The following is sponsored by Utah Youth Soccer Association.
The game of the week between Sparta and AFC Apex was an outstanding tactical display between two of the top teams and top coaches in the age group.
The 2001 Sparta boys team, coached by Justus Koelliker, is one of the best teams in the state, if not the country. They have won five state championships in a row, 12 straight seasons finishing first in their age group, won the 2017 Las Vegas Mayors International Showcase which sent them to Spain to train at Real Madrid through Generation Adidas, and recently had six players be selected to join the new Utah based RSL Academy.
The challenge of losing six of your top players only a few weeks before the season is something new for the team but will not stop them from competing at the highest level, if this match was any indication.
They started off controlling position and were moving the ball extremely well, however AFC Apex players are no slouches either and one misplaced pass from Sparta sent them off on the counter and a couple kick passes later, Austin Radden buried a beautiful shot near post to put AFC Apex up 1-0.
This set the flow of the game as Sparta looked to possess the ball and break down a resolute Apex defense. The rest of the half looked this way as Apex looked to counter and be solid defensively. The tactics frustrated Sparta to the effect that the first half ended still with that 1-0 scoreline and no really dangerous chances for Sparta.
The second half opened up the same way, with Apex growing into the game possession wise, there was a lot of play in the middle of the pitch as both teams tried to wrestle control of the game.
As is often the case, the game changed on a set piece. A Sparta player was fouled outside of the penalty area but the ensuing free kick found Jack Terrill in front of the net as he put it away to even the score.
The breakthrough had happened and it seemed to energize Sparta. Their attacks began to look more dangerous especially through the feet of Fabian Gonzalez. It was just a matter of time before a second goal occurred.
In a justified yet ironic bit of play, AFC Apex was pushing for a goal which opened them up for a counter attack that Fabian Gonzalez put away 2-1 Sparta. There was one last bit of action as with only minutes to go a ball bounced to an open Jack Terrill in the Apex penalty area which he promptly fired back post for his second of the day and a 3-1 Sparta win.