, and put in a really good performance after that finding pockets in midfield, beating defenders, and being consistently dangerous. Jamie Mohs scored twice, both goals good finishes from smart movement off the ball, before Aryssa scored her 2nd goal, between two goals from Storm, to secure the victory in an exciting last 10 minutes of the game.
U17 – Challenge (TX) 0-0
Going into the game with 1 substitute because of some injuries and sickness, the U17s showed character and guts in a battle between two tired teams who didn’t want to lose. After a scoreless first half, Emma Jaskaniec came on in the second half and changed the tempo of the game. FC Wisconsin had 3 big chances from within the 6-yard box to take the lead, but couldn't finish any of them, before Challenge then threatened from a number of set-pieces. Overall, the 0-0 result was fair for both teams.
With 9 tight games, and great moments in every one, ECNL Texas was a strong event for FC Wisconsin's teams. In total, more than 100 different colleges were in attendance at the U16 and U17 games, providing unmatched opportunity for players to be seen. The ECNL teams will finish the winter season with the Player's Champions League in the next 2 weeks, before high school and spring team soccer begin.