Midfielder Matt McDonnell scored in the final minute of the second overtime period in the Boys U14 Region I Championship game to seal a 3-1 victory that will send the Smithtown Arsenal to the US Youth Soccer National Championships in Phoenix, AZ at the end of July. The team also featured the winner of the Tournament Golden Boot Award (Matt Aprile – 6 goals), and the runner up (Thomas Butzke – 5 goals).
“This is an amazing feeling,” said coach Dan McDonnell. “We’re just a town team. Almost all of our kids are from Smithtown and the surrounding area. It’s a huge accomplishment for a team like this to get to this level. It’s really amazing. I’m so happy for the boys.”
Arsenal was one of 14 teams from Long Island to qualify for the tournament. Five of those teams made the semi-finals, and one other team, the GU12 Albertson 98 Red Fury, made the finals (2-0 loss). But Arsenal will be the lone team headed out west, and it was no easy task to get there.
After two scoreless halves in regulation, Smithtown scored twice in the first 10 minutes of the first overtime period. Manhattan put one in the net right after that, and the teams entered the second overtime at 2-1 before McDonnell’s goal secured the outcome.
“It was really a strategic move on our part that changed the tone of the game,” said Dan McDonnell when asked what sparked the scoring spree in OT. “We played a 4-5-1 throughout regulation, but in overtime we decided to go with two strikers up top. That opened things up for us and really put a lot of pressure on them defensively.”
The team will travel to Phoenix on July 25th. The players are then treated to a welcome luncheon on July 26th before the opening of pool play on July 27th. On behalf of the entire LIJSL, congratulations to the Smithtown Arsenal!