Dapaa’s Hat Trick fuels U16B OP Eagles past Santa Barbara
There is a reason why only four teams have ever won three straight US Youth Soccer National Championships, and two-time defending Santa Barbara SC (CA-S) found that out today after a 3-1 loss to OP Eagles Green (OH-S) in the semifinals of the Under-16 Boys age group at the US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by the National Guard.
“It is unbelievable to come in after losing the first game and now to be going to the finals of the National Championship,” OP Eagles head coach Mike Lawrence said. “We knew if we came to play we would have a good shot. We got an early goal and that really helped our confidence.”
It took a spectacular performance by OP Eagles’ Emmanuel Dapaa, who netted his second hat trick of the tournament to take down the two-time champs. Dapaa, who has scored seven goals in three games after missing the first match of the tournament due to receiving to yellow cards in the Region II Championship final, started things off early when he was taken down outside of the box in the fifth minute. Dapaa then bent his free kick over the Santa Barbara wall and into the near post for his first goal of the game.
“It is just about having confidence in my team, and since I couldn’t play in the first game I had to put all of that confidence into them,” Dapaa said. “We give Santa Barbara a lot of respect. Winning two straight championships is pretty hard to do, but now we are going to the National Championship final in our first year.”
Dapaa was at it again right before half as the striker got deep down the left flank before chipping the keeper towards the far post as it softly landed in the back of the net. Santa Barbara was not going to go away easy, and in the 53rd minute it was Chairat Puengrod, who made it 2-1 after a teammate’s shot was saved by the OP Eagles keeper and Puengrod was there to score off the rebound.
“This team is in its fifth year and to already be heading to the national final, I can’t even explain it,” Lawrence said. “I knew we were capable, and you need everything at this tournament whether it is great players, playing well or a little luck, and I think we made our own luck.”
Santa Barbara created a couple more chances, but it was Dapaa yet again, who sealed the deal in the 60th minute after breaking through the Santa Barbara defense, juking the keeper and finishing in the back of the net.
“I am a little biased, but he is the best player in the country for his age group. There is not another player out there who can dominate like he can,” Lawrence said. “We can play a better team and we always have a good shot because we know we have the best player on the field. He is going to make a college or professional coach very happy someday. “
In the one game Dapaa didn’t play in, OP Eagles lost 4-1 to Baltimore Celtic 97/98 (MD). OP Eagles will get their shot at revenge with Dapaa in the lineup in the finals of the National Championships tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. against hometown Baltimore Celtic.