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On a chilly fall evening, the undefeated Kansas City Wizards, comprised entirely of 13-year-olds, faced the younger Colorado Rapids. Christopher Baez played his best game of the season for the Wizards, with consistent, strong boots and nice passing — including a pass to Adrian Dillulio, who continued the downfield drive to Nick Winokur. Winokur, whose hat trick last Sunday was the first for Liz Lamere’s team, took Dillulio’s pass for the first goal of the game.
The Rapids’ offense, including Alex Pabon (who drove the ball well with expert dribbling), Vidal Carrion, Jackson Vertucci and Joe Pupello, did their best; but the Wizards’ defense, including Baez, Ben Karam, Max Kong, Jackson Kaufman and Tommy Wu, left goalie Douglass Stapler with just a couple of shots in the first half. The Rapids rotated their fullbacks frequently, with Cris Pupello (sweeper), Max Hendricks, TJ Westfall, Melina Driscoll and Harry Slattery making many defensive clears. Zoe Morrison and Lucy Freedman did a great job as forwards as well.
A subsequent shot on goal was recovered by Tyler Rohan, who followed up with a shot that was saved by the Rapids’ goalie. Jacob Lawrence Kreiss, who was excellent in goal, saved many more of the Wizards’ shots throughout the game, including a shot by Dante Vega Lamere. But the Wizards kept up the offensive pressure. Dillulio’s drive downfield ended with a pass to teammate Matthew Bernstein, who made the score 2-0. The Rapids tried to get on the board with a nice shot by J. Pupello, but the ball went wide. In the meantime, the Rapids’ defense kept fighting, with Liana Chow taking one for the team. The ball hit her in the face, knocking off her glasses. But she found her glasses and kept playing, waving off questions from her dad, Coach John Chow, about whether she wanted to be replaced. The Wizards’ Rohan passed to teammate Liam Fuerst, who persevered in the forward position but wasn’t able to connect for a goal, and the half ended with a 2-0 lead for the Wizards.
In the second half, Stapler and Bernstein traded places, and Stapler started off with a shot on goal that went wide. The Wizards kept the ball in scoring territory, though, and Stapler was able to score on an assist from Dillulio. In the next offensive play for the Wizards, Winokur passed to his twin sister, Lucy, whose beautiful instep volley resembled a pop fly to short center, finding its home in the top half of the net to give the team a 4-0 lead. The Rapids did their best to keep the scoring at bay, with excellent defense from Westfall and Aidan Ostermaier. And the Rapids came alive offensively, with Pabon, J. Pupello and forward Carrion putting the pressure on Bernstein in the Wizards’ goal. Pabon’s skillful dribbling led to Carrion’s jailbreak, which was saved by Bernstein. Carrion’s bicycle kick in the next offensive play for the Rapids was also saved by Bernstein, but the third time was a charm — when Carrion snuck past Rohan and sent the ball into an unprotected corner of the goal, making the score 4-1, Wizards. Vertucci’s nice moves kept the Wizards’ defense busy, and Maria Scovel worked hard on the Rapids’ defense. Slattery (Rapids) and Rohan (Wizards) added to the excitement with several good headers. But Winokur’s breakaway with four seconds remaining in the game gave him his sixth goal of the season (and his fifth goal in two games), and gave the Wizards their third win with a 5-1 final score.
But both teams finished the evening on a positive note. After each match, the Rapids award “game balls,” signed by each player and coach to players who performed well. This week, the “game balls” were awarded to Maria Scovel, for tenacious play at midfield; TJ Westfall, for making some excellent defensive stops; and Noah Salmon, for his relentless speed and strong contributions to the offensive attack.
— John Chow, Doug Freedman and Diane Rohan