Tulsa, Oklahoma – On Tuesday morning 96 soccer clubs descended on the Mohawk Sports Complex in Tulsa for the US Youth Soccer National Championships full of hope that by week’s end their team would boast the title of national champions.
The cliches we so often hear about American youth soccer were disproved many times throughout the week and now we move on to the weekend, where the best of the best will face off with titles on the line.
Good passing, possession based soccer was the order of the day most days, all the way down to the U13 level, flying in the face of the perception that long ball soccer is the American way.
On day one of the tournament boys U14 club San Diego SC Academy defeated Virginia’s McLean 2-0. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but there was plenty of good soccer played by both sides. McLean coach Jamil Walker, a former DC United player, continually urged his players to work the ball, pass it, even as they trailed in the game.
His counterpart on the San Diego bench, Brian Quinn did the same, and it was truly encouraging to see young players relying on good habits that they will fall back on as they climb the soccer ladder.
McLean did not advance to the knockout rounds, a bitter pill to be sure, but like all the other eliminated teams they will grow from the experience. For San Diego, however the adventure continues. In just its first trip to the US Youth Soccer NCS Finals San Diego advanced to the final four where they go up against Houstonians 2001 on Saturday at 10:00 am.
Houstonians made it this far after a thrilling, or heartbreaking, penalty kick victory over Baltimore Celtic on Thursday.
Bastidas spoke of the emotions of his youngsters, telling GotSoccer, “to be honest, I don’t think we kept our cool.” “For a while there,” the coach said, “I think we were only playing on emotion.”
Bastidas hopes that his team learned a lesson. “I wish we would have kept our cool a little bit more, we were just running on adrenaline.”
Asked about the seeming discontent between the coaching staffs, Bastidas didn’t flinch. “What’s beautiful about soccer is that it’s a very passionate game and everybody is working as hard as they can to win the game, including,” Bastidas noted, “the coaches.”
But for Bastidas any enmity developed between the lines is forgotten soon after the final whistle blows. “After the game we almost give each other high fives,” the Houston coach told GotSoccer. “You almost build a bond, or a friendship based on that rivalry.”
More importantly, Bastidas spoke about what playing at the US Youth Soccer NCS means to his kids. “It means the world,” Bastidas said. “For a kid like ours – these kids are only here because they have a bunch of adults that are supporting them.”
“These kids otherwise wouldn’t see anything like this. All they know is soccer,” Bastidas added, “but without a lot of support they’d only be playing soccer in the streets.”
After a much needed day off on Friday, the tournament’s first National Champions will be crowned on Saturday in the boys and girls U13 and U19 Age groups.
The U13 Boys Final will get started at 5:30 pm on Field 5, then 30 minutes later the girls take to the Field 6 pitch to determine the U13 girls champion.
Baltimore Celtic Darby (Md.) defeated EC Real Galaxy (Ca.-S) 3-0 on Thursday, a bit of a surprise given the high quality displayed by both teams in their first two games. Tomorrow we’ll see if Celtic can do it a second time or if Galaxy kept something in reserve for the final.
The girls final is an equally intriguing matchup featuring two teams that advanced from group play without conceding a goal. So Cal Baker Blues (Ca.-S) would seem to be the more dynamic team, having scored 10 goals while pitching that opening round shutout, while PSG Gators (Mi) notched only four goals.
But the two teams played to a 0-0 draw in a group stage encounter, so Saturday’s final is is a true tossup.
The Girls U19 Final features FC Nova (ID) the first Idaho team ever to reach the US Youth Soccer Championship Game at any age group. Nova will meet Gretna Prima (NE) at 5:45 on Field 12.
The Boys U19 finalists will be battling to hoist the historic James P. McGuire Cup, awarded this year for the 80th time. St. Louis Scott Gallagher (MO) will be challenged for the coveted silverware by Massapequa Arsenal (NY-E) on Field 12 at 8:00 pm.
Age groups U14 – U18 will contest semifinals on Saturday in both the boys and girls competitions, with championship matches to follow on Sunday.