Orlando City SC’s U-12 Pro Academy Team lifted the Super Y League trophy on Tuesday, Dec. 15, after a five game unbeaten run, defeating North America’s best youth sides. Led by head coach Craig Melton, the young Lions showcased their dominant style of play at IMG Academy and battled its way to conquering the prestigious tournament.
City opened the tournament in great fashion, registering three consecutive clean sheets and overpowering its opponents in the group stage.
Orlando’s first rival was Michigan Squad Force Football Club Academy, and the excitement and hype of the players getting together was clearly displayed on the field. The Lions crushed the Force FC 7-0, the biggest victory in the entire tournament.
City continued its positive rhythm for the remainder of the first round, registering a clean sheet in a highly intense 0-0 tie versus Northern Virginia Majestics-FTF and overpowering Kalamazoo Kingdom 2-0 to finish the group stage with the highest amount of points in the competition (13).
The Lions went on to face Internationals Soccer Club Boys in the semifinal, the leaders of group D. In a back-and-forth battle, City was able to capitalize on its chances and reach the final with a 2-1 win.
However, Orlando faced its toughest challenge of the tournament when playing New York-based side Long Island Rough Riders in a thrilling match. Leading 2-0 in the second half, the Lions went down to 10 men after their goalkeeper was sent off. With no subs available, Melton was forced to put a defender in goal and change the formation for the remaining minutes of the game.
The tension increased after the Rough Riders scored and cut into the Lions’ lead with most of the second half to play.
However, the great character and team effort showcased throughout the tournament would appear once again during the waning moments of the final, as the Lions earned a 2-1 triumph – crowning themselves as the U-12 Super Y League National Champions.
“I am extremely proud of the boys for their performance in this highly rated tournament. Each player had a key part in this successful win, as they all played with the desire and attitude to win it”, said Orlando City U-12s head coach Craig Melton. “Having defeated North America’s best clubs in this competition, along with the victories earlier over clubs like Atlético Madrid and our performance at the Disney Junior Showcase, demonstrate that these kids have an immense potential.”