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The Best of the 2019 USL Academy Western Conference Regional Event

By USL-Academy.com Staff, 10/22/19, 2:00PM EDT

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Which players and teams stood out at the inaugural USL Academy event in San Antonio?


Phoenix Rising's Gabriel Gutierrez accelerates down the wing. Photo by Cameron Koubek

Spectacular soccer was on display over the course of the USL Academy Western Conference Regional Event, and among the 14 teams were some players who turned heads with impressive performances. Whether it was through scoring brilliant goals, bossing the midfield or locking down opposing attackers, here are the teams and players that caught the attention of those in attendance at Toyota Field and STAR Soccer Complex.

TEAMS OF THE TOURNAMENT

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Saint Louis FC
The Saint Louis defense was lights out, keeping a shutout streak that was only broken by an unstoppable free kick with 20 minutes remaining in their final game. Though the backline was superb, Saint Louis’ balance from back to front was the key to its success, as the Missouri side was the sole Elite Division team to win all three of its matches.
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San Francisco Glens SC
The Glens cruised through Premier Division play, scoring 14 goals (the most of any team at the event) on their way to three dominant wins. With some players who had already gained training experience with the club’s USL League Two side, San Francisco’s offense fired on all cylinders to propel the Glens to the top of the standings and earn a serious chance at promotion to the Elite Division at the USL Academy national event next year.
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Orange County SC
Orange County was arguably the most entertaining team to watch at the tournament, bagging an Elite Division-best 12 goals. OCSC played Phoenix to one of the best games at the event, a thrilling 2-2 draw on Saturday.
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Phoenix Rising FC
Phoenix showed it can win gritty or pretty, fighting to a 1-0 win against a stingy Santa Cruz side in their opener before coming from a goal down on two occasions against Orange County. Rising FC then finished the tournament with a dazzling offensive display against San Antonio.

PLAYERS OF THE TOURNAMENT

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Gavin Roberts
Goalkeeper
Saint Louis FC
Roberts kept two clean sheets in two appearances for Saint Louis, leading the team to 3-0 and 1-0 wins and showing excellent command of the penalty area.
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Michael Hernandez
Goalkeeper
Orange County SC
Hernandez displayed his catlike agility in making some fine stops during two appearances at the USL Academy event, keeping one clean sheet. He’s quick off his line and already a gifted shot stopper, having turned 15 just recently.
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Gabriel Gutierrez
Defender
Phoenix Rising FC
Gutierrez was dominant at both ends of the pitch for Phoenix. Flying up and down the flanks as a wingback, he defended well while scoring three incredible goals from outside the penalty area.
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Giuseppe Gereau
Defender
Saint Louis FC
Gereau was the anchor of a tremendous Saint Louis defense that allowed only two goals. Blessed with a rare combination of size and speed, Gereau cleared countless opposition crosses away from danger and refused to let forwards run in behind him.
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Jalen Calloway
Defender
Orange County SC
Calloway’s intelligence is well beyond his years, as the 16-year-old center back is already adept at reading the game and organizing his team in front of him.
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Dereck Espinal
Midfielder
Austin Bold FC
Espinal was a problem for opponents at both ends of the pitch, defending admirably while scoring three goals. His third, which came against Saint Louis, was a cracker of a free kick that swerved around the wall and found the top corner, well out of reach of the keeper.
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Francis Jacobs
Midfielder
Orange County SC
Though just 14 years old, Jacobs already shows excellent poise in midfield. He’s very difficult to knock off the ball and adept at finding teammates while keeping Orange County running smoothly.
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Jack Wagoner
Midfielder
Saint Louis FC
Wagoner’s strength is his ability to turn play over. He intercepted countless opposition passes and quickly found teammates with line-splitting passes to jump start the dangerous Saint Louis offense.
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Angel Iniguez
Midfielder
San Francisco Glens SC
Iniguez may have been one of the smallest players on the pitch, but like many midfield maestros the 15-year-old prospect refused to let his stature stand in his way. Iniguez was dominant in the Glens’ win over OKC Energy FC, running the middle of the park with his passing ability while recording a goal and an assist. He scored against El Paso Locomotive FC as well to round out a terrific tournament.
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Riley Lynch
Midfielder
Phoenix Rising FC
Lynch was highlighted as one of the pre-tournament players to watch, and he lived up to expectations with some impressive performances. The type of player who often does thankless work in the midfield, Lynch’s graft in the midfield was essential to Phoenix’s style of play, and he got on the scoresheet against San Antonio.
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Kevin Estrada
Forward
San Francisco Glens SC
Estrada bagged four goals in three games as the leading scorer for the tournament’s highest-scoring team. He led the line with a natural instinct for finding the net, and held up play effectively to allow the wingers on either side of him to run in behind him, recording three assists as well.
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Alejandro Salazar
Forward
Rio Grande Valley FC
Salazar was the focal point of a Toros attack that didn’t create a ton of chances, but clinically finished the ones it did. His brace against FC Golden State earned the Toros their first win in USL Academy play.
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Jonathan Guerrero
Forward
Orange County SC
Though he wore the number 10 shirt, Guerrero did most of his damage bombing down the wings for OCSC. His movement made him a constant headache for opposing defenders, and he tallied a goal and two assists across three matches.