August 23, 2011

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ECNL International team downs Chelsea 5-2 in game two of England Tour

13 Aug, 2011

By Chris Hummer

(London) - The Elite Clubs National League / id2 International tour team fell behind early against Chelsea Ladies Reserves Thursday, then went down another goal in the first half, but rallied with five second half goals to win their second match in as many days. With Friday scheduled for sightseeing in London, and Saturday dedicated to attending the Premier League season opener at Fulham, the elite group of 17 national all-stars will wrap up their playing tour of England on Sunday against Aston Villa.

The impressive win over Chelsea’s top team outside their professional Women’s Super League side seemed in doubt early, with the Americans allowing two goals in the first 10 minutes. However, the deficit only seemed to snap the ECNL girls to attention.

Selected as the best players available in the 1994/95 age group from all ECNL clubs around the USA, the physically superior American ladies stormed back in the second half to score five unanswered goals.

For the second day in a row, Stars of Mass and Boston College bound striker Haley Dowd was instrumental, scoring the first two goals for the USA. The first was perfectly placed off the near post from 16 yards after twisting the Chelsea defense inside out with her cuts and jukes. Her second tally was a coolly finished penalty kick, earned after a clear handling off the goal line that would have been a red card ejection in any meaningful game.

The match was played at the Chelsea youth academy grounds, and though the size and scope of investment the massive club invests in their youth developed dwarfs anything the players must have seen before, it was the Americans that took most advantage of the perfectly manicured fields just outside of London.

After Dowd’s opening two strikes, it was Toni Payne’s turn to dazzle for the second day in a row, driving down the right side just inside the box and firing home for the go-ahead goal in the 65th minute. As fast as Payne is, her goal was also the first clear indication that the Chelsea team had begun to run out of gas.

From that point forward, it was all the Americans with wave after wave of forward attack featuring only the occasional foray in the USA’s end, and the early team possession displayed evaporating by the minute. Summer Green was relentless down the right flank, slicing through the opponents like an Olympic ice skater, causing constant problems for the hosts.

In the 59th minute, she took a pass from playmaker Nicole Dreissen, side-stepped the rooted defenders, and calmly planted the ball in far side netting without breaking stride. Dreissen, an uncommitted player who should clearly be on the op of every school’s list, next took the ball herself right up the middle and found net in the 75th with similar ease.

The second half goals were the clear result of a relentless attack from the ECNL team that saw 18 second half shots, with 12 directed on goal. Added to the first half stats, the American side boasted 28 total shots, 17 on frame to go with 4 corners.

Cassie Miller won the starting goalkeeper job for this second of three total games by winning a quick game of rock-paper-scissors in the locker room before the teams came out [see photo above right]. She made one save in the first half, before giving way to Jane Campbell at the half. Campbell faced three shots on goal, saving them all, and will start the final match on Sunday against Aston Villa.

After the match, the coaches and players exchanged handshakes and praise for one another in true spirit of good competition, and recognition that all players where there to learn and prepare for the next chapter in their development.

Then the ECNL side boarded their charter bus to spend two days away from the fields learning the other sides of the game, and the English culture that bread the modern game they all love. Sunday, the team will wrap up this first ever ECNL/id2 International tour with a visit to Aston Villa’s under-17 team before returning to their Watford hotel and resting up for the 6 a.m. bus to Heathrow.

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