Local club soccer’s finest days, remembered a year later

RARE AIR:  A year ago, local club soccer reached a new high in Colorado as Shreveport United qualified for national competition and showed it belonged.

Opinion/By DAVID ERSOFF, Journal Sports

 A year ago, the Shreveport-Bossier Journal didn’t exist, so our soccer community lacked a platform to celebrate the most impressive achievement so far by any local club team.

I’ve helped report on soccer since the SBJ arrived early this year. As the first anniversary approaches this week, like any proud dad would, I’m tipping my cap to the only Northwest Louisiana club soccer team to qualify for national competition.

In their second year competing in the National Premier League, Shreveport United 03 girls Blue won the Red River South NPL U18/19 division. This title qualified them for the US Club Nationals in Commerce City, Col., last July 16-20. Their division record was 8-2 with wins over four teams that were ranked in the top 30 in the country.

Starting on July 13, 18 families and a total of 57 Shreveport-Bossier City residents made their way to Denver, including coach Gil Roraback, assistant Rusty Foster and director of coaching Mark Matlock.

The first game for United was three days later. They met Pacesetters SC ECNL 02 out of Cleveland. After an early feeling-out timeframe for both teams, United went on top when the ball was bouncing all over the Pacesetters box, where ULM recruit Peyton Pipes put United up 1-0.

The excitement did not last long, as the Pacesetters were able to get two quick goals for the 2-1 halftime score. The second half played evenly until the closing minutes, when United pushed numbers up to try to tie, but got burned by two late goals on counters. United lost 4-1, but the game was very evenly played, with the score not an accurate account.

The next day brought a matchup against the Eastern Washington Surf 02 Girl’s Academy, the highest level of club play for girls.

The first half was played adjusting to playing a nationally ranked recruit in Oregon State commit McKenna Martinez, the most skilled player ever faced by the United team. Throughout the half, the sound of United keeper and Centenary recruit (and my daughter) Madison Ersoff’s voice could be heard screaming to cover Martinez. Their battle saw success on both sides, as Martinez scored the half’s only goal, while Ersoff had six saves, all worthy of a keeper highlight reel, all shot by Martinez.

Halftime brought a new strategy to combat Martinez — assigning senior midfielder Aila Yurochko to mark her. It worked for the most part, as the locals only yielded three shots to the star forward, all saved by Ersoff.

Shortly after the halftime, United had a free kick from 40 yards out. Pipes hit a rocket that went in just under the crossbar in the far corner. After a lot of back and forth, United was on a counter when Cassie Campbell had the ball, saw her older sister Erin streaking down the right side and slotted the ball to her. The elder Campbell chipped the ball over the keeper for what would stand as a 2-1 United victory. The NWLA crowd went a bit crazy when the referee blew the final whistle.

The prize for the win was a short walk across the parking lot to go see the Colorado Rapids MLS team play a home game. A happy bunch of 53 NWLA fans took over a section behind the goal, with fun and laughter for all.

Next came United’s toughest test, with a win-or-go-home game July 18 against No. 3 nationally ranked Sting SC Royal ECNL Composite 02g.

The first half saw Sting peppering United’s goal with double digit shots, with Ersoff making save after save. With five minutes left in the half, Sting finally broke through with a shot that was a no-doubter and led 1-0.

The second half saw more of the same, although United did muster a few shots on goal that could have tied the score. At 30 minutes into the half, after a barrage of double-digit shots, Sting put their second goal in net.

Sting played keep away for the remainder of the game, and in the 90th minute, added a final goal to end the contest 3-0. United players, and their fans, didn’t feel badly about the effort against a team ranked that highly. Sting eventually lost in the national finals on penalty kicks to a team from Massachusetts.

There were four seniors whose last club game was played on a Rocky Mountain high — Laney Fouts, Yurochko, Pipes and Ersoff. What a way to finish their careers!

Hopefully more local teams will reach nationals as our soccer community continues to develop, but the 2021 United crew will always be the trailblazers. And I’ll always be a very proud dad.

Contact David at DErsoff@BellSouth.net