Team morale took to the skies as the Juneau Soccer Club’s boys U-13 Capital City Strikers (CCS) swept the competition in Anchorage earlier this month to win their age bracket in the Alaska Airlines Cup.
No small gathering, the June 3-5 competition formerly known as the Ina K Memorial Cup attracted more than 2,500 players in various age brackets.
The Strikers finished pool play with an impressive 3-0 record, scoring a total of 19 goals while only conceding 3. CCS entered the knockout phase of the tournament as the number one seed, and were pitted against the fourth seed, the Fairbanks Phoenix, in the semi-final.
The semi-final match kicked off bright and early Sunday morning at 8 a.m. Unlike the previous meeting between the two teams, Phoenix was able to play the majority of the game in CCS’s defensive half.
Although CCS was on their heels most of the game, their midfield was able to play a dangerous ball behind Phoenix’s defensive line and a CCS forward ran onto the ball and beat the Fairbanks keeper to go up 1-0. The Strikers defended their lead in the remaining minutes and were able to hold off Phoenix, advancing to the final against a quality side in Cook Inlet Soccer Club’s Velocity Blue, who knocked CCS out of the semi finals in last year’s State Cup.
The Capital City Strikers established their style of play immediately with a combination of controlled possession and tenacious defense. CCS continued to pressure Velocity and scored an impressive 3 goals before the half time whistle. Although the score was 3-0 at half time, the second half began with both teams playing as if the score was 0-0. Velocity was able to capitalize on two CCS defensive breakdowns, resulting in two goals, bringing the score to 3-2. CCS and Velocity battled back and forth during a tense last 15 minutes. Finally, the second half whistle blew and the Capital City Strikers were the official Alaska Airlines Cup champions.
The CCS boys celebrated the victory with their fans and coaches Jeremy Gleason and Ben White. The director of coaching for the Juneau Soccer Club, Matt Duesenberry, was also in attendance.
Each player received a medal and Alaska Airlines Cup champion scarf. CCS’ Ben Undarraga was awarded the Ina K Memorial medallion which was given to one player from both the first and second place teams. This honor is given to the player that best demonstrated teamwork, courage, and leadership.
The boys understand there’s plenty of work to do before State Cup in Fairbanks, August 4-9, team officials said.