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Only two teams have ever won multiple National League titles, and Albion USA (CA-S) is one of those as they twice advanced to the National Championship final as National League champs before falling in heartbreaking fashion. The favorite in the Under-18 Boys however, is Galaxy 94/95 Blue (IL), which upset Albion in Las Vegas last season to grab a share of the top spot and claim the title on tiebreakers before winning the National Championship. Albion’s National League, Regional Championship and Far West Regional League rival, Eastside FC 94 (WA), will also look for another successful year after going through the first six games of 11-12 without conceding a goal en route to the National League division title. Galaxy took down Eastside at last summer’s National Championships, but once again find themselves in separate divisions of the age group.
Region II Champion and National Championship finalist Raiders FC Premier (IL) and their goal scoring threat Alexis Monteon will also look to return to Nationals. AC Bethesda hopes to rebound from a disappointing season loaded with future ACC talent, and two-time defending Region I Champion Beadling SC (PA-W) and newcomer and defending Region IV Champion Sereno 95 White (AZ) will also look to break through this season.
"Playing in the US Youth Soccer National League conditions the kids for pressure situations and consistent, tough competition. You can’t duplicate the competition and the meaning behind each game," said Albion SC Director of Coaching Noah Gins. "Winning the league is very difficult, being that every game is equivalent to almost a National title game. The pressures are immense, the conditions aren’t always perfect. It’s definitely difficult."
Galaxy SC was methodical last season, averaging a 2-1 scoreline on the way to a 4-0-3 record and league title. DePaul commit Patrick Flynn will lead the way as the team’s leading scorer at Nationals and Best XI award winner. Joe Sullivan contributed six goals as the leading scorer at the Region II Championships and will join Flynn in the attack. Golden Glove winner Michael Pavliga and Best XI winners Colin Donnally and Frankie Saiz will also have to shoulder the load for Galaxy to repeat.
Perhaps no team in the country knows how fortunes can turn in either direction more than Albion USA. As league champs in 10-11, Albion fell in overtime of the National Championship game to Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD), a team they had beaten earlier in the league season and in preliminary play the previous day. The following year, after clawing back from a 1-0 deficit, the back-to-back National League champs again had their hopes for a National title dashed, again to a team they beat in preliminary play as Concorde Fire Elite’s late penalty kick won the game 2-1. And in 2012, after finishing tied atop the league standings and losing out on tiebreakers, Albion advanced to the semifinals of the Region IV Championships where they leveled in stoppage time of overtime, only to lose on penalty kicks.
There’s no doubt where Albion sees itself at the end of the year, but having sent two graduates on to Indiana and Louisville respectively, the team will rely heavily on 10-11 league leading scorer Ariel Lassiter (Cal Poly), Joseph Saad (St. Louis), Dominic Chavez, and defensive stalwarts Patrick Barba (Princeton) and Shane Mahvi.
"(To get back to the National Championships) would mean everything. We’ve played in two National Championships already. For us, it’s a familiar place. We’ve put all our work into that objective, so it would mean everything for us," said Gins.
Raiders FC Premier advanced to the 2012 National Championships as Region II Champions after finishing in second place behind Eastside FC in league play. Roberto Torres led Raiders through Regionals with three goals, while Joel Leon (Illinois – Chicago) and Jack Alberts (Marquette) added goals at Nationals with support from Brandon Medina (Northwestern). But its Alexis Monteon who will highlight the attack as he netted 13 goals in 11 games through last year’s National League and National Championships.
Eastside FC thought 2012 was their year to win a National Championship before running into Galaxy. In 2011, after missing out on a league title in the last game but winning the Region IV Championship, Eastside finished in a four-way tie atop the group at the National Championships, losing out on a spot in the final due to goal differential. With two years of National League and National Championships experience on their side, keeper Evan King and the Eastside defense will look to hold strong again while midfielders Beau Blanchard (Washington) and Joe Mancini support Jordan Thompson in the attack.
After finishing second behind the eventual National Champions two years ago, AC Bethesda struggled with injuries last year, finishing in fifth place in their division and failed to advance to the Region I Championships. That doesn’t mean this team isn’t loaded with talent and considered a title contender this season. Bethesda boasts players with international experience, youth National Team experience and plenty of college interest. Maryland commit Chris Odoi-Atsem leads the attack, joined by Nicko Corriveau (Virginia), and backed by Zack Fingerhut (Wake Forest) and Wesley Suggs (Virginia).
Back-to-back Region I Champion Beadling SC finished in the third spot in the league last year, behind Albion and Galaxy. Beadling will need the services of 2012 National Championships Best XI honorees Ryan Villela (Xavier) and Chris Brasile, along with Mike Roberage (Northwestern) as they hope to take the next step toward a league title.
"We’re playing for a spot in the National Championships. Really, there is no other objective. It’s primarily focused on that," said Gins. "There are some kids that are looking to get some exposure through the league for college. Definitely, from a college exposure standpoint, that’s been great. A number of our kids have been signed through the exposure that National League has given us. But as a team, it’s strictly to come in and finish on top of the league and get into the National Championships."
More Players to Watch:
Jackson Eskay (FC Frederick): Region I ODP player
William Eskay (FC Frederick): Region I ODP player
Riley Spain (FC Frederick): Region I ODP player
Alberto Felix (Sereno): 2012 National Championships Best XI honoree
Connor Allen (Galaxy SC): Region II ODP player
Kaelon Fox (LFC 95): Region II ODP player
Jon Otting (LFC 95): Region II ODP player
James Haupt (Everest SC): Region II ODP and U.S. National Pool member
Bryan Burrows (Everest SC): 5 goals was second best at Region II Championships
Riley Grant (Everest SC): 3 goals at Region II Championships
Jose Laboy (Raiders FC): 2012 National Championships Best XI honoree
Kayode George (AHFC): 5 goals combined in 11-12 National League and Region II Championships
Junior Morataya (AHFC): 5 goals in 11-12 National League
Mario Toro (AHFC): 5 goals combined in 11-12 National League and Region II Championships
Ngeindaloh Smith (AC Bethesda): 4 goals in 11-12 National League season