Real Salt Lake's under-17 side defeated Stoke City after a penalty shootout last night in the Generation Adidas Cup in their group stage. Some notes on that — who stood out, who made the biggest impacts — follow.
Creativity in the attack
It might be easy to look creative against a Stoke side that resorted largely to long balls to the flanks (sound familiar?) but they were also a resolute team that didn't let much past them.
Sebastian Saucedo, an attacking midfielder and forward, though, tore them to pieces time and time again. His ability to pick his head up and look for a pass, space to dribble, or a shot from distance added unpredictability to the Real Salt Lake attack, and while he didn't score during the match, his close control was important in keeping play tight.
Another important influence in the attack came from the left flank, with Diego Silva an attacking force throughout. He started in the midfield and moved to the defense at the half, but that didn't blunt his influence.
Holding down the midfield were Fito Ovalle and Evan Waldrep, both of whom did well to prevent much attack down the middle, and to involve wider players in the attack.
Penalty shootouts, again?
We'll never get away from these monstrosities of nerves and energy, will we? This penalty shootout wasn't quite as nervous as that December one, but there's something about the nature of the thing, I guess. Saucedo's penalty to start thing's off was as cold as ice — straight down the middle. Winning a penalty shootout 4-2 is a fantastic thing.
Our efforts may have been aided by the presence of a 6'6" goalkeeper, Christian Herrera, who was surprisingly mobile given his gargantuan size. He saved one penalty along the ground, and this may have in part been helped by the way he started his movement on the spot kick. He kept fairly low, and he is surely confident that his reach and leap could direct him to either side without trouble; but by staying crouched, he was able to build some momentum for those moments and collapse to the ground more easily.
Surprising calm under pressure
Stoke City scored in the 68th minute to go ahead 2-1. These were 70 minute games (why that's the case, I don't know) that could go to penalties. When they conceded late, the RSL side didn't drop their head — much the opposite. Instead, they continued pushing their attack even harder.
As the clock ran down in stoppage time, Justen Glad (ours now!) sent a ball in from the defensive half for forward Tate Schmitt, who got free on the right flank, and Schmitt stayed as absolutely calm as you like to finish by driving toward the goal — having started in the box — and finishing when he saw a momentary opening.