By Mr. Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)June 16, 2016
Team USA kept its perfect record intact, defeating the World Team, 8-2, in the annual U.S. vs. the World Soccer Match, held Friday at Gerlach Field.
"We came out very strong, and obviously I'm pleased with out performance," said Treavor Bellandi, who coached Team USA for the third consecutive year. "To me, it was a very clean game. I thought it was very controlled."
This was the fifth annual contest between Team USA, made up of U.S. service members and civilian government employees, and the World Team -- known this year as "Team Justice" -- which is made up of international military students and their Families. The match, which included two full 40-minute halves, was co-sponsored by Fort Leonard Wood's International Military Student Office and the Fort Leonard Wood United soccer team, which has represented the post at several inter-service matches, including the annual Defender's Cup National Military Soccer Tournament.
Team USA dominated the first half of Friday's match, taking nine shots on goal while holding Team Justice to three.
Team USA forward Kishein Lopez and midfielder Vince Houston finished the match with two goals each. Forward Ryan Day, and midfielders Alex Briceno, Josh Bardell and John Huff also scored goals.
Team Justice Forward Hector Romero, who hails from Honduras, scored both goals for his team, one at the 21-minute mark of the first half, and the second with about 10 minutes remaining in the match.
Lopez credited Day for setting up several successful plays for Team USA.
"Vince has a strong mindset. He's always looking up (the field) for his players, and pushing it up top," he said. "Myself and Ryan (Day) are pretty quick on the field, so if we can get get the ball on top with their defenders, chances are we're going to outrun them. That's what we practice."
Team Justice was more aggressive in the second half, taking nine shots on goal, while holding Team USA to six.
Team USA goalkeeper Steve Standifird made eight stops in the second half, while starting goalkeeper Christopher Lawless had four stops in the first half.
Team Justice goalkeeper Angel Boev, from Bulgaria, had 10 stops, including seven in the first half.
"It was a great game," Lopez said. "It's nice getting to unite with the international team. It definitely builds good morale on post. It was just an honor to play with my teammates and to represent the U.S. military."
Despite the loss, Team Justice coach Enver Medrano said he was proud of his players.
"They knew it was going to be a challenge, but they kept their heads high; they played as a team, and they played with dignity," Medrano said. "I'm very proud of every single player out here."
Col. Andy Herbst, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, presented the U.S. team with the Fort Leonard Wood World Football Challenge championship trophy. Herbst, who also officiated the coin toss at the beginning of the match, congratulated both teams on a well-played game.
Following the trophy presentation, Bellandi and Medrano exchanged team jerseys.
"It's a traditional thing in soccer to exchange gifts with the other team. Last year, we exchanged soccer balls. This year, we exchanged jerseys just as a token of friendship and appreciation -- and fair play," Bellandi said.
Medrano congratulated the U.S. players for their win.
"They played their game, they played hearts out, and they earned that victory," he said.
Bellandi said the exchange captured the spirit of the annual match.
"It is, in all facets, a friendly (match)," he said. "We certainly are competitive, but in the end it's about playing with our friends -- in many cases, our classmates -- and enjoying a beautiful day with them."
Following the trophy presentation and photos, participants from both teams gathered for a barbecue at Colyer Park.