The FLW United soccer team took third place in the Defender’s Shield bracket of the all-military Defender’s Cup Tournament, which concluded Sept. 3 near Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
“It was definitely worth the hard work we put in all year,” said Ladd Milton, the FLW United goalkeeper who had several key saves throughout the tournament. “We are a fairly new team and to get a third-place finish in our bracket was hard fought and well deserved.”
Twenty FLW United team members, which include active duty and reserve Soldiers, Marines and Air Force personnel, along with some military veterans and family members, made the trip to San Antonio, where they competed at the Star Soccer Complex over the Labor Day weekend.
“All of our players had tremendous support from their units,” said Steve Standifird, who coaches the team alongside Jeff Cornuet. “The (players) we were able to take down with us represented themselves, their units and the installation well. Those who were unable to go this year are already making plans for 2019.”
Similar to the World Cup, teams begin the Defender’s Cup competing in group play to establish rankings for the tournament brackets.
FLW United’s first two group-play games resulted in ties against California teams. FLW United opened with a 0-0 tie against a team from Travis Air Force Base, followed by a 2-2 tie against Fort Irwin. After a 2-0 loss to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, the Fort Leonard Wood team was seeded seventh in the Defender’s Shield Bracket.
FLW United began bracket play Sept. 2 with a 1-0 victory over 10th-seeded Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Fort Leonard Wood followed with another 1-0 victory, this time with Danny Morris scoring the winning goal, over Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Advancing to the semi-final round on Sept. 3, FLW United faced third-seeded Fort Carson, Colorado, and found themselves evenly matched, ending regulation play in a 1-1 tie. The game then went to penalty kicks, which ended in a 6-5 loss for Fort Leonard Wood, putting FLW United in the third-place game against the home team Lackland Air Force Base. To stay ahead of the inclement weather, that game went directly to PKs, where FLW United dominated.
“Milton again came up big, saving the first two kicks, while our players put all of theirs in the back of the net,” Standifird said. “The game ended, 4-2, for us to place third.”
“It was great to see a combination of all armed forces locations being represented in a competitive environment,” said FLW United player Kevin Beerman. “It meant a great deal (to me) to represent Fort Leonard Wood.”
Standifird said, ultimately, the team met its goal.
“Every year, Jeff and I set realistic goals for the team. With the talent we had this year, we wanted nothing less than the opportunity to play in a semi-final game on Labor Day, regardless of the bracket,” Standifird said.
“After some early hiccups in group play, we found our game and dominated possession and defense in the elimination games,” he continued. “Our players gave everything they had to keep playing. By the end, nobody wanted it to be over.”
Moving forward, Standifird said FLW United players will continue to look for opportunities to play together on weekends, weather permitting, until the club begins preparing for next year’s season early next spring. For more information about the team, visit the “FLW United Soccer Club” Facebook page.