Heartbreak wouldn’t begin to describe Under-18 Boys team Albion USA’s (CA-S) quest to win the US Youth Soccer National Championship.
Albion’s first trip to the National Championships came in 2010 as Under-15s, when they lost an overtime battle against Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD) in the finals. Albion had beaten the Bays twice that year; once in the US Youth Soccer National League, and again days earlier in preliminary play at the National Championships. A year later Albion returned to the National Championship finals in the Under-16 age group, only to lose in dramatic fashion again when Albion tied Concorde Fire Elite (GA) in the 70th minute, but Concorde took the lead three minutes later, and ultimately the title. Again, Albion had beaten Concorde just a few days before during group play.
"It’s gotten to the point where just getting to the National Championships isn’t enough," said Albion head coach, Noah Gins. "We want to win it all, and we won’t be satisfied with anything less."
Those two national finals appearances are sandwiched between Under-14 and Under-17 Region IV Championships semifinal losses in penalty kicks. To top things off, Albion missed out on a Nationals bid via the US Youth Soccer National League to the eventual Under-17 Boys National Champions Galaxy 94/95 Blue (IL) off a goal differential tie breaker.
Albion qualified for their third trip to the National Championships through the 2013 US Youth Soccer Region IV Championships.
"At times it has been disappointing considering this team has had the potential to go to five National Championships. I don’t think I will ever coach another team that can say that," said Gins.
This year marks the first time Albion has advanced to nationals through the Region IV Championships, with their first two qualifications coming from their performance in the National League. Albion placed first in the group, and defeated Abunai 95 (HI) in the quarterfinals and Inter FC 95 Premier (UT) in the semifinals. In the finals, Albion took care of Boise Nationals Premier (ID) 2-1, to punch their ticket to the National Championships.
"This run has taken a lot of perseverance and consistency," said Gins. "We are very focused and motivated heading into nationals."
With the players heading off to their respective colleges in the fall, Gins labeled this year the team’s last hurrah considering there is no guarantee of the teaming reforming for a run at the Under-19 level.
"With these guys going to college you really don’t know," said Gins. "We will be motivated to get a team together next year, but for now we are treating this as our last dance."
With the field expanding from six to eight teams, the odds are even smaller that Albion will be able to claim the National Championship that has eluded them for four years, but a couple more teams aren’t going to faze them.
"We’ve been here before, and we know it’s not going to be easy. Every team here has done something right, and they all have the same goal," Gins said. "If we are able to win it, I’m not quite sure what will happen, but there will be a ton of emotion."