PHOENIX, Ariz., (June 22, 2012) – Of the 246 teams that began the tournament, the dreams of 64 remain alive in the 2012 US Youth Soccer Region IV Championships, presented by the National Guard, as the quarterfinal round was completed today. There was a heightened sense of intensity as games kicked off at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix, Ariz., as teams were competing for one of four spots in the semifinals.
The National Guard's partnership with US Youth Soccer is focused on enriching the soccer experience by positively influencing players and coaches in areas of leadership and character development while adding a strong presence of American pride.
Under-17 Boys Albion White won their second consecutive Cal-South state title and are looking to return to the National Championships for the third straight season after falling in the final game in heartbreaking fashion the last two years. Qualifying as National League champs in 2010 and 2011, Albion will have to claim the regional title to make the trip to South Carolina this year as they finished in a first place tie in National League play, losing out on the automatic spot via tiebreakers. Albion is back in the semifinals for the first time since 2009, where there were defeated by the eventual national champion.
"You’ve got everybody’s state champion or Far West Regional League champion, and that obviously brings a winning mentality here. It brings in teams that have successful formulas," said Albion SC Director of Coaching, Noah Gins. "We’ve played in the National League and been to the national championship twice, and I think that has been the biggest component of preparing us for this level. We’re here to get to the national championship, we’re not here to win a regional title and stand there. We’re playing for a national title and in order to get that we have to win this event. It’s very clear about what we want here."
Eastside FC 95 Red (WA) Under-16 Girls are shooting for a regional championship after finishing third in the National League. The Washington state champs have yet to concede a goal after advancing to the semifinals and are hoping to take advantage after bowing out in the quarterfinals in 2011. The only blemish on Eastside’s record was a 0-0 draw with Cal-South state champs FRAM Premier, who are still alive in the other semifinal.
"We’ve made it to the semifinals and hopefully we’re not done yet," said Eastside FC Head Coach, Tom Bialek. "The competition here is fantastic. Every team that you play is a state champion and you know going in that you’re going to have your hands full. We’ve done National League and Far West Regional League and those kinds of experiences have really helped us because when you get to this level every team is very good, and you know it’s going to be a challenge."
A few highlights from today's matches...
Knocking off 2011 quarterfinalist New Mexico Rush Nike 95 4-1 today, Albion White (CA-S) advances to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2009, although they've been national finalists each of the past two years. Patrick Barba set the tone with an 8th minute header before Tony Kirouac made it a two goal lead 20 minutes in. Rush pulled back into the game in the second half with a Luke Lawrence goal in the 49th, but Matias Rodriguez grabbed the goal back for Albion in the 73rd and Kirouac sealed the game with his second goal in the 83rd.
Mt. Hamilton PAC Tigres (CA-N) have advanced to the Region IV final the past two years, winning the title in 2010, and are in the semifinals this season after a 2-0 victory over rival Santa Clara Sporting 94 (CA-N). The game was scoreless until the 70th minute when Lorenzo Vazquez put Tigres in the lead. With time running down, Salem Lee grabbed a second to send Tigres onto the next round with a two goal victory.
After failing to advance from their group in 2011, Sereno 95 White (AZ) knocked off the defending champion, Eastside FC 94 Red (WA), 1-0 to move onto the semifinals. Neither team could break through until the 73rd minute when Luis Manta scored the game winner. Although Eastside was eliminated, they have already booked a trip to South Carolina as National League champs.
Another familiar face in the U-17 Boys semis is Boise Nationals Premier (ID), who lost in the 2010 final to PAC Tigres before a disappointing campaign last year. Nationals fought off Las Vegas Sports Academy 95 Red (NV) 2-1 to return to the final four. Oregon State commit Jacob Szuch scored both goals for Nationals, taking the lead in the 21st and then scoring the game winner in the 84th after Blake Frischknecht leveled for LVSA in the 71st.
2010 national champion MVLA Lightning (CA-N) defeated SC del Sol 96 ECNL (AZ) 2-0 in the Under-16 Girls to advance in their quest to return to the national stage. Youth National Team member Sarah Robinson notched both goals in the second half, the first in the 45th and the second in the 75th, to lead MVLA.
After being knocked out of the quarterfinals last year, Eastside FC 95 Red (WA) is heading to the semifinals following a 1-0 victory over Oregon Rush 95. Abigail Morrow scored the lone goal of the game in the 55th minute to send Eastside through and the defense held on for their fourth straight shutout.
A grudge match between FRAM Premier (CA-S) and Pride Predators 96 (CO) looked like it was headed to overtime as neither team could break down the other, but a FRAM goal from Jordyn Alves three minutes before the final whistle gave them the edge and a seat in the semifinals.
Beach FC (CA-S) had thoughts of advancing to avenge their 2011 semifinal loss, but Sereno 96 White North (AZ) had other ideas as the two clashed in a defensive stalemate. After a scoreless regulation and two scoreless overtime periods, Sereno got the edge from the spot as they defeated Beach 5-3 in penalty kicks.