On Sunday, May 5, 2013, the McLean ECNL U17s and U18s combined rosters for an international scrimmage against the Henan Province Club in China at the Germantown Sportsplex in Boyds, Maryland. Henan Province, located south of the Yellow River in eastern-central China, is approximately an eight-hour drive from Beijing. The Henan Club is visiting the United States for one of four preparation games for the Chinese Games. The Chinese Games is the equivalent to a Regional Championship. All of China is divided into only four regions, so a win for the Henan Club in the Chinese Games would put them in competition for the National Championships against only three other teams.
The Henan Province Club houses their players together in a complex where they attend school, eat, sleep, and train. Their translator described the players’ experience in the club to that of a professional soccer career. The connection between the Henan players was very noticeable.
The friendly started with an international walkout and a picture of the starters from each team. Henan took an early 2-0 lead before the half. Both goals were scored off of crosses from the right side of the pitch and finished at the top of the six. Although the Chinese players were not more athletic than the American players, their devotion to their technical ability, precision, and speed showed.
McLean entered the second half with the mindset to work more as a team. Connecting with players who have not played together seemed to be a challenge that McLean worked well at overcoming during the second half. Henan scored three more goals to finish out the friendly 5-0. Second half goals were scored by two breakaways and a picture perfect cross and finish from the right flank.
U18 McLean Power player and University of Pennsylvania recruit Lindsey Sawczuk said, “The team from China was really good. They had very quick, technical foot skills and were overall very good.” Evelyn Robinson, teammate of Sawczuk and South Carolina recruit, noted, “they’re fast with good technical skills and quick passing. Their defense was exceptionable, which is why they held us scoreless.” Sawczuk also stated that McLean “gave them a good game. We haven’t played in a scrimmage with the U17s before, so I think we worked well together and definitely progressed as the game went on.” Coach Clyde Watson’s final speech pointed to the devotion that the Chinese club had to soccer and his push for American clubs to take note. Watson was happy with the way McLean came together at the end and worked together as a team.
Henan presented each McLean player with a small gift from China at the end of the match. U18 Power player and Virginia Commonwealth recruit, Carson Cyphers said “playing the team from China was a great experience. I would definitely like to do it again. The gifts they gave us were really nice, too.” Both teams ended the friendly by holding hands, bowing to each other, and taking a group photo.
The Henan Province Club will complete its United States preparation tour with friendlies against Bethesda’s U18s on Tuesday, McLean’s ECNL U16s on Thursday at Lewinsville Park, and Prince William’s U18s on Saturday.
- Nicole Johnson