Kyle Blasingame has played in many state championships and regional finals with his club soccer team.
But this was a first.
Blasingame, who will be a junior at Oswego East this fall, and Mason McCaw, a junior at Oswego, enjoyed a memorable end to their summer.
The two boys returned from Frisco, Texas, where their Naperville-based Galaxy soccer club won the under-17 national title at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships on July 29.
The Galaxy rebounded from an opening loss to win four straight games, capped by a 4-2 overtime win over Tampa Bay United in the final.
“This is a very unique team,” said Blasingame, a center midfielder. “I’ve been in many state championships, been to the finals, and lost all of them. I’ve been to regional finals, and lost that. To finally make it to nationals, and win, it’s a feeling like no other.”
The Galaxy, the lowest-seeded of the eight teams at the finals, lost 3-1 in the opener to top-seeded Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay was also the team that eliminated Galaxy en route to winning the 2017 title.
But the Galaxy outscored its next two opponents 9-2 to clinch second place in the group, and a semifinal berth.
“I think we were all mad that [Tampa Bay] beat us. We are not a team that likes to get beat,” Blasingame said. “It put a chip on our shoulders, and we got the job done.”
McCaw, a left forward on the team, agreed.
“We made a few mistakes that were easily fixed,” McCaw said. “After that first game we were like, ‘Oh, we could definitely come back from a game
Scoring opportunities don’t come around often for Blasingame, who usually sets up his teammates. But he had two big goals in Texas.
He scored the game-winner in the semifinals, a 2-1 win over PPAKSA of Georgia.
“It was like a free kick,” Blasingame said. “The ball bounced off somebody’s head, I think someone on the other team. I was making a run to the back post and I tapped it in, basically. It was a great feeling.”
Tampa Bay took a 2-1 halftime lead in the final, but Blasingame came through again.
As time was running out, in 100-degree heat, he scored in the game’s 90th minute to send it to overtime. There, the Galaxy scored twice to prevail 4-2.
“I was just motivated to win,” Blasingame said. “We came all that way in Texas, we had to get it done there. It was very special, getting that opportunity. It doesn’t come around very often for me.”
It’s the Galaxy’s second national championship, first since 2012. And, for the two Oswego boys, a nice carryover to high school season.
“The teams we played there were insane, they were so good. It felt super good to win,” McCaw said. “It was definitely a confidence-booster for me.”