Youth Soccer News: Eastside FC 94 Red Win National League Title
Washington’s Eastside FC 94 Red
reached their second major goal of the youth soccer season this month in Las Vegas, Nevada. In late February the team had successfully defended their Washington State Cup
championship, and on March 24 they clinched the US Youth Soccer National League Red Division
| Eastside FC 94 Red Win National League Title
Eastside finished the season-long competition with a 6-1 record and a 17-1 goal differential, displaying consistent focus, determination and quality of play throughout. By winning their division, Eastside earned the right to compete in the US Youth Soccer National Championships in South Carolina this summer.
In 2011 Eastside had been within one match of winning their division, but dropped a 1-0 decision to Albion SC on the final day. This time, facing stiff competition that included six teams ranking in the top-20 nationally, the boys from Washington made no mistakes as they went undefeated through six matches. Their 5-0 victory over 94 HFC Red from North Carolina, the second win in two days, put them firmly on the top of the list. The only disappointment was a 1-0 loss to local team Downtown Rapids 95 on the final day of competition. A shutout victory would have made Eastside the only team in National League history to finish with a perfect record and no goals against.
Their appearance at the National Championships will be Eastside’s second trip in two years. While they were knocked out of the Division Championships by Albion, the team came back to win the Region IV title and earn their ticket. Unfortunately Eastside ended up on the wrong end of a four-way tie decision and missed reaching the championship game. This year they look to avenge that result. “It is quite an honor to return after our 3rd place finish last year with a chance to try again,” said Eastside head coach Dan Strom. “Very few players get the chance to play on that stage once, let alone two years running. I believe the boys will relish that opportunity!”
Six teams will compete at each age level during the July 23-29 National Championships. Four Regional winners, who will be determined in a series of June competitions, and the Red and Blue National League winners will face off for the right to be called the best in the nation. Already on the list with Eastside are Galaxy 94/95 Blue from Naperville, Illinois, who took the U17 Boys Blue Division title.
Coach Strom is justifiably proud of his team, and believes that the National League competition has helped to strengthen the club’s program. “The National League is a great opportunity for top level teams to play against phenomenal opponents,” Strom explained. “The teams we’ve played in the National League have all given us a challenge and been a great opportunity to develop as a team and as individual players, and also to show for college coaches. So we are really fortunate and lucky to be a part of this."
The National League series opened for Eastside at the December 2011 Collegiate Championships Junior and Soccer Showcases in Birmingham, Ala. The team handed division runner-up Raiders FC of Illinois their only loss as Jordan Morris (2) and Jordan Cohen scored in the 3-0 victory. (Morris, a junior in high school, finished number two in scoring behind Raiders FC's Alexis Monteon.) Eastside then defeated Everest SC Black from Ohio 5-0, with goals by Morris, Maxwell Harvey, Kody Clearman (2) and Jordan Thompson.
The final two matches of the competition were tight-fought affairs, with both matches ending in 1-0 scores. Eastside battled down to the wire against FC Frederick 94 from Maryland, with Morris finally netting a goal in the final minutes of the match. The boys from Washington then used an early goal by Thompson to finish off the showcase by beating Lake Grove United out of New York.
Eastside would have to wait until March to finish off their National League season at the March 2012 Player’s College Showcase in Las Vegas. Coach Strom’s team opened with a 2-0 win over Concorde Fire Elite of Georgia, thanks to scores by Cohen and Morris. Then Morris (2), Beau Blanchard (2) and Madison Heck contributed to the 5-0 victory over 94 HFC Red. The final match against third place Downtown Rapids 95 was a hard-fought battle with Saul Aguirre finally scoring for the Las Vegas boys in the 89th minute of the match. While the loss was disappointing, Eastside could hold their heads high with the overall results.
"I think the National League is about learning how to play in this league a little bit,” said Coach Strom. “I think if you come in one year it’s tough to win it because you don’t understand that every game requires you to play your best and be effective. This year we’re a much better defending group, a much more balanced team and we’ve learned how to win the close games."
Strom feels confident about his team’s repeat visit to the National Championships. "We won the regional title in Region IV and came up just shy of the national title game last year, and we were determined that we wanted to get back,” he said. “It’s a great group of players, great personality, character and they train consistently, so I’m a fortunate coach to be able to work with this level of players. Clearly every team wants to win a national title. We’re excited, very excited."
In addition to being a top competition, the National League also provides talented players with the opportunity to showcase their skills for college coaches. Both the Alabama and Las Vegas events had a number of coaches in attendance. “We’ve had a lot of response,” said Strom, “a lot of players receiving contacts and being recruited. We’ve had some players commit and it’s a great opportunity and we’re lucky to be a part of it. It’s an important part of what we do as a team."
So far three members of the team have committed to college programs, but with the bulk of the team graduating in 2013, Eastside FC 94 players look to be high on the list of college scouts at this summer’s tournaments. Joe Mancini, who plans to attend Seattle University in 2013, has been the team’s anchor in midfield. “His work ethic in winning the ball, vision on the ball and ability to hold the ball and maintain possession for his team are amazing,” said Strom.
Davis Karaica, who has committed to Seattle Pacific University, is the anchor at center back for the defense that conceded only one goal in National League play. “Davis has amazing physical presence,” Strom said, “and is an outstanding one-on-one defender who reads the game well and covers a lot of ground in covering teammates and putting out fires.”
Although he will not start college until 2013, Jordan Morris has already committed to Stanford University. An attacking midfielder who led the team with his seven goals in National League play, Morris has scored and assisted on key goals in his years with Eastside. “Jordan is a game changer,” said Strom, “with an amazing change of pace and technical ability. He would like to play professionally in the future after his collegiate career.”
“I could not be more proud of the boys and feel honored to have a stake in their development as people and soccer players,” Strom said of his team’s accomplishments in National League. “They represented their families, the team and Eastside FC well.”
Related Article: Jordan Morris Player Profile