Santa Barbara Soccer Club U18 boys finish job, win national title

The Santa Barbara Soccer Club's Under-18 boys team celebrates winning the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship.

The Santa Barbara Soccer Club’s Under-18 boys team celebrates winning the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship.

The Santa Barbara Soccer Club’s Under-18 boys captured the U.S.Youth Soccer National Championship on Sunday, blanking Lehigh Valley United, Pa., 3-0, in the title match in Germantown, Md.

It’s the first national title for this group of players who, at the beginning of the season, were told by coach Rudy Ybarra that they had the potential to win it all.

“I told them at the beginning of the season at the first practice, ‘I expect you to be the National Champion,’” Coach Rudy Ybarra told U.S. Youth Soccer. “They all looked at me, and I said, ‘Guys, we can do it. We’re just as good as anybody in the country. We just have to get better at certain things.’”

Santa Barbara jump on Lehigh Valley early in the match, earning a penalty kick in the seventh minute. The speedy Abu Danladi was upended by the goalkeeper as he ran onto a beautiful long ball from Geoffrey Acheampong in the box. Acheampong stepped up and converted the PK for a 1-0 lead.

The one-goal stood up through the first half behind the play of Santa Barbara’s defense and the goalkeeping of Robert Soto.

Soto stopped a point-blank shot by LVU’s Colby Thomas and made a diving save on a shot by Gabriel Tagliamonte.

“The goalkeeper has his responsibilities, just like any other player on the field,” Ybarra said. “I think Robert was right on today. He was a player you could call the man of the match. He kept us in the game. He played fantastic and did his job.”

In the second half, SBSC struck for its second goal in the 57th minute. Pepe Barron delivered a cross to Miguel Padron, who hit a one-time shot past the goalkeeper.

Danladi, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, scored the third goal, forcing a turnover and beating two defenders and the goalkeeper. The UCLA-bound Danladi, who had been nursing an injury, was making his tournament debut.

Santa Barbara lost to Lehigh Valley United in group play.

This marks the third straight year the Santa Barbara Soccer Club has won a national title. The previous titles were at the boys U14 and U15 divisions. That team lost in the U16 semifinals on Saturday.

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