SBSC U18s roar into national final; U16s’ quest for 3rd straight title ends

The Santa Barbara Soccer Club experienced the highs and lows of the semifinals at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships on Saturday in Germantown, Pa.

On the high side, the club’s 18-under boys team rolled to a 4-0 victory over West Cost FC of Orange County to reach the national finals for the first time.

Santa Barbara will play Lehigh Valley, Pa. in Sunday’s championship match.

The downer for the local club on Saturday was the U16 boys falling against OP Eagles Green of Ohio, 3-1, ending Santa Barbara’s quest to win a third straight national title.

OP Eagles got a hat trick from Emmanuel Dapaa and jumped on Santa Barbara early. Dappa was taken down just outside of the penalty area in the fifth minute and scored on the resulting free kick. He bent the ball over the Santa Barbara wall and just inside the near post.

Dapaa showed creativity on his second goal, taking the ball deep down the left flank before chipping the goalkeeper and dropping the ball in the back of the net.

Santa Barbara got back in the game on a goal by Chairat Puengrod in the 53rd minute. Puengrod scored on a rebound off the goalkeeper.

Santa Barbara created a couple more chances, but Dapaa finished off the defending champions with his third goal in the 60th minute. He broke through the defense, juked the keeper and finished his shot. It was his seventh goal in three games.

The SBSC U18s got a pair of first-half goals from Joseph Hernandez to send them on their way against West Coast FC, the defending national champions.

Hernandez scored in the 13th minute, finishing a low cross to the far post for a 1-0 lead. He score again in the 36th minute when he escaped the West Coast defense down the left side of the box before sliding his shot just past the diving keeper. It was his fifth goal in four games.

“Playing the defending National Champions, you definitely have a lot of respect for them, but we also had a lot of familiarity since we play we each other a lot in Cal South,” assistant coach Junior Ybarra told U.S. Youth Soccer. Junior Ybarra helped fill in as head coach for his father, Rudy Ybarra, who was coaching his Under-16 Boys team at the same time. “We had a lot of confidence heading in and our boys came out flying.”

Miguel Padron stepped up and added goals in the 57th and 67th minutes, ending the hopes of a comeback by West Coast. Padron heads to the finals as the second leading scorer in the group with four goals.

“This is something we have wanted for the longest time, and we have tried and tried to get here and now we finally are,” Santa Barbara captain and UCSB commit Geoffrey Acheampong told U.S. Youth Soccer. “Coach Rudy knows that we love to play around off the field, but has done a great job at making sure we play our best on the field. “Personally, this is the best team I have ever played on, and we came into the game with the mentality that any game you play could be your last and that we didn’t want to have any regrets when we walked off that field.”

In the other semifinal, Lehigh Valley defeated Santa Clara Sporting of Northern California, 2-1.
The final is at 6 a.m. PDT.

All finals matches will be streamed, and can be seen here