Region I vs. DIMAS Escazu
The first game of day 3 brought DIMAS Escazu and Region I to the field. Amazingly, Region I had the same first 11 as the previous night; their physical condition and strength are unbelievable. In this new match, the heat was an uncomfortable visitor. In fact, the teams were given a water break on each half specifically for this reason.
DIMAS Escazu started the match with good ball possession and control of the midfield with Indira Gonzales (#10). The team also tried long-distance shots, but none of them ended inside the net. Region I warmed up by minute 16 and the match started to offer exciting plays for the crowd.
Mia Vaughan (#8) skillfully dribbled throughout the midfield and opened her way to the goal where, unfortunately, she missed the shot in a one-on- one chance with Escazu’s goalkeeper. It was a very tough game for both teams and the chances were 50-50 when the referee determined the first half was over.
For the second half, Region I had seven substitutions, which created a good impact on the pitch and led the team to their first on-target option. It was only the second minute of the second half when Region I’s pressing paid off and DIMAS’s goalkeeper made a mistake after a back pass from one of the center backs and they scored in their own goal. This marked the 1-0 in favor of Region I.
After the first goal, Region I started to push more specially on the sides, but there were a lot of non-effective flat balls in the middle of the field. DIMAS then regained possession of the midfield and tried to score on several occasions, but the Region I goalkeeper was solid and had quick reflexes. Still, the ODP girls were the ones in charge of marking the pace of the match and they were also able to create scoring options.
By the end of the match, the players of both teams appeared tired due to the heat. The rhythm slowed down significantly and the game ended up 1-0 with Region I as the winner. Maria Hayde Harley (#8, DIMAS) said, “the players are very technical and we tried to play toe-to-toe with them. We learned a lot from them; they are fast, strong, and intense; they have great skills hiding the ball.” For this game, the most valuable players were Kenar Gelman (#4, RI) and Indira Gonzales (#10, Escazu).
Region III vs. Saprissa
The second match of the day was quite interesting for the fans since no one really expected the final score, but it was the best game that Region III played through all the tournament; they showed courage and great skills against a Saprissa team that was unrecognizable on the pitch. Everyone was expecting an intriguing dual between Region III and Saprissa…well, it really was!
Region III taught a good lesson of sweet soccer on the field by turning the ball from one side to the other and never losing possession of it. Saprissa, on the other hand, was truly unorganized and some of the players were totally lost inside the field. The match had barely started when Natalie Gonzalez (#7) received a ball after a clearance from Saprissa’s goalkeeper; Gonzalez did not think twice and kicked the ball with strength in order to open the scoreboard.
The game continued with Saprissa’s defense seemingly very insecure after the first goal and Region III attacking like fuel machines full of energy; they were dynamic and utilized good use of their bodies with determination. Minutes later, the referee called a penalty fault after some dirty work inside the box. Isabella Brown (#15) took the ball and scored the second on the board for Region III.
The whistle had just blown to start the second half when a penalty fault seemed to happen in the box, but the referee called it advantage since a teammate got the ball; it was Ana Haddock (#14), who did not even blink to score the 3-0 against Saprissa. Being down on the board, Saprissa had to make some changes in their initial eleven, but this did not change the dynamic of the game.
Minutes after the third goal, a great spread out on the left channel led Abbigale Brighton (#12) to strike with blunt force with her left foot and score the fourth goal for her Region. Saprissa’s players looked overwhelmed and they could not believe what was happening; they are recognized for being one of the top teams in their league and just could not believe their eyes this time.
The most impacting substitute was Mackenzee Vance (#8) who immediately improved the already well-organized and scoring machine they had as a team that day. Cara Young (#13) was also one of the high points on the field with awesome throw-ins that made it up to the penalty area. Region III took full ownership of the match and even though Saprissa was trying their best looking to score, the green squad was organized from head to toe.
The next goal came after a great low cross from Cara Young and Shea Greene (#4) scored a well-deserved goal after the good job she did in previous matches. This was the 5-0 in favor of Region III and counting… Finally, the sixth goal came over and Region III girls were going nuts over the awesome game they were playing. Mackenzee Vance bent it like Beckham with a splendid three-finger crossing and Cara Young finalized the over-the-top play scoring the last goal of the match. This marked the end of the match with a 6-0 win of Region III over Saprissa.
Region IV vs. Moravia
The best was saved for last since the third match would decide the ODP Tournament Champion between Region IV and Moravia. Both teams started with strong pressing and a big fight over control of the midfield. Region IV kept it simple and implemented a one touch style in order to pass the ball from foot to foot; Moravia, on the other side, pushed aggressively and tried with through balls.
Moravia has a very good defensive tactic, but Region IV was always pushing hard to break the lock. The game was so intense and both teams were so fierce that the first half ended on a 0-0 draw waiting for the second half to bring the favorite guest of the match, the goal.
Referee Randall Poveda started the second half of the game and Region IV kept pushing like their lives depended on it. Moravia tried to make some moves but they were lacking precision and there was a massive gap in between lines. After a huge effort of Region IV to take control over the middle, Nicole Sweeney (#11) scored what we can call “the goal of the tournament;” she stroke from outside the box with such a technical expertise that the ball reached the top right corner of the goal posts for what we call in Costa Rica “Golazoooo!” at minute 10.
Three minutes after, Leah Feato (#2) crossed the ball from the right side of the field into Aurea Martin’s legs, who dribbled the defense with her right foot and immediately shot with her left foot in order to put the 2-0 on the board for Region IV. Every goal was celebrated in such a way that made the stadium tremble; the crowd went crazy and Moravia’s fans were visibly worried after seeing the high quality match Region IV was playing.
It was minute 20 of the second half when Feato made another cross, but this time with her left foot and Mariela Campos (#21, Moravia) tried to stop the play but, unfortunately, she scored on own goal and put Region IV on top of the game 3-0. At this point, Region IV’s Coach, Scott Newman, asked the girls to keep behind the ball since they had a three-goal difference.
Aurea Martin got a yellow card after a fault against Moravia and Daniela Coto (#24) took the ball; she kicked the ball so hard that no one could stop it and Moravia got its first one in the net. After this, Region IV moved back inside the field, not pressing until Moravia passed the first quarter of the field. The most important action for Region IV at this point was to keep the ball out of the net or they might get into trouble again.
The clock was ticking and the 40 minutes were almost over when Daniela Coto came again with another free kick from outside the box after a foul against Yerli Rojas (#10); Moravia scored the 3-2 and everyone had their hearts in their throats. After many shouts at the referee arguing that time was over, Poveda blew the final whistle declaring Region IV the Costa Rica 2017 ODP Tournament Champions!
Leah Feato was chosen Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the three matches and she highlighted, “Region IV has never won this tournament before, so we really made history and I am really proud of the team and all our individual efforts paid off and brought us together as a team. I feel very honored to be chosen MVP; I just went out there and played with a lot of confidence and pride and just did what I do.” The so-called “3P” (3 times MVP) by her teammates could be easily named the best player of the tournament, but what really matters is that Region IV finally got the silverware and they went back home with pride and medals hanging on their necks. CONGRATULATIONS REGION IV; GO BLACK!