The last couple of games at the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championship, presented by the National Guard, have been a blast from the past for Under-16 Boys Santa Barbara SC (CA-S). The two time defending national champs have taken on both of their opponents from their two previous National Championships finals matches in the last three days.
On day one Santa Barbara defeated their 2012 finals opponent, Sunrise Elite 97/98 Elite (FL) 2-0 and today took down their 2013 finals opponent, Dix Hills Elite (E-NY) 1-0.
Santa Barbara was already through to the semifinals by virtue of winning their first two games, and Dix Hills will join them in the semifinals after placing second in Group A.
“We came here to Germantown knowing were going to play two teams from the national finals, Sunrise is a good team, Dix Hills is a well-coached and well organized team,” Santa Barbara head coach, Rudy Ybarra said. “I think we settled in and controlled the tempo of the game and made them play more defense than they are accustomed to. When you do that it pays dividends and you are able to create some quality chances.”
2012 Golden Ball Award winner Brandon Sanchez combined with Sahid Conteh to create some dangerous scoring opportunities for Santa Barbara, but Dix Hills keeper, Joseph Tristano, was up to the task. Santa Barbara’s goal came in the 75th minute when Francisco Arroyo broke through on the left side and fired a shot that was initially blocked by Tristano, who blocked another shot immediately after before being beat by Santa Barbara’s Tanner Mees on the third attempt for the only goal of the match.
“Santa Barbara is a very good team and is very dangerous. I think the first half was pretty even, but in the second half we conceded too much possession,” Dix Hills head coach Domenico Casciato said. “We had to defend for long periods of time and when you give up so many opportunities eventually they are going to come knocking and we gave up a goal late. Obviously we are disappointed with the result but it is fantastic to reach the semifinals in such a difficult group.”
Ybarra mentioned on day one that he told his team it didn’t mattered how they got to Saturday, as long as they did get to Saturday and have the opportunity to play for a third straight national title, but he admitted it doesn’t hurt to go in after a 3-0 record.
“We knew going in that we were already through and that they had to win or tie to guarantee a spot, so we were just going to do what we had to,” Ybarra said. “We were hoping to win the group and take first place and were able to achieve it.”
Both teams will have a day off on Friday before playing their respective semifinal matches on Saturday, June 26. Santa Barbara will take on US Youth Soccer National League Blue Division Champion, OP Eagles Green (OH-S) while Dix Hills will take on Region I Champion, Baltimore Celtic (MD).
“The Maryland SoccerPlex has been a great host and has a fantastic complex. As a native of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara doesn’t really have any facilities that cater to the youth very well,” Ybarra said. “When it comes to possible winning a third straight title, all I want to say is we have four more halves to do something that will echo louder in our personal eternity.”