Team happy with 3-2 loss to eventual U16 champions
The preparation would begin as soon as the scheduled was released, and it nearly paid off with what would have arguably been the biggest upset of the USA Cup.
The MapleBrook Under-16 girls team playing in the Gold Division tournament was handed the truest form of the USA Cup experience July 18, lining up opposite of Tokiwagi Gauken from Japan for a pool play match at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
The visitors were representing one of 17 countries to partake in the 2013 edition of the USA Cup, and the soccer prowess from their school was on proper display throughout the week.
Tokiwagi Gauken was the girls U16 champion in the Super Elite tournament over the weekend – a victory that came in the form of a 5-0 win over the Minnesota Thunder Academy July 14.
Their representatives would be equally as impressive in the week-long portion of the event, as the U19 girls won their respective title with a 9-1 victory over Blaine.
The U16’s would also go on to win a championship, finishing it by beating Minneapolis United 1-0 in the final.
The closeness of that game would be duplicated just one other time during the USA Cup, and it came from MapleBrook.
Tokiwagi Gauken defeated MapleBrook 3-2 the morning of July 18, rallying from a late 2-1 deficit that more than proved that MapleBrook could play with the best in this year’s USA Cup.
“We came into the game knowing the competition would be really tough,” said Keara Klacko, whose goal midway through the second half gave MapleBrook that brief 2-1 advantage. “We had to play hard on our end too, and match them. I thought we did. I’m pretty happy with how we played with them.”
They were prepared to do so after some studying the night prior, when head coach Dragon Vucinic had his team attend the Tokiwagi Gauken U19 team’s game. There, they watched as the ball moved fluidly and flawlessly from one side to another.
It was a style of soccer that Vucinic said his team rarely sees in its schedule. In his words, the international flavor to Tokiwagi Gauken’s pace was almost mesmerizing.
“As we watched the U19 game, I tried to get them to understand what was going on,” Vucinic said. “That was probably part of why we did so good against them today. For kids, it is the best if they see it. I can talk about it, but it is not a painted picture, so seeing it works better. They knew what to expect.”
They certainly played that way, to the point that Vucinic said the performance was the best his team turned in all summer.
And he stuck to that story despite the group surrendering two late goals to lose 3-2.
“The result is not my concern,” he said. “I was just happy with how we played. Win or lose, this was a really good game for us.”
Beyond the final tally, the experience was unlike any the players have experienced.
Other than a game against Canada, Klacko said this was the first taste of international competition for anybody on the team.
The team’s would join for a post-game photo opportunity, and MapleBrook was presented a gift from Tokiwagi Gauken afterwards.
The soccer the two teams played was scintillating. The postgame matched it.
“It is just such a unique experience,” said Klacko. “We were all looking forward to this for a long time, and I’m sure it is something I will never forget. We just played a team from Japan in the USA Cup. That’s pretty cool.”