World Cup fever has swept New Haven, with a week of thrilling games and surprising results – the USA tying with Portugal and beating Ghana, who later held their own against Germany, Costa Rica beating Italy, Argentina barely managing to scrape to a 1-0 against Iran, the once great Spain and England out in the first round.
But there were no more exciting World Cup games last weekend than the Saturday morning championship games of the Elm City Middle School League, at Ella Grasso Boulevard right here in New Haven.
The Middle School League, part of the larger New Haven Youth Soccer program, enables kids to play the beautiful game regardless of ability to pay, with all games held at the Boulevard fields every Saturday morning through the season. With local middle school teams, independent teams, church teams and teams open to anyone interested in playing, the league represents the very best of New Haven’s diversity, energy and love of soccer.
This season’s two final games were as gripping as any played this week in Brazil.
In division one, blue-shirted Chicanitos emerged victorious, taking the lead early on with three ferocious strikes in the first half. A fantastic goal in the second half by the red and yellow striped Marquense gave them hope that they could climb back, but Chicanitos held on to their 3-1 lead to the end.
In division two, a true nail-biter of a game between Amistad and J.C. Daniels had the entire audience on their feet and holding their breath. Amistad, last season’s champion, resplendent in their yellow jerseys, quickly took the lead in the first half, but pale blue J.C. Daniels fought back to equalize. With a 1-1 tie at full time, neither team conceded a goal during overtime, and the game went into a penalty shoot out. The selected five players from each team did their best to perform under tremendous pressure, and ultimately Amistad, scoring 2 of their total 5 penalties, won the game. The drama and emotion of the game showed clearly on the faces of the J.C. Daniel players as they collected their runner up medals.
The Middle School League players showed us the best that the beautiful game of soccer has to offer, striving to excel as individuals, but always playing as a team, combining stamina and fitness on the field with agility and skill with the ball, and knowing both how to win triumphantly and lose with grace. New Haven is proud of them.