BRADENTON, Fla. – In what has been a custom trait for the Colorado Rapids Women this season, their hard work and commitment has enabled them to be crowned U-20 North American Champions. The Colorado Rapids Ladies Under 20’s team competed this last week in the USL North American Championships in Bradenton Florida at the world renowned IMG Soccer Facilities.
The Rapids ladies joined several fierce opponents such as Ottawa Fury, DC United and last years defending champions Triangle FC from North Carolina as well as other conference champions. The best had gathered to see who would be the best of the best.
Coming in as relative under dogs as a first year program the Rapids Ladies were pooled against Reading United who topped the Mid Atlantic division, Force Football Academy who dominated the Midwest Division and Triangle FC last year’s 2011 North American reigning champions. It was considered the tournament group of death.
In their first game against Reading United, the Rapids ladies took the charge right from the start and dominated the game from start to finish coming up eventual winners 3-1, with Karisa Price of Metro State University, Denver firing in a double. This proved to be a relative upset as no-one had expected such a great performance from a first year program. This was then followed by a remarkable game in which 6 goals were scored and the Rapids came from behind every time to tie the game in the final minutes. The game was highlighted by Colorado Rapids striker and University of Alabama standout Abby Phillips scoring a hattrick and leading the Rapids offense. This proved to be what Rapids Head Coach Clitnovici said was the game that gave the team the belief to be champions. “The Ladies never quit, we had spoken prior to the tournament that every little thing they did in the 90minutes mattered and that no matter what never say die, today we believed”.
The Rapids Ladies found themselves sitting atop of pool A and needing a win in their final game against defending champions Triangle FC to advance to the championship game. This game ended in a trouncing victory for the Rapids ladies winning 3-0 and proving to the entire tournament that they were set out on being the best. The victory over Triangle FC threw the Rapids ladies into the Championship game against DC United who had won all three games in Pool B and were red hot favorites to take the championship.
The Championship game started and finished with the Colorado Rapids ladies believing they could go all the way. In the 26th minute, Colorado School of Mines Striker Anna Evans put them in the box seat with a goal that gave them the belief to win. The game ended 1-0 in favor of the Rapids ladies and history was made. The first ever side from Colorado to win the North American Championship but also the first time ever a first year program turned up out of no-where and took the trophy home.
At the end of the game tournament officials crowned Rapids pacey striker Karisa Price as the tournament MVP and also Rapids goal keeper Hannah Clark as the Goal Keeper of the tournament after several great performances throughout the tournament.
Colorado Rapids U-20’s and W-League Head Coach Daniel Clitnovici was very pleased with how things turned out for his hard working side. “From day one in early May I knew we had something special here. The whole squad of players including W-League and Super 20’s pushed eachother to the limits and helped eachother through thick and thin, this is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved with the Colorado Rapids. All our girls worked hard and supported each other through this tournament; we have a happy group of girls that believed in themselves individually but also in each other”.