CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the Rio Rapids team advanced to Sunday’s final in the U19 girls division. New Mexico Rush advanced to Sunday’s championship.
SANTA ANA PUEBLO – New Mexico’s hopes weren’t only riding on teams from the Rush and Rio Rapids teams this week at the US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships.
The Classic FC Toros U16 boys rode their underdog status through last month’s state championships and through group play earlier this week into Friday’s quarterfinals before seeing their season end on Field 5 at the New Mexico Soccer Tournament Complex to TSA 98 Red (Tucson), 2-1.
“I’m not happy with today, but I’m pretty happy with this team,” said midfielder Luis Loera. “You could tell we were getting better every day – every practice, every day. There are other programs people hear about, but we’re the underdogs. Nobody hears about us, but now here we are in the quarterfinals. We can do better next year, too.”
That’s not merely wishful thinking, said Tucson coach Jeff Rogers.
“I thought they were a very good team, especially up front where they gave us all kinds of problems,” Rogers said. “We actually had to change our system and go to more of a man-to-man marker with a sweeper. We typically don’t like to do that, but they forced us to do that because of the skill and the speed. We had all we could handle.”
Toros coach Ricardo Beraun said he hopes an increase in competition next year for the club will help the team be better prepared to make a run at next year’s U17 regional championship.
“This was our first year as State Cup champions and one of the biggest differences was that the team we played, they participate at a high level day in and day out,” Beraun said. “We don’t go participate in those big tournaments, but we will start doing that this year.”
He said he likes the dedication to development his team has shown throughout the past few seasons, and acknowledges some have a chip on their shoulder.
“It’s hard in Albuquerque when you’re a small club and you have to compete with the other big clubs for what’s available,” he said. “Give this group another year or two and they’ll be very good.”
Eleven New Mexico teams played Friday, but only three are still alive heading into the weekend of the Region IV Championships.
Boys U13: Rio Rapids SC 01 1, San Diego SC Academy 0. Johnny Baros scored for Rio. Rio plays today at 10 a.m. in the semifinals.
Girls U14: La Roca Premier (Layton, Utah) 2, NM Rush SC 00 1. The Rush’s only goal came via a Premier own goal.
Boys U16: TSA 98 Red (Tucson) 2, Classic FC Toros 0.
Girls U17: Pride Predators 97 (Colorado Springs) 2, Rio Rapids SC 97 Zia 1. Amelia Bierle scored for Rio.
Boys U17: West Coast FC Gould (Mission Viejo, Calif.) 3, Rio Rapids SC 97 2. Marshall Metzger scored twice for the Rapids.
Girls U18: NW Nationals 95 Red (Mountlake Terrace, Wash.), NM Rush 96 0.
Girls U18: Elite Renneisen (Carlsbad, Calif.) 3, Rio Rapids SC 96 0.
Boys U18: Sereno White 96 (Phoenix) 4, Rio Rapids SC Reds 1. Brian Lopez scored for Rio.
Girls U19 (group play): Both Rio Rapids and NM Rush won games on the final day of group play with Rush advancing to Sunday’s championship against Legends FC (Chino, Calif.).
Boys U19 (semifinals): NM Rush 95 1, Valparaiso United (Phoenix) 0. Luke Lawrence scored the lone goal in the 42nd minute. The Rush play Alum Rock PAC Tigers (San Jose) at 9:15 a.m. Sunday for regional championship.