LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the center official blew the final whistle, Luchi Gonzalez released a triumphant punch into the air that was half excitement, half relief.
Gonzalez coaches the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s Kendall SC (Fla.) under-15/16 squad that had just edged Bethesda SC (Md.) 3-2 in a rare meeting between Academy and non-Academy programs, which took place Tuesday at the Disney Soccer Showcase.
“As a coaching staff, we had been joking that Academy teams don’t lose to non-Academy teams,” Gonzalez said. “But I had heard really good things about [Bethesda SC]. They have some very good players. They are an Academy-level team. In fact, they’re better than some of [the Academy] teams we’ve played.”
The compliment was reassuring to Bethesda SC coach Brett Colton, whose team never recovered from a 2-0 first-half deficit in a match that was interrupted for 70 minutes at halftime due to thunder storms.
“We gave away two set pieces. We were not sharp. It was not a good performance,” Colton said of Bethesda’s first-half effort where the pace was slow and Kendall controlled the play.
Kendall’s Ricardo Gomez headed in the first goal and Jorge Torres, who assisted in Gomez’s goal, struck a free kick for a 2-0 lead. As the teams returned to action in the second half, a public address announcer issued a storm warning and cleared the fields, which ended up being the additional break Bethesda needed, Colton said.
“We held a team meeting, then smaller meetings,” Colton said. “We talked about our play and that we needed to be better.”
Paul Lewis answered the call with a goal early in the second half for Bethesda that swung momentum.
“After the break, I got the guys out to the field early and get warmed up,” Gonzalez said. “Physically, we were ready. Mentally, we were not. We were up 2-0 and [Bethesda] had nothing to lose.
The Maryland team had the better of the play most of the second half. However, in the final 10 minutes, Eddy Pineiro put Kendall up 3-1 on a shot that went through the Bethesda keeper’s legs. Bethesda responded with a goal by Ngeindaloh Smith, making it 3-2. Bethesda kept the pressure up until the final whistle.
“When it was 3-2, there was belief and hope [for Bethesda],” Gonzalez said. “At the end, though, we got the result and got through it.”
Bethesda SC, which would have been the top seed in its Showcase bracket, was invited to participate in the Academy Division to round out the 16-team field, Colton said.
The following are highlights from Tuesday’s first-round action at the Disney Soccer Showcase:
Showcase Red: Bracket A: Chicago Magic PSG Disney (Ill.) jumped to the top of the standings with a 3-0 decision over West Pines United FC Black (Fla.). Concorde Fire Elite (Ga.) and FC Blazers (Mass.) played to a 1-1 tie. Bracket B: Ohio Elite Academy (Ohio) and Milan FC Rossoneri (Canada) lead the group following Tuesday victories. Beto Guzman, Juan Medrano and Donald Banamna scored for Milan FC Rossoneri.
Showcase Black: Bracket A: Smithtown Kickers SC Arsenal (N.Y.) tops the group following a win over CASL 96 Elite (N.C.) as Luke Treadway, Matthew Aprile and Harrison Weilbacher scored goals. Sporting BVSC (Kan.) and Chicago Fire Academy (Ill.) played to a draw. Bracket B: FC America Premier (Fla.) and CCV Stars Black (Ariz.) are tied for first following opening-round wins. Radiel Nava and Joshua Doughty scored for CCV in a 2-0 win over Gwinnett SA Phoenix (Ga.). Allan Sexius, Abuchi Obinwa and Adair Casas scored for FC America.
Showcase Red: Bracket A: OBGC Rangers (Md.) and Scottsdale Blackhawks (Ariz.) won their first-round matches to lead the group. Sam Schmidt scored twice for OBGC while Sean Cowdrey, Jony Karahbetyan and Jorge Quintillia added goals. Bracket B: Concorde Fire Elite (Ga.) leads the group after a 2-0 win over SDFC Gauchos (N.J.). Penn Fusion (Pa.) and SAA Real Madrid (Fla.) tied their match.
Showcase Black: Bracket A: CUP Crew Juniors (Ohio) and Lehigh Valley United (Pa.) lead their group. Thomas More, Austin Harrell and Jack Clark scored goals for CUP Crew Juniors. Bracket B: Bethesda FC Revolution (Md.) and West Pines United Black (Fla.) are both 1-0 in their group.
Showcase Red: Bracket A: Team Boca White (Fla.) and Springfield SC (Mo.) won their matches to top the group. Bracket B: Albion Hurricanes (Texas) leads Group B.
Showcase Black: Bracket A: Concorde Fire Elite (Ga.) was the lone winner in its group. Bracket B: FC Frederick (Md.) defeated Palo Alto SC (Canada) to lead its bracket.
Showcase Red: Bracket A: Florida Rush Nike (Fla.) and WAZA FC East Black (Mich.) are tied for first in their bracket. Bracket B: Auburndale Aston Villa (Fla.) and New Mexico Rush Nike (N.M.) are tops in their group.
Showcase Black: Bracket A: Annandale United (Va.) scored the only goals in its group with a 3-0 victory, while the other match ended in a scoreless draw. Bracket B: FC Blazers (Mass.) and Davis Legacy SC International (Canada) were first-day winners.
1995/1996 Teams: Weston FC (Fla.), Kendall SC (Fla.), Baltimore Bays Chelsea (Md.), GUSA (Ga.) and Sockers FC (Ill.) won their matches.
1993/1994 Teams: Lonestar (Texas), Weston (Fla.), Solar Chelsea (Texas), Baltimore Bays Chelsea (Md.), Birmingham United (Ala.) and Dallas Texans (Texas) were first-round winners.