National semifinal match-ups set for SBSC U16s, U18s

The semifinal-bound Santa Barbara Soccer Club’s U18 and U16 boys soccer teams split their final group-play matches Thursday at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Germantown, Md.

The U16s, seeking their third straight national title, finished 3-0 in Group A after a 1-0 win over Dix Hills Elite of New York. Tanner Mees scored the game-winning goal in the 75th minute off an assist from Francisco “Paquito” Arroyo. Santa Barbara defeated Dix Hills in last year’s final.

“The coaching staff decided to rest a few players who played a lot of minutes in the first two matches and were nursing minor injuries. The depth of the team showed as the players who stepped in played fantastic,” said assistant coach Jesus Landeros.

Santa Barbara fell to Lehigh Valley, Pa., 2-1, in a battle of unbeaten teams in Group A of the U18 division. Joseph Hernandez cashed in a rebound 10 minutes into the second half.

“The 18s rested some starters in the first half and the quality of Lehigh was reflected in a 2-0 lead at halftime,” said Landerso. “We made some changes and dominated the second half, creating multiple opportunities from the whistle of the second half.

“We maintained control in the second half, however, multiple balls went wide and over the frame.”

After a day off on Friday, the teams will play their semifinal matches on Saturday. In the U16 division, Santa Barbara plays Group B runner-up OP Eagles Green of Ohio, while Group B winner Baltimore Celtic 97-98 faces Dix Hills Elite.

The U18 semifinal pairings are SBSC against Group B winner and fellow Southern California team West Coast FC of Orange County, and Lehigh Valley versus Group B runner-up Santa Clara Sporting of Northern California.

The national title matches are on Sunday.