'03 Boys, '03 Girls Competed in National Championships
Coach Shannon Colton’s ’03 Boys were national semi-finalists in the US Youth Soccer National Championships in West Virginia, while Coach Mike Kirmse’s ’03 Girls didn’t lose a game at US Club Soccer’s National Cup in Colorado.
Both teams represented SDA in national matches. In addition, player Caden Stafford of Cincinnatus, received the Golden Ball Award, which goes to the best player in each age level. Here’s a look at how things went for each team:
“Most kids never get this chance,” Colton said of the experience at US Youth Soccer’s National Championships. The event began with a luncheon, in which the players from all 104 teams dressed up in jackets and ties. A video presentation showed pictures from regional games. Then staff wearing white gloves carried out the trophies. Competition began the next morning,
Colton explained the team’s first game was against their arch rival, Baltimore Celtic. In eight games, SDA has won five, including a 1-0 victory in West Virginia. They faced FC Dallas, an MLS Academy team, on the second day. The game started well, with SDA scoring twice within the first 25 minutes. But Dallas tied it up at the half, and then scored four more in the second half.
“It was just one of those games where, when you play a very good team and they get hot, they get rolling, you can’t stop them,” Colton explained. His team is more used to be the team that gets hot and can’t be stopped.
In the huddle after the game, he asked the boys when was the last time they gave up six goals? Never. “This never happened to us before,” he told them, “so we’re going to pretend this game never happened.” He gave them 20 minutes, while they stretched as a team, to purge the game from their minds.
Day Three they were to play a team from St. Louis, and Colton expected it would be a tough game. “They play a formation that just no one plays, 3-6-1. They kind of play a box in the midfield. My assistant coach and I sat in a room for 2 1/2 hours to come up with a game plan to defend it.”
The plan worked. SDA dominated the game and earned a 3-1 victory. St. Louis scored with just a minute left in extra time.
The game was nearly over when an SDA defender noticed the goalkeeper’s water bottle and picked it up for a sip. That’s when the goal went in. “It wasn’t funny at the time,” Colton admits, “but after the game we all laughed about it.”
Teams at nationals have a day off to rest before the semi-finals. Colton’s boys filled the time with a light practice, some mini-golf and a team meal, followed by film study at 8 p.m. Their semi-final game was against a the Las Vegas team that was defending its national championship from last season. “We felt that we matched up really well with them. Going into the game, we felt that we had a shot to beat them,” Colton said.
The score was 1-1 at the half. Then 10 minutes into the second half, the ref made a controversial call and Las Vegas was awarded a penalty kick when SDA had possession in their box. SDA evened things up for a tie at the end of regulation play. No one scored in two 15-minute overtime periods, so the final score was decided through penalty kicks. Las Vegas would go on to win the championship again.
“It was an amazing honor for the boys to even get to Nationals, where you’re competing against teams that have 300 to 400 kids try out for their teams,” Colton said. “I have nothing but fantastic memories. It was crushing because we played well enough to win.”
The ’03 boys will be playing in the National League for the 2019-2020 season, having qualified three ways by winning Regionals, making it to National semi-finals, and by winning the EDP League.
“They were elated. It was awesome,” Assistant Coach Jason Haight said of the 15 ’03 Girls players who traveled to Commerce City, Colorado for US Club Nationals. The team earned its way to the competition by winning the Regional National Cup in late June/early July in Somerset, NJ.
“To qualify, we had to beat a really strong PDA team,” Haight explained. “We tied them in the first game, and then we beat them in championship game 2-1.” In Colorado, their first game was against a California team. The temperature was 100 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff. SDA dominated but wound up with a 2-2 tie. Because of the heat, teams were allowed unlimited substitutions during the national games.
They played Real Arkansas the next day, in comparatively cooler 85- to 90-degree temperatures. They wound up with another 2-2 tie.Real Colorado was their final opponent. “It was an exciting game,” Haight recalls. “It was really good soccer for the first 70 minutes. Then it was just all-out everyone trying to score. By the end, I don’t think we had a defensive player on the field.”
He said the experience made for strong team bonding. Players got to visit the Red Rock Canyon, Denver, Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Garden of the Gods. “It was amazing to see how much they bonded,” he said. “They needed it.”
The team is young. Many of the players have not played together prior to this year. So, Haight believes the trip to Colorado was valuable. They did not advance, but they also didn’t lose a game. “We ended on a very, very positive note.”