Top-ranked Sunrise Elite of Florida handed the Santa Barbara Soccer Club its first loss at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Rock Hill, S.C. on Friday morning.
In a battle of unbeaten teams, Sunrise scored the winning goal in the 53rd minute to hand Santa Barbara a 2-1 defeat in the final round-robin game in the Boys U-14 Division. The victory gave Sunrise first place in the group with a 3-0-0 record. Santa Barbara finished at 2-1-0.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday night in the national championship game.
Santa Barbara stunned the top-rated U-14 boys team by Top Drawer Soccer with a goal in the first five minutes of the match. Brandon Sanchez scored on a right-footed blast from 35 yards for his third goal of the tournament.
Santa Barbara held the lead until the final moments of the first half. That’s when an assistant referee whistled a handball violation against Santa Barbara in the box. John Skahan scored on the resulting penalty kick for Sunrise to even the score. To make matters worse for Santa Barbara, defender Juan Pablo Alvarez was shown a red card, leaving the team a man down for the remainder of the match.
Santa Barbara did a good job of defending under heavy pressure from Sunrise. The Florida team was able to take the lead off a corner kick. Nikolas Gomez scored the go-ahead goal in the 53rd minute.
Sunrise outshot Santa Barbara 8-2 and had a 7-2 advantage in corner kicks. Goalkeeper Eduardo Gomez played an outstanding match, making six saves for the Far West champions.