By Steve Hunt
Contributor to USYouthSoccer.org
FRISCO, Texas (March 22, 2009) - It was an all-out battle between Oklahoma and California South for the 1992 Boys title in the 2009 US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Championships at Pizza Hut Park. After the smoke of a full 90 minutes of regulation and two 15-minute overtimes had cleared, California South had emerged with the championship thanks to a 4:3 win.
For California South coach Steve Hoffman, this match summed up what youth soccer is all about. "You've got to give credit," he said. "To get a showcase like that, a 4:3 game in a championship final was great. They (Oklahoma) showed character being 2:0 down and came back. Then, they were 3:2 down and came back again. What a wonderful team. My guys what can you say? Either of these teams could have won this game. We're the lucky ones that got the right bounce. It's a great advertisement for youth soccer. To play 90 minutes, go to 120 and still have that level of competition is unbelievable. I'm very proud of the boys."
In the 25th minute, California South took an early lead when Eduardo Cazada scored to put his side ahead 1:0. Cazada's tally came after a corner kick on the near side of the field. The ball bounced to his feet on the left flank and he quickly booted it into the back of the net.
Oklahoma attempted to answer one minute later when Cristian Mata took a shot from long range. His effort glanced off the right post and out of play.
"I think we were lucky in the first half," Hoffman said. "The run of play was with them when we got that goal and it was a fantastic volley (on the goal). That was a great goal and helped us tremendously. You have to give those guys credit. It would have been easy for them to roll over, but they didn't. They played awesome."
The match remained scoreless until six minutes into the second frame when Neil Ignacio gave California South a two-goal cushion with a goal that came down to strong individual effort on his part.
California South's cushion would not remain at two goals for long. In the 61st minute, an Oklahoma player was taken down inside the box during a free kick and a penalty kick was awarded. Jack Coleman stepped to the spot and took the PK, sending it into the left side of the net with California South's keeper going the other way.
After the goal, Oklahoma dialed up their pressure. In the 77th minute, a California South player was again whistled for a takedown inside the box and once again, a penalty kick was rewarded. Like he had done before, Coleman stepped up and nailed it, tying things at 2-2.
So the match then went to overtime. About 10 minutes into the first extra period, California South struck again. A free kick taken by Andrew Trejo bounced around inside the Oklahoma box before Juan Gutierrez blasted the carom into the back of the net to make it 3-2.
However, Oklahoma was far from done and three minutes later, they netted another equalizer. Once again, it was Coleman who delivered for his fifth goal of the tournament. The play started when Jordan Schmoker sent a great long ball into the box that found Coleman. All he had to do was finish the chance, something Coleman did with great precision.
For much of the second OT, it looked like this one might be decided on penalties. However, with about five minutes left, Gutierrez struck gold once again with his second goal of the game and fourth of the tournament. Teammate Henry Rios set Gutierrez up perfectly with a well-placed cross from the right flank and Gutierrez finished it.
Hoffman felt that his side's depth played a crucial role in the win. "Today, depth was key," he said. "We played 16 players and that helped. I know those guys don't have 16 to play. That's what makes that a little bit harder on those guys - playing 12 or 13 guys and you can't bring more guys in."
When asked about Gutierrez's performance today and throughout the weekend, the California South coach illustrated what a great leader his young scorer is. "Before the game, the guys weren't ready and there's Crabby (Gutierrez's nickname), telling the guys how they weren't focused and leading," Hoffman said.
Hoffman admitted he didn't really have a problem with the two PKs called in the second half. "We're emotional on the bench," hew said. "There were a lot of free kicks and that stopped and started the game a lot. That would be my argument, to let them play a little more but they (the officials) did a good job. Am I happy we gave two penalties away? No. We've now played 10 games in this event and that was the first penalty we gave away and today we had two."
Even though his team prevailed, Hoffman offered some heady praise for the boys from Oklahoma. "This is why we should have this event," he said. "Oklahoma should be able to come here and compete at this level. If we don't have it, then they can't. They have great chemistry and a fantastic coach. He has done a fantastic job with those kids. Everybody is a winner in this event. Just to be here is an honor. All we want them to do is to play the best they can. At the end of the day, the two best teams got here."