[U.S. YOUTH SOCCER]Grand Rapids Crew Jrs, which finally captured its first national title in 2011, picked up where it left off with a 2-1 victory over Nevada's Players SC to open up in the boys under-18 division, its fifth straight appearance at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships appearance.
Players took the early lead on a Ruben Duran goal, but last year’s Golden Ball winner Sean Conerty leveled just eight minutes later for Grand Rapids and Nate Rose hit for the game-winner in the 53rd minute.
Two-time Region III champion Florida Rush Nike, which is bidding for its first National Championship final, got off to a good start in the U-18 division 3-1 win over Marlton Lighting Red.
A Marlton own goal in the 10th minute put Rush in the lead, but Gregory Biggiani pulled the goal back in the 26th, and Rush won on goals by Jeremias Sanchez and Zachary Reynolds after the interval.
-- Eastside FC Red, which lost out on a spot in last year's U-16 final after finishing in a four-way tie for first place and losing out on tiebreakers, is off to a good start in 2012 after a 4-1 victory over Solar Chelsea. Jordan Thompson led the way with two wins in the opening day win.
-- Sunrise Elite and Santa Barbara SC White both came back from one-goal deficits to open play in the under-14 age group with 3-1 wins.