Rieger helps soccer team win Gothia Cup

Sara Rieger controls the ball during a game at the Gothia Cup in Sweden.

Sara Rieger controls the ball during a game at the Gothia Cup in Sweden.

Rob Rieger / Contributed photo

Dominant, commanding, supreme ... none of those words do justice to the performance that Sara Rieger and her teammates gave in Sweden.

Rieger, a Ridgefield resident, was part of the Fairfield-based NCE (National Center of Excellence) squad that scorched the competition in winning the girls 13-under division at the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg. The event is the largest youth soccer tournament in the world, with 1,686 teams from 75 countries taking part this year.

NCE won all seven of its games, scoring 59 goals and allowing only one.

“I don't think any of us expected to be as dominant as we were ...” Rieger said. “These were some of the best teams in the world coming together for this tournament.”

NCE’s superiority showed in its first game, a 12-0 victory over Swedish team Dalby GIF.

That final score was no fluke, as NCE then hammered RKV (Iceland), 14-0, and Arsta FF (Sweden), 9-0, to place first in Group 10 and advance to Playoff A, which included the top-two finishers from each of the 13 groups.

After receiving a bye in the first round of the playoffs, NCE beat a fellow American team, the CDA Slammers (Torrance, Calif.), by a score of 6-1. A 4-0 win over IK Zenith (Sweden) sent NCE to the semifinals, where it crushed another Swedish side, FC Rosengard, 7-0.

In the tournament championship match, NCE scored two goals in the first four minutes and went on to pummel SKF Canada, 7-0. The Canadians had won their first six matches by a combined total of 54-7.

“I feel the team was so dominant because we worked together and really focused tactically on the plays that we needed to execute,” Rieger said. “We also were dominant in our finishing, as we all had a very good attacking mindset during the games and used that high-intensity momentum to continue to win games.”

Playing as a center forward and left wing, Rieger scored five goals in the tournament.

“I had many opportunities to assist other goals and take part in set pieces for my teammates,” said Rieger, who will be an eighth grader at Wooster School in Danbury this fall.

Rieger was one of five Connecticut residents on the 18-player select team, which was chosen from NCE’s NY Metro program.

“I got involved with NCE in spring 2018, when recommended by the coaches in my CT Rush soccer club to take part for additional training opportunities,” Rieger said. “NCE has high standards for serious players and everyone in the program was of top level and could help me be a better player as well.”

After beating SKF Canada in the finals, Rieger and her teammates enjoyed the moment.

“There were lots of hugs, smiles, cheering, and celebrating,” she said. “We went back to the hotel and relaxed because we knew that we did the best we could and all that effort had paid off.”