UNDER-19 BOYS.All's well that ends well.
Solar's '90 team is one of the best boys team Dallas has produced in recent years, but until this year, it always came up short at the National Championships. In 2004, Solar won its first regional title. In 2005 and 2006, Solar reached the final only to lose to Arsenal FC. The Southern California club, the winner again in 2007, didn't enter a team in 2008.
With most of its players coming back from college, Solar got one last crack at a national title.
It wasn't until the 90th minute that the McGuire Cup was decided when Virginia-bound Hunter Jumper scored on a 35-yard free kick to give Solar the title with a 1-0 victory.
"I've heard a lot of people say, if you are going to win one, this was the big one to win," said Kevin Smith, Solar's director of coaching. "So maybe it was meant to be all along. I didn't think so at the time, but now I do. I'll be old and I'll be sitting on my rocking chair one day and I'll be looking at this [team autographed game ball] and remember this day."
Andromeda does rare double
UNDER-18 BOYS. Andromeda's title defense got off to a shaky start when it fell behind, 2-0, to Shattuck-St. Mary's — a Minnesota boarding school with an elite soccer program — before rallying to earn a 2-2 tie with two late goals.
After that, Andromeda cruised, winning 4-0 and 4-1 to earn a rematch with Shattuck-St. Mary's in the final, where it won, 3-0.
UNDER-17 BOYS. The Andromeda U-17s' final was a much more tense affair. They were holding on to a 1-0 lead over Ohio's Everest Soccer Club, mindful that they had conceded a stoppage-time goal to Everest that resulted in a 1-1 tie in group play. But a strong defensive effort allowed Andromeda to win and become just the third boys club to win two national championships in the same year.
FC Delco won two titles in 2001 and the Dallas Texans repeated that feat in 2005.
UNDER-16 BOYS. For the first time, U.S. Youth Soccer expanded the National Championships beyond the regional champions. The top two teams from its National League competition (boys and girls under-16 and under-15 teams) also earned invites to North Little Rock. (A U-17 competition will be added for the 2008-09 season.)
The Dallas Texans Red, the U-16 National League boys champions, used goals from Ray De Leon and Zachery Barnes, called in from U.S. U-17 residency, to beat Real So Cal Blue, 2-0, and win the U-16 title. Along with three girls championships, the boys title gave the Texans a record four championships in 2008 and a total of 10 championships — all achieved since 2003.
"This is a huge day for in the Texans organization, knowing that we are the only club that has won four national championships in a year," Hassan Nazari, the Dallas Texans' director of coaching. "That also makes it a very exciting day for everyone, including the players, coaches, parents, everyone with the Texans really. I cannot tell you how proud I am for them. I think winning four championships shows how consistent and how good the teams are. It's a tough task and again, I'm very proud of them all."
UNDER-15 BOYS. The Baltimore Casa Mia Bays, the defending champions in their age group and winners of the U-15 National League, were the only boys team to win all four games, completing their sweep with a 2-1 win over Solar Red, which finished second to the Bays in the National League.
The Bays also had defended their Region I championship, despite the fact that they qualified for nationals.
"We wanted to win regionals because we wanted to send a message," said Bays coach Steve Nichols. "We didn't just want to back in through the National League. We went in with the attitude of 'we feel like we're the best team in the country out to win regionals, and we did it with class."
The U-15s became the seconds Bays team to win back-to-back titles. The Bays won 2003 U-15 and 2004 U-16 titles.
"This is just the beginning for us," said Nichols. "It is only their second year here and they are two for two. We've got 16, 17, 18 and 19 left. They can go down in history for being one of the greatest teams ever in the country."
(The Bays, who also participate in the U.S. Development Academy — they won the 2008 U-17/18 age group — won't defend their National League title. They aren't entered in the 2008-09 competition.)
Ramos stresses enjoyment
UNDER-14 BOYS. In a 22-year playing career that began when he represented the USA as a 15-year-old at the 1983 Under-20 World Cup, Tab Ramos never won a national league or cup title. But in the first major test as a youth coach, Ramos guided the NJSA Gunners to the under-14 national championship.
Upon his retirement in 2002 from MLS's MetroStars, Ramos went into the sports facility business, opening a multi-purpose facility in Aberdeen, N.J. He got into youth coaching at the urging of Xabier Azkargorta, whom he had met while playing in Spain.
Ramos is the president of the New Jersey Soccer Academy, which he opened with former MetroStars teammate Rob Johnson in 2004. Ramos is the club's president.
The Gunners were U-12 regional runners-up before winning Region I titles in 2007 and 2008. Ramos reminded his players to enjoy their trip to the National Championships.
"I played in three World Cups and in the Olympic Games and I never got a chance to come to the National Championships," he said after the 1-0 win over Southern California power Arsenal FC in the final. "Here they are and this is their day. You may never come back to this day, so enjoy it."
The Gunners won on a late goal by Mael Corboz on a free kick for the first national championship for a New Jersey team since the Union Lancers' McGuire Cup title 20 years ago.
UNDER-19 GIRLS. The Force Football Club (Bloomfield, Mich.) met the Slammers Football Club (Newport, Calif.) in the title game for the second year in a row.
In 2007, the Force won in a shootout. This year it needed to come from behind to beat the Slammers, 2-1.
At the U-19 level, most players are already in college, but the competition's best player for the second year in a row was Laura Heyboer, who is just entering Michigan State. She had five goals in three group games, so the Slammers concentrated on shutting her down in the final.
The Force made a few adjustments that paid dividends with goals from Dani Haelewyn and Amanda Bowery.
"The character of these kids is unbelievable," said Force coach Andy Wagstaff said. "They have never backed down from a challenge. I can't say enough about them, they are an amazing bunch of girls."
UNDER-18 GIRLS. Danielle Foxhoven has always loved kicking a soccer ball around, whether it was as a 3-year-old playing 4-on-4 soccer or more recently playing soccer tennis with her younger brother, Zach, who starred at the recent U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week.
Foxhoven's scoring prowess led the Colorado Rush Nike to the U-18 girls title at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships, and she should continue to terrorize defenses when she enrolls at the University of Portland in the fall.
Foxhoven was the leading scorer at the National Championships with six goals, including two in the final to lead the Rush to a 3-0 win over Sting Dallas.
Foxhoven had a hat trick in the Rush's 4-4 tie with the Eclipse Select in group play and came within inches of recording a second hat trick against Sting Dallas in Sunday's final.
Third time is a charm
UNDER-17 GIRLS. Making their third straight appearance at the National Championships, the Dallas Texans Red's U-17s have improved each year. They finished third in 2006, second in 2007 and first in 2008. It wasn't easy, however. The Texans blew a 2-0 lead when Eclipse Select rallied with goals by Mary Kubiuk in the 75th and Ali Hall 10 minutes later.
Texan keeper Brittany Jaggers was the difference in the shootout, stopping four of the Eclipse's six shots.
UNDER-16 GIRLS. Like the Texans' U-17s, the U-16s made their third straight trip to the National Championships. And like the U-17s, the U-16s had to get past Eclipse Select in the final, a rematch from the National League.
In a seesaw game, the Eclipse led, 1-0, the Texans pulled even and went ahead, 2-1, and the Eclipse equalized before goals by Natasha Anasi and Alyssa Diggs gave the Texans a 4-2 win.
"The past two years we took the competition lightly," said Diggs. "We didn't think it was going to be as hard as it was. We knew now that we were definitely going to come out hard if we wanted to win."
The U-16s won despite the loss of Alexis Harris, who was representing the USA at the Concacaf U-17 Girls Championship in Trinidad.
UNDER-15 GIRLS. The Texans are the first club to win three girls championships in the same year. They won the U-15 crown by beating the So Cal Blues, 2-1, in another battle of National League qualifiers.
The Texans girls program has sent 11 teams to the nationals in the last three years and overcame the loss of girls coaching director Kenny Medina, who took a similar position at rival club Sting after last year's finals.
He returned to the National Championships as coach of the U-18 Sting, which included 18 of the 20 players from last year's Texans team.
UNDER-14 GIRLS. California teams had won 18 girls national championships over the previous six years, but the only California team to head home with a title in 2008 was the San Juan Spirits Blue, who gave Sacramento its first national crown with a 2-0 win over FC Stars of Massachusetts.
"We are so overwhelmed," said the Spirits' Alyssa Jara, who scored the second goal in the final. "Our whole team has been dreaming to be here since we have gone through state champions, regional champions and now we are national champions. It is our first time here and it is just so amazing. Our team couldn't breathe. We went down on the ground after the final whistle."
(This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue ofSoccer Americamagazine.)