A South Melbourne FC Under 19 team has traveled to Florida, USA as part of an 18 day tour during the festive season. The squad prepared by South Melbourne Senior Coach Socrates Nicolaidis in partnership with MatchFit Australia, comprises representatives from our Senior and Youth teams together with other quality youth players from around Melbourne.
The team would participate in two tournaments being the 20th Annual Orange Classic Girls Tournament and the Disney Girls Soccer Showcase, played at the ESPN Wide World or Sports Complex. The girls would be guaranteed a total of six matches in six days with the potential to make it through to the finals.
These tournaments provide exposure for the club but more importantly an opportunity for the girls to be a part of a professional squad for the 18 day tour and play in a tournament environment with 1500 other players and in front of over 10o US college coaches hoping to recruit new talent into their college squads.
20th Annual Orange Classic Girls Tournament
Match #1 :: 28 Dec 2016 vs FC Tampa (Florida)
Result :: 5-1 win with goals to Caitlin Greiser (x2), Kathryn Vlahopoulos (x2), Chloe Belingham
In their first match on foreign soil, the squad made an impressive start to their campaign recording a 5-1 win over FC Tampa.
Caitlin Greiser would record the only goal of the first half shooting low and right from the penalty spot. After the break the girls had the setting sun in their eyes but you couldn’t tell by the way they played. Kathryn Vlahopoulos setup a Caitlin Greiser header to double the lead before finding the net and opening her own account for the tour. Chloe Belingham got into the scoring action with a quality move weaving between two defenders the slotting her shot past the keeper. Bryannen Gurr would make a superb run down the left wing all the way to the byline before cutting it back for Kathryn Vlahopoulos to stab it into the net for her brace and the fifth goal for South.
Catherine Forto-Oddo spoke to smfc.com.au after the match saying “the game today went well with a quick pace. We set the standard pretty high and it was great to see how the American girls played. Theirs was a very different style of play, they like to play the long balls. They were physical and very different to what we were used to but I enjoyed it. The quick passing worked for us today, which is our normal standard of play. Rachel Jarvis did well and also Kathryn Vlahopoulos.”
Also talking to smfc.com.au after the match, Cleo Taliadoros shared her thoughts on the game saying “We went into the game not really knowing what to expect as we’ve never played an American team before. We went in hard, didn’t expect too much and I think we did pretty well.”
“We did a lot of combination plays with great passing instead of just kicking the ball up the field like our opposition did. Our passing really helped us transition the ball from the back line all the way to the forwards and we scored some goals off this passing play. Irene Paracki played so well, moving easily around players in the midfield and really setting us up for goals. Caitlin Greiser played well scoring goals up front. Chloe Belingham was great, so was Kathryn Vlahopoulos and everyone in the defence. Clearly a team effort all round. I thought the opposition had some good players. They were physical and had good technique. They made us work hard and tired us out. I thought they were really good and they play a very different style to us, which was effective at times giving them a goal” she said.
Assistant coach Jorge Rios provided a summary of the match preparation and some analysis saying “the girls have prepared well for the match considering the travel time from Melbourne to Miami and recovery from the jet lag. We had two sessions early in the week focusing on first touch, player combinations and player movement centrally through the midfield area.”
“Our 4-2-2-2 box midfield structure with two wide forwards had the American team confused. We outnumbered our opponents in the middle of the pitch thus frustrating both their coach and players who played a standard 4-4-2 flat midfield. Interestingly the Tampa goal keeper consistently played the long ball punting it when playing out from the back. Our girls constantly played their way out from the back and displayed great attacking intent” he said.
Match #2 :: 29 Dec 2016 vs Caboto Strikers (Canada)
Result :: 4-1 win with goals to Caitlin Greiser (x2), Jade Feakes, Samantha Black
It was an early start for the girls on match day two with an 8am kick-off time. The Caboto Strikers from Canada were highly rated and fast on the pitch, but our girls remained focused on their own game and secured a 4-1 win positioning themselves in outright first place.
Jade Feakes would opening the scoring when she chipped the keeper from the edge of the area placing the ball neatly into the top left corner of the net. The next to score would be Caitlin Greiser who picked up where she left off yesterday. Greiser took a pass from winger Samantha Black, took one touch and then fired across the goal to beat the rushing keeper. After the break, Samantha Black turned from play-maker to goal scorer. Black latched on to a quality ball from the midfield and went one-on-one with the keeper, sliding the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. The final South goal was again from Greiser. Irene Paracki set up the play crafting a through ball to the feet of Greiser who rounded the defender and then similar to Black, beat the keeper one-on-one and hit the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. It was a quality performance by the team.
Speaking to smfc.com.au after the match, Irene Paracki shared her thoughts on the match saying “it was really good out there today but we started off slowly and we weren’t getting our passes together. After a while, we started to get our rhythm, our quick passing, switching play and some great goal chances. Overall, the strongest aspect of our game today was our passing and through balls which directly lead to the goals”.
“Jade Feakes was an absolute stand-out today, she scored our first goal and then she was consistent throughout the game. Our midfield gelled well today, we changed up our formation a few times and that worked well. The Canadian team were very fast and quite physical off the ball, blocking and shielding. We were good at intercepting passes and shut them down pretty well. We learnt their weaknesses quickly and played to those. It was a great game out there today” she said.
Also talking to smfc.com.au after the match, Bryannen Gurr reflected on the win saying ‘I think we played pretty well. We started off a bit slow and conceded a goal which was a bit disappointing. We got back into the game, get even and were good enough to put another three into the back of the net which was good for us. As we got more into the game and adjusted to the conditions, as it was a bit wet, our passing game and combination plays were impressive. In the midfield Irene Paracki had great touches and was always able to find an outlet wide or moving forward. Caitlin Greiser scored a couple of goals and Jade Feakes was solid down the back. D’arne Boato was very strong too, reading the play. Rachel Jarvis was strong on the ball as usual. Everyone played well.”
“The Canadians were pretty good, probably stronger than our opposition yesterday. We played Caboto Strikers who are ranked maybe 4th in Canada so that’s pretty impressive. We did well to win 4-1 so hopefully we can continue that theme and keep winning” she said.
With the early morning start, the girls were done and dusted by around 10:30. The days ‘recovery’ started off with karaoke inside the team bus, the singing and dancing aptly lead by D’arne Boato, Cleo Taliadoros and Alexia Karatzikos. The cool-down session comprised beach volleyball on on Fort Lauderdale Beach. It was here at the beach were the were witness to the marching band of Michigan University who were preparing for the upcoming Orange Bowl NFL match. Bryannen Gurr, D’arne Boato, Alexia Karatzikos and Rachel Jarvis quickly found themselves talking to reporter Thomas Eschen of Fox 66 Michigan. A few hours later, they had made their US TV debut being introduced as a ‘girls travel soccer team from Orstralia’.
Match #3 :: 30 Dec 2016 vs Pinellas County United (Florida)
A relaxing afternoon the day prior gave some respite to the girls heading into their third match in as many days in Miami. Matchday three would be the final hit-out in the Orange Classic Tournament prior to moving to Orlando for the big one, the Disney Girls Soccer Showcase. The girls were happy with the 2-0 win to round out the tournament and also positive in securing their first clean sheet.
Pinellas County bought their A game for the South fixture. They were physical, aggressive and pressed high to put the pressure on. The defence today was rock solid with great passing and playing out from the back. As the first half went on, the girls started to find their rhythm. The first goal came which served well to settle the team. A corner kick found its way to defender Victoria Argyropoulos who had a low strike at goal. The ball rolled to the feet of Irene Paracki who turned and placed it past the keeper. South were in business and went into the half time break with a one nil advantage.
Pinellas continued to attack in the second half however the strong passing and possession of our girls could be seen to frustrate them. South’s second goal came yet again from the corner, this one maybe not quite as pretty. The corner kick came into the area and there were a lot of players in the box. Everyone was trying to get boot to ball to either score or clear it. Jade Feakes got the last touch as the ball went over the line where the keeper grabbed it and bought it back into the field of play. The referee took some time before awarding South the goal. It was an encouraging result in the toughest match of the tour thus far.
Talking to smfc.com.au goal scorer Jade Feakes reflected on the game saying “I thought we reacted well to them pressing us on the ball. Our performance today is going to set us up well for the next tournament. As Coach Soc said, it’s going to be a lot more physical and the girls are going to be tougher. We are going to need to learn how to get the ball back quickly and contest against girls who have been training for college for years.”
“It took us until the latter stages of the first half to start playing our passes smarter and a bit quicker. The whole team played well today, I think everyone contributed strongly today in a tough match. Alexia Karatzikos in goal did really well, best game I’ve seen her play. Her distribution was great in getting the ball out wide allowing us to easily play out from the back. I think Pinellas County lifted today because of who they were playing. They knew a little about us as they had watched us play our two previous games. I felt this also made us lift our game and how we responded to how physical they were.”
Also talking to smfc.com.au was goal keeper Alexia Karatzikos detailing her thoughts on the encounter saying “It think it was a well fought game today, probably the hardest games we’ve had out of the three. They really took the game to us so it wasn’t easy for us like the last two matches. They knew we were breezing through and wanted to give us some physicality. At the start it was hard for us to get into the game. It was hard to get our mojo, get it together and concentrate. There was a drink break, we talked and started getting it together, passes were well thought out and then we got our first goal. That really settled us. There was a lot more talking out on the pitch today, especially from a goal keeping perspective we were talking more to get our defenders and rest of the players together in the right places. The last two games has been really quiet. Today was a really good game but hard fought.”
“Our midfielders played well for us today, Catherine Forte-Oddo and Rachel Jarvis especially. They had to really keep possession today and find the right opportunities to push forward to the strikers. Our defenders today were spot on. No headers were missed with good passing around the back third. For both Coco Majstorovic and I in goal, I think our distribution was good today. Coco was great, taking the touches, controlling the ball and getting it out to the defenders. We were playing out from the back, we were really relaxed, not stressed and we kept the ball right from the get go. Our opposition Pinellas County were excellent. I spoke to the team we played yesterday, Tampa Bay, and they beat them 4-0. Tampa said they were really off their game and didn’t play to their usual standard. Today they really bought their A game and gave it to us. It wasn’t easy. We thought we’d go out there, score four goals. Pinellas were very physical with us, especially when they got frustrated. They were pushing us off the ball a lot, they really wanted possession. We gave as good as we got and I was really proud of the team” she said.
Tournament Review by Coach Socrates Nicolaidis
“The last three days have been a wonderful experience for the girls. We had two fantastic training sessions preparing them for our first game. Not knowing what style of we were going to be up against we focused on our own performance, our own style which is a short passing game, many combination plays, rotations in the attacking third, plenty of overlaps and when we don’t have the ball the whole team pressed collectively.”
“Our first game was an excellent performance and we scored many goals. Our second game was very similar. Our third game was probably our toughest game. The opposition were very strong, very dirty, the refereeing was probably at its worst. Our players were pushed off the ball, knocked off the ball and there was no intent from the opposition to actually go to the ball, but the girls prevailed. In the second half we started to move the ball faster, our passing got better, the other team got weaker and it could have easily been five or six nil.”
“Coming now into Disney we are playing the number one ranked team in Rhode Island, they won their division last year here at Disney. This will probably be our biggest challenge for the tour.”
Disney Girls Soccer Showcase
Match #1 :: 31 Dec 2016 vs Bayside FC (Rhode Island)
Match #2 :: 1 Jan 2017 vs Lake Norman SC (North Carolina)
Match #3 :: 2 Jan 2017 vs Clay County SC (Florida)
South Melbourne FC Under 19 (USA International Tour Squad)
#1 Coco Majstorovic (Goalkeeper)
#2 Victoria Argyropoulos (Defender)
#4 Jade Feakes (Defender)
#5 Bryannen Gurr (Defender)
#7 Samantha Black (Winger)
#8 Catherine Forte-Oddo (Midfielder)
#9 Caitlin Greiser (Forward)
#10 Rachel Jarvis (Midfielder)
#11 Irene Paracki (Midfielder)
#12 Kathryn Vlahopoulos (Midfielder)
#13 Lauren Boyd (Defender)
#14 Ciara Singleton (Defender)
#15 Cleo Taliadoros (Forward)
#16 Chloe Belingham (Midfielder)
#17 D’arne Boato (Midfielder)
#18 Dakota Thyssen (Midfielder)
#19 Alexia Karatzikos (Goalkeeper)
Socrates Nicolaidis (Coach)
Jorge Leon (Assistant Coach)