Youth soccer: Club’s U13, U14 teams headed to Colorado for national tourney
By ANthony D. ALonzo Post-Tribune correspondent June 29, 2013 11:08PM
Members of U13 and U14 Indiana Magic teams tap the ball during skills exercises at the Lake Central soccer field on June 24. Each of the full teams qualified to play in the US Club Soccer National Cup finals in Aurora, Colo. on July 18 to 21.
Updated: August 2, 2013 7:23AM
Preparing to travel to Colorado to play games with national championship implications is a new experience for Indiana Magic U13 and U14 team members. In fact, their qualifying for the U.S. Club Soccer National Cup finals is a first for region soccer.
Thirty players from the two Northwest Indiana-based Magic teams are gearing up to play in Aurora, Colo., from July 18 to 21.
“In my opinion, learning that we were going to nationals was shocking,” said U14 member Cole Rainwater, who plays right attacking midfielder. “I’ve been with these guys since we were 5 years old. I didn’t think when I was 5 years old that we were going to qualify for nationals.”
As players in a premier travel organization, the youths have grown accustomed to criss-crossing the state to match up with other elite teams. Like other Magic squads, the U13s and 14s practice at Lake Central’s soccer field and play home games at the Hallmark outdoor megaplex near Lowell.
A winter-spring season includes more than a half-dozen contests in the Indiana Premier and Champions leagues. Those games are factored into the nationals seeding. Good showings at the tourney’s June 7 to 9 finals can only help their cause.
The U14s (also know as the “98/99 B” team) are 6-1 in Champions play. The U13s (also known as the “99/00 White” team) own six wins and a tie. With their seeding as it was, the boys bypassed the U.S. Club Soccer regionals and were left with several weeks to prepare for tougher competition and the “mile-high” conditions.
“Mostly every kid’s goal in life for soccer is to become a professional — most kids want to become that good of a player,” said U13 left back Nathan Thomas. “So you’ve got to train hard to do that. So you’ve got to play all the good teams and work your way to nationals. You can’t just let someone else put in the work for you.”
Both teams rarely travel to the same destination for their games, but they were both at the Lawrence Soccer Complex in Indianapolis for the inaugural IPL state event on June 7 to 9. There the younger Magic captured the cup, having already earned an automatic bid to Denver because of their league title.
The older squad was cup runner-up to ZYSA, after the Zionsville team defeated it 4-1. Yet with some mathematical magic, it too found out it would be a part of nationals.
Coach Shawn Thomas said the U14s upset the higher-ranked Zionsville team, beating them 3-2 in a regular season game. Though that central Indiana squad turned the tables on them, the Magic accomplished their “main goal” of qualifying for Colorado.
During their tournament season with home-away games, the U13 Magic earned a pair of victories over the ESC Blue (Evansville) and beat DYNAMO (Indianapolis) three times.
The Fishers team was a different story; meeting it for the cup final was a daunting task.
“It was intense, it went back and forth,” said Nathan. “That Evansville team was decent — we beat them by only one point — and (Fishers) beat them 4-0, so we knew they were a good team.”
Tied 1-1 at halftime, then knotted up 2-2 with five minutes remaining, the Magic kicked the ball up to Naser Taharwah who scored the go-ahead goal.
Coaches and parents attest to Magic players’ strength in communication, core skills and defense. And the boys often adopt an “if they don’t score, we don’t lose” attitude.
“Our defense is always strong and we try to keep a high line to draw player offsides,” Nathan said.
Kyler added: “You need two defenders on someone to mark them — one on him and one behind him — and you need good communication to see who to pass the ball to.”
The teams will not have a game until they play at nationals, though the U13s and U14s may scrimmage. Many Magic members have stepped up their exercise routines to be ready for Denver’s thinner air; a few players used school cross country to stay fast and fit.
To get their club in better shape to handle the expenses of travel and lodging, players have hit the pavement in their neighborhoods. With smiling faces they’ve greeted residents who’ve been asked to select and scratch off a card that reveals a donation request of $.50 to $3.
The Magic have also gained support from area businesses, including restaurants that have hosted fundraising days.
“I say, ‘this is for our team to go to nationals and we’re struggling with money a little bit so we need extra help,’” said Highland resident Kyler Tanis, the Magic’s vocal sweeper.
Families must be on board for travel soccer to work.
“We don’t mind (traveling to games),” said parent Sylvia Dominguez. “We all get to know each other. It gives us joy.”
Some can’t keep from thinking that they are five wins away from a national title.
“I’m thinking about winning. It’s business only,” said Enrique Dominguez, U14 center defensive mid. “I can’t get my mind off of it.”
U13 coach Eric Graves said he’s been impressed at the depth of the club’s teams and how any of the young athletes can be called upon to fill a role.
“What we’re doing as a program is to develop the kids and get them ready for the next level.”
For more information about the Magic, call 947-2629, or visit www.indianamagic.net.