Phoenix Rising players celebrate after scoring on Monday. Photo by Cameron Koubek
The USL Academy Western Conference Regional Event wrapped up in style on Monday, with all fourteen teams playing their third and final matches of the tournament. With fantastic soccer on display and plenty of development opportunities for players, coaches, and referees, the event set an exciting precedent for what’s to come from USL Academy.
The action started early in the morning at Toyota Field, with Austin Bold facing Saint Louis FC in a game that was live-streamed on the USL Academy YouTube channel. Saint Louis put on yet another top performance for their third straight win, jumping out to a two-goal lead in the first half. Jack Wagoner had a magnificent day in the midfield for the Missouri side, who would go up 4-0 after the break. Austin battled back admirably from that point, getting on the board with a spectacular curling free kick which was surely one of the best goals of the event. They added a second, but were unable to close the gap and Saint Louis claimed a 4-2 win.
Elsewhere, Rio Grande Valley FC earned its first win of the tournament against FC Golden State Force. Orange County SC put on a commanding display yet again, staying undefeated by beating Santa Cruz Breakers 3-0.
Back at Toyota Field, Phoenix Rising also ended the event on a high, rolling to a 4-0 result over hosts San Antonio FC. Phoenix’s Gabriel Gutierrez was dominant, contributing to the defensive efforts in his wide role but getting forward to score a pair of brilliant goals as well. His second and Phoenix’s fourth was an audacious effort from outside the penalty area, bending perfectly beyond the keeper and inside the far post.
The six Premier Division teams finished things up with three games kicking off at noon. There were plenty of goals in those matchups, with 15 scored across the trio. San Francisco Glens offense continued to look dangerous, racking up five goals for the second time at the event as the Glens cruised to a 5-2 win over Tulsa Roughnecks.
Union Omaha and OKC Energy played an entertaining contest, with OKC breaking the deadlock early and Omaha finding an equalizer soon after. Energy FC would then fire in two more to gain a 3-1 advantage, at which point the potent Omaha attack kicked into gear and began increasing pressure on the Oklahoma backline.
The Union would pull one back to set up a tense finish, but the Energy ultimately held on to earn their first win of the event. Though Omaha came up short, the overall performance didn’t detract from an excellent tournament for the brand new club.
With Western Conference play concluded, attention now turns to February 2020 and the USL Academy Eastern Conference Regional Event in Florida. The Western teams and Eastern teams will then meet in May at the USL Academy Cup in Tampa, where a U17 and U13 national champion will be crowned.