In their first 10 games spanning across three US Youth Soccer National Championships (2011-2013), the Fullerton Rangers 96 White (CA-S) had yet to concede a goal en route to 10 straight wins and two straight National titles.
"Fullerton is one of the best teams in the country on the ball," Smithtown captain Steven Dovi said. "We felt their one weakness was through the air, so we tried to use that to our advantage."
This set up a clash at the top with the winner advancing to the finals. Smithtown needed a win while Fullerton needed a tie or win due to them owning the goal differential tie breaker.
Fullerton’s skill was on full display in the opening minutes, creating a couple of solid scoring chance within the first fifteen minutes.
"We knew they would come right at us. They are very good on the ball and turned us in the corner a couple times," Smithtown coach, Tom Lips said. "Our plan was to stay thick in the middle and keep applying pressure."
Fouls were a plenty in the first half of a game that saw six yellow cards given out. Smithtown was able to withstand the inevitable barrage from a Fullerton that was hungry for a shot to return from the finals. No chance was better for Fullerton than Amirgy Pineda’s 20-yard rocket that clashed off the crossbar and out of danger as the Smithtown bench let out a collective sigh of relief.
"When we got our schedule and saw Fullerton, we knew it was going to be the hardest of the three," Dovi said. "They beat us at the National Championships two years ago, and we have been waiting for two years to beat them."
Smithtown players rushed the field in celebration after the final whistle blew. While the team was certainly excited to beat the two-time defending champs, their job is still not done.
"I know it’s a cliché, but this team is really like a family, and we have great fans," Dovi said. "I’ve played for Smithtown my entire life, and to bring a national title back to Smithtown, it’s hard to describe."
Smithtown will battle National League Red Division Champion, GSA Phoenix 97 Red (GA) in the finals of the Under-16 Boys age group. The game will take place Sunday, July 28 at 9:30 a.m. on field four.