Abe Thompson scored on a header in the 38th minute as the Braddock Road Warhawks upset the Claremont (Calif.) Stars, 1-0, to win the under-17 title today at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.
Thompson, a senior-to-be at W.T. Woodson and member of the U-17 national team, scored off a free kick from Eric Lozano (Marshall).
"We played it like a corner kick," Thompson said, "I figured the keeper would go near, so I put it far. I was able to head the ball off a perfect cross."
Thompson's goal put Claremont behind for the only time in the tournament. The Stars went unbeaten in pool play at 3-0. The Warhawks finished pool play 2-1, with their only loss by a 3-0 margin to Claremont.
"We were scared the first time we played them," Warhawks goalkeeper Eric Earnhardt (Handley) said of playing the Stars Thursday. Braddock Road gave up two early goals then, but the second time around the defense held.
"We knew coming in that Claremont was the best and most talented team in the tournament," Braddock Road Coach Gene Mishalow said. "We lost in that first match because we were rigid and pulled out of our game. We came into this match more relaxed.
"I still think Claremont's the best team in the country, but we deserved to win."
Claremont was visibly shaken for the remainder of the half after falling behind, but regrouped in the second half. The Stars kept pressure on Braddock Road but Earnhardt wouldn't budge. The goalkeeper squelched four solid scoring chances by Claremont, the closest coming on a free kick from 15 yards.
When Thompson's goal held up, it ensured that he would finish as the group's leading scorer with three goals (Claremont's Bryan Jackson, a fellow member of the U-17 national team, finished with two). It also completed the upset.
After the final whistle sounded, players from both teams dropped to the ground. Braddock Road fell into a huddled, hugging mass at midfield. Claremont players dropped to their knees in disbelief.
"I have always told my players that soccer is a cruel game," Claremont Coach Carlos Juarez said. "We did everything possible today. . . . You have to give Braddock Road credit, but I still feel we are the best team in the country -- just not on this day."