They finally did it. In their fourth consecutive trip to the US Youth Soccer National Championship finals, YMS Premier Xplosion captured their first national title.
To say it was far from easy would be a tremendous understatement. The Xplosion rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat Beach FC Academy (Cal-South) 3-2 in extra time in the Under-17 Girls final. Beach FC took a 2-0 lead into the half, the second goal coming from the penalty spot. But YMS rallied to score twice in the second half.
"It feels a bit surreal now," Xplosion coach John Greaves told US Youth Soccer. "For a long period of time in that game we were second best. We corrected a few things during one water break and knew that if we could get one, we would have a go at coming back. I know the character of them and that proved to be right."
Maddie Elwell opened the Xplosion's scoring with a free kick, then Murphy Agnew equalized with a free kick of her own.
On they went to extra time. With time running out and penalties looming, Agnew found a late winner to give the Xplosion that elusive title. Agnew finished as the tournament's top scorer with four goals, her third consecutive Golden Ball at nationals.
"Murphy Agnew is a real game-changer," said Greaves. "When she goes and scores goals like that for you, you know you've got a chance. This feels so fantastic. It seems like years of hard work all coming together. It is just so emotional."
YMS, which booked a trip to Frisco thanks to winning their division in the US Youth Soccer National League, returned to the national championships in style by defeating Beadling Bulldogs (PA-West), the US Youth Soccer Region I champions, 3-0 in the opening game. That result proved crucial as those two teams finished the group stage with identical 2-1 records. With the head-to-head win, YMS took the top spot in Group A. They defeated CR S Burgundy Rapids (NC) in the semifinals 1-0 to earn the match-up against Beach FC Academy.
The Xplosion becomes the 20th Eastern Pennsylvania team to win a US Youth Soccer National Championship and the first since Lehigh Valley United won the James P. McGuire Cup, which goes to the U-19 Boys champion, in 2013.
Two other Eastern Pennsylvania teams reached the national championships in Frisco, Texas. Lower Merion Soccer Club Sabertooth Rats (U15 Boys) failed to get out of the group stage in their first trip to nationals. In the U18 Boys division, Lehigh Valley United fell in the semifinals. Evan Vare of LVU led the age group with six goals.