The Santa Barbara Soccer Club’s Under-14 White boys clinched a berth in the national title match with a 3-0 win over the Bethesda Lions of Maryland on Thursday at the U.S Youth Soccer Championships in Rock Hill, S.C.
Santa Barbara is 2-0-0 and assured itself no worse than second place in the four-team round-robin tournament. The Region 4 champions play their final preliminary match against top-ranked Sunrise Elite of Florida on Friday. Sunrise Elite also qualified for the final with a 5-1 win over Vardar of Michigan.
“Win, lose or tie, we play Sunrise again on Saturday night for the national championship,” Santa Barbara coach Rudy Ybarra said.
Santa Barbara took it to Bethesda right from the opening kickoff.
“The team played solid again and created good chances to score throughout the whole game,” Ybarra said. “We had good ball movement and very good defending as a unit.”
Santa Barbara got on the scoreboard in the fifth minute with Brandon Sanchez netting the goal off a cross to the far post by Giovanny Acosta.
Sanchez was involved in the second goal as well. He beat his defender on the right wing and crossed a quality ball to the near post where Francisco Arroyo was making a run. Arroyo timed his run perfectly and scored on a header off the post.
“The second goal was of top quality from a good build up through the midfield,” Ybarra said. “It was a great goal.”
Santa Barbara’s third goal came in the second half on a counterattack. Sanchez started the sequence, playing a through ball to Tanner Mees, who beat his defender and shot the ball off the post. Tony Andoyan pounced on the rebound and scored the goal.
Santa Barbara controlled the tempo and possession for the rest of the match to conserve energy for Friday’s showdown against the No. 1-rated U-14 team in the country by Top Drawer Soccer.
Ybarra is impressed with quality of his team’s play.
“The team is playing great soccer for being U-14 team,” he said. “Their knowledge and decision making on and off the ball is very good at this moment.”
Here is a link for video of first-day highlights from the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.