International tournament victory one of most impressive in Moose Jaw soccer history
When the Excelsior FC soccer club started in 2012, the goal was to do things a little differently when it came
more training and a steady focus on improvement. That strategy turned into one of the most impressive tournament victories in Moose Jaw soccer history over the July 21 weekend at the Schwan’s USA Cup.
division last year. -
Girls Silver division.
The USA Cup is a massive tournament featuring featur-
Center in Blaine, Minn.
“When we started Excelsior, one of the goals was to do something a little bigger than just provincials,” said Jason Jones of JJ Soccer, which runs the Excelsior program. “Get out there and play teams that are from the U.S. and other places in Canada and if you get lucky maybe a Mexico or Spain or something.” Ostensibly, it’s all just about new experiences and having a chance to be part of something as impressive in scope as the USA Cup. That is, of course, unless you happen win the whole thing.
“Everything just aligned perfectly for the girls, they came in playing the way we asked them to play, right from the beginning at U12 and up, the stars aligned for them and it was very special to watch,” Jones said. Excelsior’s appearance at the tournament was the sec-
were down there, we really knew what to expect in regards to going through and what to do with respect to penalty shootouts and how the draw was drafted,” Jones said. “We came back with things from last season and credit to the girls and (coaches) Rob (Francis) and Shasta (McCulloch), we put some things in place and were able to work on them.”
of Hastings, Minn. Aidan McLoone scored three times for the local squad, kicking off an incredible offensive effort for one of the team’s three guest players (see sidebar). Allison Billy scored Excelsior’s other goal. Next up was host Blaine, Minn. FC and a 1-1 draw, with McLoone picking up the lone marker.
As it turns out, that would be the last time they’d do anything but win the rest of the week. “The girls knew what needed to be done, they didn’t let themselves get in over their heads, they took it one game and one half at a time. The biggest thing was that
game,” Jones said. “When teams showed us something different, we were able to change how we played.”
Minn. Sabers showed that. Excelsior struggled to get on the end of through-balls short passes, keep the ball on the ground and move the
“That changed the game for us, we were able to take control,” Jones said.”In year’s past that would have been
and it made a huge difference.”
four times and Maisie Chamberlain adding their other marker.
into Two Harbors, Minn. SC and ended up in a game for the ages.
McLoone scored twice and Didumo Omot once in regulation, with the game ending up tied 3-3 through regulation and overtime -- setting the stage for an impressive performance by Sage McCulloch.
After splitting time in goal with Gillian Francis, McCulloch got the nod in the penalty shoot-out. Two Har-
second shot for Excelsior. She scored, went back in goal and made three straight saves to give Excelsior the win. “She did a great job and really came through for us when we needed it the most,” Jones said. - cago, ending up in another game that needed extra time
Moose Jaw the 2-1 win.
- cer was a back-and-forth battle that saw long-time Excelsior veteran Gillian Francis score the lone goal of the contest.
And with that, the celebration was on.
“It was just an incredible week and I couldn’t be prouder of the girls,” Jones said. “To play that well against that kind of competition and end up winning it all, it’s Aidan McLoone is most certainly a name Moose Jaw soccer fans aren’t familiar with.
And yet there she was, scoring 11 goals in six games for Excelsior as the local squad won their division at the Schwan’s USA Cup.
As it turns out, McLoone and two of her teammates -- midfielder Eliza Lynch and defender Danielle Anderson -- were ‘guest player’ pickups from a team based in New Prague, Minn., called on by Excelsior manager Jason Jones to help bolster the team in the all-important tournament.
What makes it interesting is the trio weren’t part of the National Sports Center pool of players compiled for the USA Cup. No, it was a relationship from years ago – and a guest player appearance back then – that saw McLoone and her teammates take the field for a team from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Back in 2015, Alexis Jones – Jason’s daughter – attended the USA Cup in the NSC pool as a potential guest player. As you probably already guessed, she ended up getting the call from New Prague.
Her experience with the team was nothing but positive, so when Jones was looking for guests for Excelsior in 2018, the choice was obvious.
“I reached out to the coach of the team that picked up Alexis and asked if he had anyone who was available and he was like ‘oh my gosh, yes, how many do you need’. And we said ‘three’,” Jones explained. “The three he selected were just perfect for us...They were so good because they had such great attitudes and were such great team players.”
McLoone proved to be an essential finisher for the team, with her hat trick in Excelsior’s opening game just a sampling of things to come. “She was our striker and it was her job to score goals and she really came through for us,” Jones said. “All three of them played so well... The chemistry we had with them was amazing, it was like they had been with us from the beginning. They fit in with the way we played, they were very coachable and they fit right in with our system.” Jones pointed to a moment that showed just how much the New Prague players felt the same way about their Excelsior teammates. When it came to the penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final, the trio asked if the list of shooters had been set before asking to be placed as far down the list as they could. Why?
“They said ‘we don’t want to be at fault if your team doesn’t win this and go through’,” Jones explained. “They didn’t want that pressure, they were there to help us, and they were very happy that we were going to take that on. It meant that much to them, that letting us down would have been too much.
“So we have nothing but amazing things to say about the girls who joined us because they were a true class act.”