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Jul, 2021

Real Jersey FC Wins 17U Boys USYS National Championship

Justin Polkowitz, NJYS Contributor

After five days of play, champion teams were decided on Sunday at the 2021 US Youth Soccer National Championship Finals in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. Representing New Jersey on the last day of competition was Real Jersey FC, who were victorious over Sparta United of Utah to claim the 17U Boys National Championship.

Real Jersey FC took the pitch on Sunday as the reigning USYS National Champions. The New Jersey side won the crown in 2019 but was unable to defend it last year when the USYS National Championships were cancelled due to COVID-19. Sunday’s final was also a revenge contest from earlier in the week for Real Jersey FC after falling to this same Sparta side, 2-0, in group play.

From start to finish, this final was a fun and exciting match that kept its audience on the edge of their seats. Real Jersey FC maintained a lot of possession from the onset, creating chances and earning three early corner kicks. In the 16th minute, Real Jersey FC goalkeeper Stephen Connor made a remarkable save to keep the game scoreless.

While both sides had chances early on, it was Sparta United that flipped the field in their quickly established possession in the attacking third. In the 31st minute mark, Sparta United posted a one goal lead following a brilliant touch turn by Owen Knecht. As the first half elapsed, both teams continued to test each other’s defense, and the two sides traded scoring chances. While Real Jersey FC was down at the half, 1-0, they did not allow the halftime deficit to discourage them.

Real Jersey FC came out of the halftime break continuing to apply pressure while keeping the ball in their attacking third. Eventually, that pressure was rewarded in the 67th minute, moments before the hydration break, as Julian Pittaoulis netted a sensational goal to the top corner that equalized the match at 1-1.

Real Jersey FC then converted once again in the 73rd minute. Cade McGrath beat a man on the right side and served a ball to Andrew Kitch on the back post, who headed home the goal to give his team a 2-1 lead. Just before the final whistle with two minutes to go, Milton Jones added an insurance goal to create a two-goal cushion, 3-1. Over the course of the entire game, Jones was causing problems for the Sparta United defense, and his hard work paid off with the final tally of the afternoon.

When the final whistle blew, Real Jersey FC had bounced back from conceding early by scoring three unanswered goals. The win avenged its group play loss to Sparta United and gave Real Jersey FC the title of national champions once again.

Jon Kopytko, head coach of Real Jersey FC, emphasized that the key to victory was being able to go through adversity.

“This final, we knew that there were going to be ups and downs, but the boys’ resiliency and experience showed well,” he said after the win.

2021 was a tremendously successful campaign for Real Jersey FC. The 2004 boys capped off a fantastic season by scoring 14 goals in US Youth Soccer’s most prestigious tournament and brought home the hardware for a second time in consecutive tournaments.

In addition to the team’s success, Real Jersey FC goalkeeper Stephen Connor was recognized with the Golden Glove Award for his outstanding play in the 17U boys’ division at the US Youth Soccer National Championships. The elite goalkeeper of Real Jersey FC highlighted their training back home, which he said contributed to the team’s success at the National Championships.

“We were dominating games early,” he remarked. “With the heat, it was hard for us, but we had a solid two weeks of preparation before we came here. We were running and getting used to the heat in New Jersey so we could be prepared for it here.”

Julian Pittaoulis was also awarded the Golden Ball at the competition, scoring three goals throughout the tournament, with one being the equalizer in the final on Sunday. Pittaoulis spoke about the epic equalizer and reflected back upon that special moment.

“Dribbling up the right side with the left center back coming on, I took a touch down since I was 1v1 with him,” he recalled. “I was not sure what to do, but with two quick stepovers, I took one in and hammered it home, upper 90.”

Lastly, Nick Yushchak was recognized with the Best Eleven award for the greatest competitive impact in the 17U Boys Division. He expressed what it meant to him to be a back-to-back National Champion.

“The first time you win, it is like the greatest thing in world,” he commented. “However, the same emotions were there this year because every game is so competitive. It means just as much both times.”

NJ Youth Soccer would also like to recognize two New Jersey referees, Danielle Cornetta and Kenny Freeman, for their exceptional officiating at the US Youth Soccer National Championships. Cornetta and Freeman were assistant referees in the 18U Girls Final on Sunday.

To find out more information about New Jersey Youth Soccer or to contact us directly, please email [email protected]. Also make sure to follow us on social media: @NJYouthSoccer

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Phone: 609-490-0725
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New Jersey Youth Soccer

569 Abbington Dr, Suite 5
East Windsor, New Jersey 08520

Phone: 609-490-0725
Email: [email protected]
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