St. Louis, MO (October 10, 2016)
St. Louis, MO – St. Louis has a long history of teams visiting the Gateway City to challenge the city's best at soccer. In what was a highly anticipated game at World Wide Technology Park, the United States Under 17 Men's National Team came to town to challenge the Saint Louis FC Under 18 Academy. A crowd of 3,241 witnessed a game that had a little of everything and required penalties to decide the result. St. Louisians who have made a U-17 World Cup roster, as well as former U.S. National Team captains Steve Pecher and Lori Chalupny , were all in attendance to celebrate the match.
The U.S. U-17 team featured a familiar face to the home side. Josh Sargent is a product of the SLSG Academy program and is currently in the residency program with the National Team in Florida. He captained the U.S. team against his former teammates. "It was a dream come true to play in front of this great crowd," said Sargent on returning home. Head Coach John Hackworth had a few compliments for the young player from St. Charles, "He's humble, he comes to work every single day, he wants to get better, [and] he trusts the process of improving." Many of his friends and family were amongst those gathered at the Park.
The United States Under 17 Men's National Team struck first as Tonny Temple found the back of the net in the 13th minute after a giveaway from the Saint Louis FC U-18 squad. The remainder of the first half saw the U.S U-17 national team dominate possession and kept the home side to no shots on goal. A series of saves from STLFC U-18 Academy goalkeeper, Seth Stiebel, would keep the match within reach. Stiebel would play an even bigger role later in the match.
The Saint Louis FC Under 18 Academy made a change at half-time and it immediately paid dividends as substitute Jack Lynn scored on his first touch in the 46th minute. The match was back and forth until the 90th minute when both teams had golden opportunities to take the lead, but to no avail, as the match went straight to penalty kicks.
In what was an exciting ending, Saint Louis Under 18 Academy came out on top in PK's (6-5) as Stiebel denied the U.S.'s final penalty shot right after burying his own in a goalkeeper standoff. "I had so many emotions rushing through me, it's hard to explain how amazing it was. It's an unreal feeling," said Stiebel about the night's shootout experience.
U.S. Coach Hackworth weighed in on the evening. "St. Louis has a group of players that are coming together, [and] it took them a little while to get sorted out. They played a really good second-half, and to their credit made it really hard on us. In the end, the fans walk away seeing a really good game." He complimented the St. Louis soccer fans as well, " We're pleased with the atmosphere, the environment and getting a really good test in an environment like this."
STLFC Coach Tim Lees summarized the match from his perspective. "We were disappointed with our style and mentality during the first half and showed them too much respect. However, tactically we were excellent in the second half, showing bravery and courage to play under high pressure. The character the group displayed will inspire a whole generation of younger players who were in the stands."
Lees' colleague, Kevin Stoll, had a similar sentiment on the match. "I thought the first 15 minutes we were a bit scared, nervous, but that is to be expected. We then started to settle in, the second half got after it with our pressing. We were able to get to PK's and won it in PK's. It's really good for the club." He continued, "I am extremely thankful for the U.S. U-17 National Team for coming to St. Louis to play us. It was a perfect night for St. Louis soccer.
The night was truly a celebration of St. Louis' soccer tradition at the historic World Wide Technology Soccer Park as the nation's best challenged the city's best. St. Louis soccer won in more ways than just in a penalty shootout Saturday night.