The Fullerton Rangers made their presence known at the 2011 US Youth Soccer National Championships with an impressive performance of 10 goals scored and none allowed in four games, en route to the National Championship in the Under-14 Boys group. The Rangers are back this year after winning the 2012 US Youth Soccer Region IV Championship.
"It’s exciting and nerve racking at the same time," head coach Jimmy Obleda said. "It’s exciting because if you win, you are the best in the country in the longest running National Championship in youth soccer. It’s also nerve racking because you are playing for the National Championship and you want to do well."
The Rangers will look to defend their title this year against an extremely competitive Under-15 Boys group that features the Rangers’ 2011 national finals opponent, Chicago Magic. While the Rangers won two of their three preliminary matches in last year’s National Championships by a score of 4-0, Obleda isn’t expecting such one-sided matches this time around.
"Absolutely by no means do we expect more 4-0 victories. Every team is different, and we approach every game as if they are the greatest team in US Youth Soccer," Obleda said. "If it happens, then great. If not, we are preparing ourselves to grind through and do everything we can to get the results we want."
Another thing that caught the eyes of many last year at Nationals was the style that the Rangers displayed. Last year the whole team featured spiked hair and purple cleats. Only time will tell what the Rangers have in store for this year.
"It isn’t something they plan. It is who they are. I try to keep things under control and as professional as possible, but you have to let kids be kids," Obleda said. "They will pull things out of their hats, and that’s what they feel they need to do."
The Rangers are one of only two teams in the Under-15 Boys field who has been to Nationals before. The other is the Chicago Magic, who qualified this year via winning the 2011-2012 US Youth Soccer National League Blue Division.
"The experience helps because it gives us the feeling of being there and knowing what to expect from this kind of environment," Obleda said. "It helps us calm ourselves down, knowing that we’ve been here already."
Among those leading the charge for the Fullerton Rangers will be Amirgy and Ronaldo Pineda. The two are cousins and together form a dynamic duo that creates plenty of problems for its opponents.
"They are two of the original players on the team who have been with the club since they were eight-years-old. They are winners," Obleda said. "Ronaldo is the heart and soul of the team because of how he conducts the middle of the field. Amirgy is very technically gifted, and is someone you want in those close games."
In the last ten years, only two teams have started off their National Championship careers with an Under-14 and Under-15 Championship. So Cal United Boys (CA-S) did it in 2005 and 2006, and Baltimore Casa Mia Bays Boys (MD) did it in 2007 and 2008. The Fullerton Rangers have a chance to join that exclusive list.
"We set a goal last year that we didn’t want to be just a normal team, we wanted to be different. To be a different team, you have to be consistent in the things you do," Obleda said. "I feel winning the National Championship will make this a different team. We continue to try to play a quality brand of soccer and try to do the right thing. Hopefully, God-willing, we will be lifting up that trophy and continuing to make history."