The nationally No. 1-ranked Palo Alto 93 Blue 18U boys' soccer team remains alive in the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series tournament after earning a 1-1 draw with the YMS Thunder of Yardley, Pa., on Thursday night in Phoenix, Ariz.
Yardley scored first at 21:30 on a short corner play with a shot in the upper right corner of the net from 25 yards out. It was similar to a play run by the Alpharetta Rush (Ga.) on Wednesday night, which also cost Palo Alto a goal.
Despite numerous furious attacks, it took Palo Alto until the 83rd minute to even the score with a goal from Jose Mendoza following a mad scramble in the box.
Palo Alto is now 0-1-1 and is still able to advance if it wins on Friday night against the KCFC Rangers of Kansas City (0-1-1) while Alpharetta (1-0-1) beats Yardley (1-0-1). The championship match is Sunday morning.
Alpharetta and YMS Thunder each have four points while Kansas City and Palo Alto have one. A Palo Alto win over Kansas City will give 93 Blue a 1-1-1 mark and four points, likely tying with the Thunder (should it lose to Alpharetta). The second berth for the finals, then, likely will be decided on goals or goal differential.
Thursday's match featured the ball-control style of Palo Alto against the very fast counter-attacking style of Yardley. Both teams played at an incredibly fast pace throughout the entire game.
"We weren't nervous and we played with more confidence tonight," said team captain Riley Hanley, explaining the difference between the loss to Alpharetta Wednesday night and the draw with Yardley.
Palo Alto coach Bill Noble credited better game preparation and a more focused warmup.
"They didn't get caught up in the moment; they just played," Noble said.