By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)August 4, 2016
The Fort Leonard Wood United soccer team participated in the Whiteman Air Force Base Invitational Tournament Saturday and Sunday in Knob Noster, Missouri, where they finished fourth.
FLW United made significant progress over where it was at this time last year, said Treavor Bellandi, FLW United coach.
"We had two primary objectives -- to score goals and to show the other teams that we could compete at their level. We accomplished both of them very well in my opinion," he said.
The inexperience of the team last year led to a record of zero wins and four loses, with zero goals scored.
Within the first half of the first game against the University of Central Missouri club team, FLW United showed they were not the same team as last year.
"The team came out very strong and surprised everyone in the tournament with our strength of play," Bellandi said. "We defeated last year's champion in our first game, 2-1, and some of their team members told me they were very surprised."
Goals by forward Vince Houston and midfielder Andrew Chavez and seven saves from goalkeeper Chris Lawless kept FLW United in control throughout the game.
The second match was against in-state rival Whiteman Air Force Base, a game Bellandi said was the key to the team's progress given their history against each other.
"Defeating Whiteman, a team we've lost to both previous times we played them, 2-1 was a great indicator of how much FLW United has improved in a year," he said.
Houston added another goal to his tournament total, and fellow forward Daniel Morris added his first. Another strong game in the net by Lawless, with nine saves, assured FLW United the win.
Fatigue and injuries set in for the third game of pool play, as the Scott Air Force Base team controlled the ball and scored four goals to FLW United's lone goal from Morris, his second of the tournament.
"Unfortunately, injuries took their toll on us, and we were unable to sustain our pace throughout the tournament," said Ryan Day, midfielder and team captain. "I am extremely proud of team we have this year."
The loss put FLW United in a tie with Whiteman and Scott with a record of 2-1. The tiebreaker came down to goal differential, which pushed FLW United to the consolation game against UCM.
"The team played well but had nothing left, and we lost," Bellandi said.
Defender Brandon Ruess scored twice for FLW United in the 5-2 loss. Regardless of the result, Bellandi saw the tournament as a win for the team as a whole.
"In the end, I think a great deal of bonding and learning took place, and I feel that the tournament was a great success for us," he said. "We have a strong group of players and we will be able to build on the lessons we learned in this tournament to help us prepare for the Defender's Cup in September."