A small club from South Carolina, Discoveries SC, stole the show at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships, winning the U-18 title with a scintillating performance.
The 2009 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships certainly had its share of memorable moments:
• The Baltimore Casa Mia Bays won the U-19 and U-15 titles to become only the fourth team to win two boys titles at the National Championships in the same year.
• The Colorado Rush Nike captured its ninth girls national title - one more than the Dallas Texans - and third back-to-back championship with a 4-2 overtime win in the U-19 division.
• The Dallas Texans won a sixth boys title and the Eclipse Select of Illinois captured its fifth girls championship.
But nothing beat the amazing run of the Discoveries Soccer Club, which became the first team from South Carolina to win a national championship, completing a dominating run through the state tournament, regionals and nationals with a 2-1 win over Kentucky's Javanon in the final.
Coached by Dom Wren, DSC was comprised of players from York County - a growing suburb of Charlotte, N.C. - including seven players from his Rock Hill Northwestern High School team, ranked No. 1 in the NSCAA/adidas high school spring national rankings.
DSC finished with 28 goals in six games at the Region III Championships and 17 goals in the four games at the National Championships.
Its star is Enzo Martinez, who was born in Uruguay - yes, he was named after the great Enzo Francescoli - and moved to Rock Hill when he was 10.
Martinez and his younger brother Alex, a teammate on the U-18 championship team, shared a pair of cleats - baseball cleats - for the first month of the American youth soccer experience until it became apparent to their coach that they both needed to be on the field at the same time.
Enzo Martinez followed up on his national high school title with Northwestern High - he scored 182 goals in four years, sixth all-time in U.S. prep history - by scoring twice in both the semifinals and final at the regionals and four goals at the nationals, including the first goal in the final.
Martinez, who is headed to the University of North Carolina, wasn't the only DSC standout.
Sebastian Velasquez finished as DSC's top scorer with five goals and won the Golden Boot as the top player in the U-18 division. He received a GED and hoped to get a look from a team in Europe.
Ralph Lundy, son of the longtime College of Charleston coach of the same name, scored four goals in an 8-1 win over East Fishkill Thunder in pool play.
Defender Robbie Benson, who assisted on both goals in the final, and Lundy are among six DSC players who have joined Lundy's father at College of Charleston.
BAY WATCH.The U-19 Bays, winner of the McGuire Cup, the oldest U.S. youth sports trophy, will go down as one of the greatest teams in the history of American youth soccer.
The McGuire Cup trophy was the third national title for the Bays, who also won the U.S. Youth Soccer under-16 championship in 2006 and the Development Academy under-17/18 title in 2008, the first year of the U.S. Soccer national league.
Highly touted Chris Agorsor came back from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of his freshman season at the University of Virginia to rejoin the Bays for their last hurrah.
It wasn't easy this time for Agorsor and Co., as they squeaked out a 2-1 win and a pair of ties to advance to the final against NASA Elite of Georgia, which it beat, 2-0, on goals by Mark Jaskolski and Brendan Klebanoff.
The other Bays championship team won the six-team under-15 pool and then beat Arizona's Sereno White, 2-0, on goals by a pair of first-year players, Michael Gamble and Malcolm Harris, who is considered by many to be the best of his age in the country, having already received offers from Scotland's Celtic and Mexico's Pachuca.
The wins gave Coach Steve Nichols a record seven U.S. Youth Soccer titles - two wins with the '88, '90 and '93 Bays and one with the '94 Bays.
DSC wasn't the only high-scoring team to win a boys title at the National Championships.
CZ Elite (named after Coach Cherif Zein with more than 30 years of coaching experience in Southern California) scored 11 goals in its unbeaten run to the under-17 title.
On a team dominated by high school seniors and college freshmen, UCLA sophomore Eder Arreola stood out, finishing with five goals.
Other boys titles went to the U-16 Dallas Texans and U-14 West Coast FC.
Coached by club founder Hassan Nazari, the Texans returned from the National Championships with a boys trophy for a record fifth straight year.
The Texans, who also won the U.S. Youth Soccer National League, beat the Hicksville Strikers of New York, 1-0, on Brandon Perez's second-half goal.
West Coast's 2-0 win over longtime national power St. Louis Scott Gallagher gave the Southern California club its first U.S. Youth Soccer championship. West Coast won on goals by Cristian Canales and Justin Dhillon.
RUSH TO GLORY.The surprise on the girls' side was that the Texans, winners of three national titles in 2008, didn't win in any of the three age groups in which they were entered, but three other longtime girls powers, Rush, Eclipse Select and San Diego Surf, won titles.
Led by University of Portland star Danielle Foxhoven's hat trick, Rush captured its record ninth girls national title with a 4-2 overtime win over Eclipse Select in a game that was scoreless until the 83rd minute.
Foxhoven had the first goal of the game and added goals at the end of each overtime session to give her three goals - one more than she scored in the 2008 under-18 final when Rush trounced eight-time champion Sting, 3-0.
Eclipse Select, which had three girls teams at the National Championships, won its fifth title and the second for Coach Rory Dames when it beat New Jersey's PDA, 4-0, in the under-17 final.
Vanessa Laxgang and Kelsey Hough gave the Illinois team the early lead, and Samantha Scofield clinched the win with two late goals. The result marked a disappointing end for the PDA Fire, which made its third straight trip to the National Championships and finished second for the second time.
The closest the Dallas Texans Red came to a girls trophy was in the under-15 age group, where they lost on penalties to old nemesis Surf after their game ended in a 0-0 tie.
Ariana Zargarian was the Surf hero, blocking two shots in the shootout.
Surf, which had also finished ahead of the Texans in the U.S. Youth National League that qualified both of them for the National Championships, has now won four national championships, more than any other team from Cal South, the hotbed of girls soccer for many years.
Two other California teams - both from Cal North - won championships.
De Anza Force advanced to Lancaster as the Region IV runner-up as the Region IV champion So Cal Blues had already punched their ticket via the National League.
The Force gave notice early that it would be a contender in the six-team under-16 finals by trouncing the defending national champion Dallas Texans Red, 4-1 - with all four of its goals coming in the first 25 minutes.
In the final, the Force was again the underdog against the powerful Ponte Vedra Storm, seeking to become the first Florida team to win a girls title. Two minutes into the second half, Lorin Hom gave Force the lead, and keeper Emily Kruger then held off the Storm, making eight saves.
MLS CONNECTION.The Force was coached by Shawn Medved, whose claim to fame as a player is that he scored the tying goal in D.C. United's memorable comeback against the Los Angeles Galaxy to win the inaugural MLS Cup in 1996.
Medved, who spent much of his playing career indoors, is just one of several former pros coaching in the De Anza program. The club president is former San Jose Clash forward Jeff Baicher, and other coaches include former Clash midfielder Ian Russell, Salvadoran international Jorge Salazar and NASL Earthquakes star Chris Dangerfield.
Another former Bay Area star, John Doyle, heads Mustang Soccer, whose U-14 Blast team won with a 1-0 win over CASL Spartans Elite Black on Stephanie Amack's goal in the 26th minute. Blast keeper Beth Ritter was solid in goal and preserved the win.
The championship rewarded 20 years of coaching by Mustang coach Doug Norvelle, who was assisted by trainers Carl Edwards and Neil McGuire, the head coach at the University of California at Berkeley.
FC Bucks Vipers became the first girls team from Pennsylvania to claim a National Championship, capturing the U-18 Kelly Cup with a 1-0 win over Ohio Elite on Madlyn Evans' goal the 58th minute.
With the win, the Vipers would complete their goal of honoring head coach Ed Leigh's son-in-law, fallen Philadelphia police officer John Pawloski, who was killed in the line of duty this February.
(This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Soccer America magazine.)