On Sunday, the SF Elite Academy 2002 Boys traveled to the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park for what would be the decisive match in the NPL 1 spring season. The SFEA 2002 Boys entered the match in second place and needed a win to secure the NPL1 title as then first-place Monarcas 02 Boys had already played their final match and held a two-point edge. In addition, Santa Clara Sporting 2002 Boys Green were just one point behind Elite in third, but also with a game in hand, meaning Sunday's hosts needed a win or tie to be in the driver's seat to claim the title themselves.
Played in perfect weather on the pristine grass field at the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park, both teams served up a great display of soccer. Early on, Santa Clara appeared dangerous in the counter attack and nearly capitalized on several corner kicks using routines they had obviously worked on in training. SFEA first-half keeper Nicolas Galleno was forced into several big saves.
By the end of the half, however, SF Elite was getting the ball into the corners with numbers crashing into the Santa Clara box, which led to multiple golden chances, including a shot just over the post from wing Ellis Brenneman. The first half also saw an audacious outside of the foot chip shot by SFEA forward Aidan Hyde that just struck the wrong side of the left post.
While the half ended 0-0, early in the second SF Elite kept working the ball forward on a foundation of defensive pressure and decisive ball winning, especially from holding midfielder Reid Pollino. The break through finally came when midfielder Owen Flanagan, scored on a knuckling free kick that found the upper left net, untouched, from a strike of around 25 yards.
The goal spurred Santa Clara into action and soon the game opened up with quick counter attacks both directions. SF Elite was frustrated by what appeared a penalty only resulted in a free kick on the top of the box and a subsequent blocked try on goal. And then the increased pressure finally paid off for Santa Clara when SF Elite failed to build out of a corner clearance. A terrific one-on-one play deep in the box from a Santa Clara player led to a slotted goal from a tight angle, and the game was tied 1-1.
From there, both teams looked like possible winners. Santa Clara had several end-to-end chances but great center back play from SFEA's Thibault Jamey and Declan Pantankar (and supported by second-half keeper Alex Lopez) kept the score even. Then, with just a few minutes to play, William Murray, who had been moved into central striker from his normal left back position, broke onto a long pass to get in on goal. With a defender leaning into him from behind, William managed to punch the ball between the keepers legs and recover his balance in time to smash the ball into an empty net. A huge celebration erupted on the SF Elite sideline which led to a referee warning, and the last few minutes saw SF Elite defending a couple dangerous corners until the final whistle was blown.
Head coach Mauricio Diaz De Leon was delighted with the win, and he credited the moment meeting the team's growth at just the right time, saying, "It was the perfect day for soccer. Mother's Day, on an excellent pitch, with the chance to win something. This whole season we've talked about consistency and executing the simple things. Before the match started, I told them regardless of what happens, we're in this together. I couldn't be more proud of their response. The boys embraced the challenge and competed until the last minute. They played and fought together as one. It was great to see the smiles on their faces after the win. The team worked hard and earned every bit of the celebration. "
The 2-1 win pushed the SF Elite Academy 2002 Boys to a 5-1-1 league season and an unassailable position at the top of the NPL 1 table. And, remarkably, it marks the team's second league championship in a row as the SF Elite Academy 2002 Boys also won NPL 2 in the fall of 2016. The entire SF Elite Academy staff congratulates the team and Mauricio, and looks forward to more achievements ahead.
all photos courtesy of John Murray, rights reserved
This summer they took #SurfCup by storm, coming home with the trophy. And, now, this fall it was the #NPL.
Congratulations to the Academy's 2001 Girls who will represent San Francisco in the new NorCal Premier Champions League at U16 this spring! "Everyone involved with this team is proud of all they've accomplished," said Jeff Wilson, head coach of the Academy's 2001 Girls (as well as Sacred Heart Varisty Boys and City College of San Francisco Women's Varisty), "representing San Francisco in the NPL Champions League is both an honor and the next step in these player's development toward becoming college-level soccer players."
The NPL Champions League will kick off on March 18th and conclude at the NPL Spring Showcase on April 30th. The division winner is the NorCal NPL Champion and will represent NorCal Premier Soccer at the 2017 NPL National Finals in Indiana.
The Academy sent 3 boys teams--1999, 2000, and 2001; and 2 girls teams--2001 & 2002 to the NPL College Showcase this past weekend. All teams performed well with close to 120 college coaches in attendance. College Showcases like these are an important part of the Academy's commitment to preparing players for next-level soccer careers.
Despite perpetual downpours and constant gloomy weather, it would be hard to call the 2016 NorCal NPL College Showcase anything other than a success. Several of the divisions came down to the final minutes of action, providing an excellent atmosphere for the players, coaches and spectators alike.
College Coaches in Attendance...
Women's Coaches: Academy of Art, American River College, Cal, Cal Baptist, Cal Lutheran, Cal Poly SLO, Chico State, Colorado College, Columbia Basin College, CSU Bakersfield, CSU Stanislaus, Dominican, Fresno Pacific, Fresno State, Holy Names, Humboldt State, Long Beach State, Louisiana Tech, Menlo College, Nevada – Reno, Pacific, Sacramento State, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, San Francisco State, Sierra Nevada College, Sonoma State, Southern Oregon, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, University of Antelope Valley, UNLV, William Jessup, Yakima Valley College
Men's Coaches: Academy of Art, American River College, Assumption College, Cal, Canada College, Claremont McKenna, Chico State, College of Marin, Concordia – Portland, CSU East Bay, CSU Monterey Bay, CSU San Bernardino, CSU Stanislaus, Dominican, Eastern Oregon, Emerson College, Fresno Pacific, Holy Names, Humboldt State, Loyola Marymount, Montana State – Billings, Northwest Christian, Notre Dame de Namur, Pacific (CA), Pacific (OR), Peninsula College, Rogue Community College, Sacramento State, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, San Francisco State, San Jose State, Santa Clara, Skyline, Sonoma State, Southern Oregon, Swarthmore College, Tabor College, UC Davis, UC Merced, UC Riverside, William Jessup
With a win at the NPL Fall Showcase on Saturday, the Academy 2001 Boys clinched first place in the NPL 2 North division. With a 1-0 win over Heritage SC '01 at the first day of the showcase, they pushed on to 25 points and with an 8-0-1 record that no other team would be able to match with the last round of play on Sunday.
It was an escpecially gratifying win and title for head coach Mauricio Diaz DeLeon as he had just clinched a title with his 2002 Boys team the Saturday before. On that day, the Academy 2002 Boys fought to a 3-1 win over MVLA Napoli 02 Blue to end the season 7-1 in NPL 2 West and atop the table.
Both teams will be moving up to NPL 1 in the spring and welcoming the setp-up in competition. "It was a great season for both teams," said coach Diaz deLeon, "and now we're looking forward to taking ourselves to Surf Cup, playing the kind of terrific competition we expect to see next season in NPL 1."
The SF Elite Academy
Our mission is to provide an elite level program for soccer players in San Francisco.