Greensboro, North Carolina - It's not everyday that you win a national event and it sure is not everyday that you win it back-to-back. Commitment, talent and perseverance aligned for the Santa Clara Sporting '05 Boys Green team to make that happen, even through uncomfortable times.
As normalcy begins to take place, US Youth Soccer hosted the National League playoffs last week in Greensboro, North Carolina, welcoming some of the best youth soccer teams from around the country. These are competitions where teams earn their place, via previous league standings in their state associations.
Led by Coach Carlos Brasil and Manager Peter Nawbatt, the Santa Clara Sporting '05 Boys are writing history as they became back-to-back National League Champions, an achievement that no other Cal North team has accomplished under the new format used by National League.
"After winning the third match and actually being recognized at the event as NL Champions, the boys were very happy and celebrated with each other and with the few traveling parents," said Manager Peter Nawbatt. "When National League Las Vegas was cancelled in March 2020 due to Covid-19, USYS awarded the team the Blue Division championship by virtue of Points Per Game. It was a bitter-sweet victory because they became NL Champions but would not compete at the National Championships due to Covid."
This year there were a few parents that made the trip from coast-to-coast with the team, but once they returned home and the wheels landed, the celebration continued. "When the flight landed at San Francisco airport, the boys received a wonderful surprise reception by proud parents and siblings. The team is aware they have created history by becoming the first Cal North team to win the National League. The fact that they now have two titles makes it even sweeter."
While Sporting 05B Green has been competing in National League for the last three years, this group of players has been together for a long time. "Believe it or not, a few of the boys have been together since the team was formed in December 2012 when they were 7 years old. However, most of the boys came together in 2016 after the age change from school year to calendar year came into effect," said Nawbatt. Diego Rosillo, one of those longtime players, says this has been a culmination of all the hard work from previous years. "When we got this patch, it was our first time playing for National League. We got second place in our division then we learned from that. Then we came back, worked harder to get first place again to go back to the National Championships".
Regardless of the 2,800+ mile trip from San Francisco International Airport to BB&T Soccer Complex in North Carolina and the expected high-level competition, the Sporting boys accomplished this feat despite not having played a single competitive match in more than a year due to COVID-19. "Santa Clara county and much of California were shut down from March and into the fall and like everyone else, the team was forced to suspend training," says Nawbatt. This challenge required everyone to modify and adapt to a new training regimen. "Starting in the fall, and inspired by the multitude of online videos by the pros, every single 05B Green player began preparing for league play. We hosted Zoom sessions with them and each player also trained on their own. When we were allowed to open training sessions in the county, the boys made the most of the "no contact" shooting and passing drills which were also limited to 10-12 player groups."
The pandemic brought upon another problem for youth clubs around the country and managers like Nawbatt; kids continuing to play soccer for other clubs and teams. "We are proud that we did not lose any player during the shutdown and I believe this speaks volumes to the dedication and commitment of each player to their coach, to their mates, and to the club. The boys kept asking us every week "how soon can we play?" and for months we contemplated going out-of-state for competition, but always ended up deciding against it."
When they finally decided to travel out-of-state to Greensboro, Santa Clara Sporting defeated teams which continued to play throughout 2020, and outscored their opponents 9-to-1. The U16 Boys group standings began to take shape Friday March 12, as boys earned a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals 05B Black. The Cal North side took a slight early edge in Group D by virtue of goal differential. With a 4-0 victory against the Pitt Greenville SA 05 Boys on day two. Sporting secured a first-place finish in their group and secured a berth to the 2021 USYS National Championships this summer. "Earning the opportunity to compete at the USYS National Championships in July is a great reward for the team's extraordinary Head Coach Carlos Brasil, for the parents who have sacrificed for and dedicated so much to their boys over many years, and for the Santa Clara Sporting Club which has supported these 05B Green boys every step of the way since 2012," says Nawbatt.
The competition came to an exciting end on Sunday, with Sporting finishing Future Soccer Academy Future SA 05 in a dominant 2-0 win. Dominant like a lion in the jungle. "As our #1 parent-fan cheers at the beginning of every match, "THE LIONS ARE HUUUNGRY", we know these boys are hungry to become National Champions!"
Congratulations Sporting 05 Boys Green! We are proud to have you carry our banner into the 2021 National Championships!