Mentally prepared the boys took the field as KKFS and ICSP played in the first match of the day. The winner would advance to the final. It was a heated game that would finish with a 2-1 victory for ICSP and the two time goalkeeper of the tournament, Hyeonseo Ko.
Going through the same warm up routine that has served them well over the last few years the boys got their feel for the turf and one another. Former Dalton goalkeeper, Kevin Bae, showed up to cheer on the boys and help warm up junior goalkeeper Danny Lee.
At the first whistle Dalton picked up where they left off in their last matchup against Dulwich three days prior. Dalton controlled the ball and connected pass after pass. This required the Dulwich defence to press and continue to shift their defence. This possession and team play, led by a solid backline (senior Jeonggon Kim and juniors Hongjun Lee, Joseph Park and Ryan Park), really wore down the Dulwich spirit.
It wouldn’t be long before Dalton would capitalize on this flagging energy. In the 6th minute of play sophomore Anton Zaitsev controlled a ball into the top of the box. Running off of him junior Woohyun Kim picked up a pass as he cut to goal. From there it was just the keeper to beat and he placed it gently into the back of the net for the first goal of the tournament.
Moments later Ryan Park made a brilliant run overlapping junior Taeho Kim (as he had done many times this season). A strong cross to the edge of the 6 yard box would find a well positioned Anton Zaitsev who blasted it past the keeper to the near post.
For the rest of the half it was a possession game directed largely by junior Miguel Batanero and Woohyun Kim. Both players played stunning games in the middle of the pitch and the opposing coaches would speak of them with incredibly high praise following the game. After lulling the defense to sleep with a number of well placed passes, Minsuh Lee would find junior captain Phillip Yoon with a through ball which would be placed passed the keeper for the third goal of the match. “Minsuh played an excellent match in this one, coming off the bench and playing some really inspired minutes” said coach Musselman following the game, “I’m really looking forward to seeing how he can develop for next year.”
After halftime Minsuh Lee would stay on the pitch and net a beauty off a great junior Taeho Kim pass that found him in stride breaking toward goal. Taeho, feeling under the weather, still played valiantly in the tournament using his speed and confidence on the ball to constantly put pressure on the opposition.
The game well in hand, coach Musselman got the opportunity to play all members of the team in the second half. Sophomore Minjae Jo would net his first goal of the season along with junior Hongjun Lee. Freshman Junha Mun would net his third of his rookie campaign as well.
The game would finish 7-0 and Dalton would chalk up their record tying 5th shutout of the season. Goalkeeper Danny Lee didn’t even register a shot on goal, but he fielded his position and distributed the ball incredibly well throughout the match. With the first game out of the way, the boys prepared for the last test of the season against ICSP, the only team in the division who had beaten Dalton for a half of play (the first half of their first matchup would see Dalton down 1-0 at halftime).
Geared up and ready the boys took the field and didn’t waste any time getting to the net. Miguel Batanero threaded the needle with a pass to a streaking Anton Zaitsev through the middle toward goal. The ball laid out just far enough for Anton to beat the keeper to the ball, touch it around him and finish it for the first goal. Total time elapsed: 1.5 minutes.
Three minutes later with Dalton threatening again, Taeho would launch a throw in into the box. Anton shielded a player from it and the ball would end up on the bounce to junior Takjun Oh who volleyed the ball off the post and in for the second goal. “I wish I could say that the game was ever in doubt” said coach Talbot, “but we were a force to reckon with today, two great team wins.”
Phillip Yoon, playing through a foot injury, would continue to press and make plays up top. “It is a position that he hasn’t played for me since 8th grade,” said coach Musselman. “I have to say, he is a real team player for being put in that position. He learned on the fly, and really excelled as the game processed. That’s the type of player he is, he means so much to this team.” On a run down the edge toward goal, the only way to stop Phillip is to tackle him. Unfortunately for ICSP they did just that in their own box resulting in a PK. With Phillip dealing with the foot injury, Woohyun Kim stepped up and drilled the penalty passed Ko for the third goal of the game.
From there the game got a little chippy. ICSP would receive their first of two red cards in this game and go down to an exhausted and demoralized 10 players. Although very upset with the infraction, Dalton maintained their cool and did not stoop to the level of their opponents. “Coach Musselman and I were really proud of the boys and how they responded. Quite easily can get out of hand, but our boys let their play do the talking… and it was loud today” said coach Talbot following the game.
Anton Zaitsev would net two more goals in the second half bringing his total for the tournament to 4. He would also finish the day with two assists making him one of Dalton’s most potent and dangerous attacking players.
After an uneventful second half that finished with all Dalton seniors on the field the goal was attained. Another Championship would be brought home to Dalton.
Joseph Park, a stalwart of the Dalton defence that didn’t give up a single shot on goal all tournament, was unanimously selected as the Defensive Player of the White Division Tournament by the coaches. While Joseph played brilliantly, it must be noted that it really was a team effort. Ryan Park was incredibly aggressive, winning acrobatic 50/50 challenges in the air, and constantly thwarting efforts down the right wing. Jeonggon Kim and Changwhi Park both shut down defenders and did well to maintain possession along the backline. Bushin Kim also played valuable minutes, using his speed to track down and stop any threatening attack. And finally, Hongjun Park. Hongjun could easily have walked away with this award as well as he was an absolute beast in the middle of the pitch. “I was very impressed with Hongjun today, he didn’t let anything bounce and won every ball that came his way. Honestly, our defence would not be quite the same without him. It is just a shame that this award can’t be given out to everyone who played along that backline,” said coach Musselman.
All of the coaches agreed that the MVP of the tournament needed to come from the Dalton squad, but they had trouble selecting just one. Miguel Batanero, Phillip Yoon and Woohyun Kim all played superb games in the tournament and were well deserving. Anton Zaitsev could easily have been thrown into the conversation with his offensive powerhouse capabilities. However, the coaches, after much discussion, decided that it was Woohyun Kim who had earned the honors. In a modest tone, Woohyun had this to say following his reception of the award: “I think the MVP is for the team. We all played for each other this season!”
The 4 seniors who will leave the team next year will be surely missed. It was an incredibly ride. Coach Musselman said that he was “proud of the players, not just for their game, but of the men they have become over the last few years I have coached them. They are a great group of guys, and will really be missed next year.”
With the tournament format changing next year, there will be more competition than ever before. Will Dalton be able to handle it? Can they continue this 23 game win streak and bring home another championship? Time will tell. For now, they are champions once again, and they are simply basking in the glory before they set their sights on next year. Great season boys!
SELECTED TO THE ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM 2018:
SELECTED TO THE ALL CONFERENCE TEAM: