Inexperience and disorganization plagued the Virginia Rush under-15/16 team early on in U.S. Soccer Development Academy action. It just couldn't keep the ball out of its own net.
"We weren't really connecting as a team," said Rush team captain Sebastian Joly, a defender. "Our defensive backs weren't getting the ball to our midfielders, and we weren't getting the ball to our forwards."
The Rush was outscored 17-2 after their first four games, in which they were 1-3, and 21-5 over their first six for a dismal mark of 1-4-1.
"We weren’t necessarily playing badly, but we were getting punished for basic mistakes. Consistency was key to them figuring it out," coach Darren Warham said. "As we became more consistent in our play and began cutting out basic errors, we started seeing improved results."
Yet the Rush has turned things around, having won six of their last seven games and seven of their past nine contests with four shutouts. The teams leads the Atlantic Division of the South Conference with a record of 4-0 and they are 7-6-2 overall.
"We bought into the fact that we had to focus on our training to win games. We changed our training habits, picked up the intensity in training, and that's how we were able to turn it all around," Joly said.
Forward Drew Ott has a team-high five goals, followed by forward-midfielder James Ellis Jr., midfielder Preston Firnstahl and defensive midfielder David Tezza with four goals each. Forward-midfielder Cole Smith and midfielders Michael Abraham and Joe Haney have scored twice each, and Joly anchors the defense with Chase Everett, Gabe Tucker and Drew Damico in front of Logan Ratner.
"Sebastian Joly is an excellent organizer and team leader on the field, and Joe Haney leads by example too," Warham said. "Cole Smith, Michael Abraham and James Ellis are all very creative players."
All of that leads to the bottom line.
"It's a learning experience when you lose, but losing sucks," Joly said. "It feels so much better to be on the other end of the scoreboard."
South Conference, Atlantic Division
McLean Youth (5-0, 7-3-5) received goals by Joel Teston and Simond Kargbo within four minutes of each other late in the match to secure a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Richmond Kickers on Dec. 11. For the Kickers (2-2, 4-11), Alexander Waite had given his team a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute.
Teston scored his team-high fourth goal for McLean Youth, who are in first place within the division ahead of the Kickers.
South Conference, Southeast Division
The South Carolina United's division-leading squads are double-trouble for their opponents.
The high-scoring under-15/16 contingent is 9-1-2 in the league, 13-3-2 overall. Forward James Carlin leads with 18 goals, followed by forward Avery Ryan with seven, forwards Rex Epps and Michael Bottari with six each, and Dakotah Millard with five.
At the 17/18 level, Eli Dent and Nestor Jaramillo lead the way with 10 and nine goals, respectively, for a side that is 5-1-6 and 8-3-7.
Central Conference, Texas Division
• Zachary Mathers and Mason Miller converted in the 40th and 89th minutes to hoist the Solar Chelsea (4-4-2, 8-4-3) past Texans SC Houston 2-1. Christian Duarte scored for second-place Texas SC (5-2-3, 8-2-5) in the 83rd.
• Santiago Montano converted in the 64th minute for Texas Rush (1-3-3, 2-6-4) in a 1-0 decision over Classics Elite.
• The fifth place Dallas Texans (3-3-4, 5-4-6) edged FC Dallas (9-1-1, 11-1-2) on goals by Geoffrey Hill and Michael Klodzinski in the 54th and 73rd minutes to overcome a 1-0 deficit on a score from Bobby Edet in the 19th minute on Saturday.
• The Houston Dynamo edged Andromeda FC 2-1 on goals by Bradley Bourgeois and Jose Cubillan in the 75th and 90th minute, overcoming a 1-0 deficit after Sebastian Mata had converted in the 37th.
• Fifth-place Solar Chelsea (3-2-5, 5-4-6) received a goal from Jonathan Guzman in the sixth minute, but Emmanuel Usen scored the equalizer in the 81st for second place Texans SC Houston's (5-3-2, 8-4-3) to prevent the upset loss on Sunday.
• The seventh-place Texas Rush (2-2-3, 2-6-4) received one goal each from Flavio Benavides, Luis Sanchez and Chris Berrios to blank Classics Elite.
• The Dallas Texans remained unbeaten with a 1-0 decision over third-place FC Dallas (4-3-4, 5-4-5) on a goal by Jordan Speed in the 49th minute.
• The Houston Dynamo led 2-0 on goals by Carlos Ibarra and Irvin Ramirez in the 14th and 21st minute, but Andromeda rebounded with scores from Nicolas Lozada-Smith and Estevan Duarte in the 36th and 80th in a 2-2 draw.